The majority of people live in an apartment at some point in their life. Whether you are single and just want a low maintenance place to live, or you and your family are building a house and need a short term place to stay, or live in a big city and apartments are the best way to live in the city.
No matter what your reason, you are going to come across a large amount of differently structured apartment complexes and it’s hard to know what to really think about when you see a bunch of places in a short amount of time.
As a leasing consultant of an apartment complex I see a bunch of things that come into play when trying to get a prospect to choose our property. So I have decided to make a list of some of the things I have personally seen people fail to think about, whether they just didn’t take the time to, or whether they just didn’t know how much they valued certain things. These are things to think about when looking at apartments.
1. AMENITIES THAT YOU WANT
What amenities do they have? Do they have a pool? Garden area? Fitness Center? Or tanning beds? Some complexes are so state of the art it’s incredible! Take this into consideration though. When they give you all of these extra facilities… the price of the apartment is going to be higher. This can be good though. Whether it’s the gas you save from not driving the kiddos to the pool every day because you have one at your complex, or if you can cancel your fitness center membership or tanning cards! The costs cancel each other out. Just take it into consideration before turning up your nose at a price. Also think about the times that the amenities are open, is it 24 hours? Or do they close after 7? If the amenities are important to you, you want to make sure that they are open at times of your benefit so you can actually get some use out of them.
2. LAYOUTS OF THE APARTMENT
How is the apartment laid out? Does it include all of the appropriate appliances? Are the bedrooms next to each other or far apart? Which do you prefer? What’s the square footage, and how did the architect utilize it? Is there sufficient storage? If it’s in the summer make sure to check out what kind of heat it has, and in the winter make sure it has an air-conditioner. Might not be the thing you are thinking about when it’s below zero out. All these things may slip your mind once you get into the apartment because the nice finishes and good views could distract you, but they are important to keep in mind. Also think about the lay out of the property, and where you want to be located on the property.
If you are a pet owner this is an obvious obstacle that you have probably faced before. However, there are things you need to think about besides the extra deposit and pet rent. If there is a courtyard at your complex, how strict are they about cleaning up after your pet? Some places will fine you if they catch you not cleaning up after Fido. Also ask about leash rules, what happens if your dog barks a lot, or what areas they are allowed to be in. Most importantly, the move out process. The goal of apartment living is obviously to get your entire deposit back. If you have a pet, that can be much harder. I can’t begin to explain the number of carpets we replace, even though the resident claims that her 3 Chihuahuas never peed in the house…once. They will have it cleaned professionally, and think that no one will know. Wrong. We will tear that carpet out so quickly and the crystallized urine will be all the evidence we need to lawfully make you pay for the carpet. No matter how hard you try to fight it. So just don’t even try… I promise you wont win that one.
4. PARKING AND TOWING
What’s the parking situation? Because you will be touring the complex during the day when most people are at work, the parking lot looks empty and spacious, which might not be the case at 6 at night when everyone is home. Are there carports or garages? Does every apartment get a space or do you have to pay for numbered parking? Or is it just first come first serve free parking. Also remember to ask how many cars are allowed per apartment. That way you can factor in other costs if you have to find storage for extra vehicles. Be sure to ask if they tow, and under what circumstances do they tow. Also, if you decide to move in, make sure to give as much detailed information about your vehicle to the office. That way, if you are parked in a wrong spot, they can try to reach you before having to tow your car.
5. ON-SITE STAFF IS AWESOME
You might not think that this is an important part of the process but it can be. In apartment complexes, you have your own staff. While they are there to do a lot of things, they are there to help you out. Locking yourself out of an apartment isn’t as big of a deal. They will keep your packages so they don’t sit on your doorstep while you are out-of-town. They know what’s going on at the complex, and quickly fix problems and sort out conflicts. Knowing who is all a part of the staff can be helpful. Also it can give you an idea of how the property is run. How many maintenance workers are there? And what hours are they available? Do they have 24-hour emergency maintenance available? You might not think of this as important until your pipes burst in the middle of the night and you can’t get ahold of anyone to help you.
6. MUST KNOW CERTAIN STATE LAWS
This is SO important. Every state has different laws. It’s very important to know yours. It helps you notice flaws in leases as well as gives you an idea of what your rights are, as well as what they aren’t. The biggest thing that I run into as a Leasing Consultant is when people try to break their leases. In Montana it is against the law to buy out or just forfeit the deposit. You are legally obligated to pay the full length of your lease unless you can find someone else to re-rent it or hand over the keys and hope that your property can re-rent it in a quickly manner. However, in some other states, you can just pay them an extra months rent and leave no problem.
7. WHY REVIEWS ARENT RELIABLE
I absolutely use reviews for everything! But you need to be careful when looking at reviews for an apartment complex. From my experience, it’s pretty rare that people write good reviews for apartments just because. However, its extremely common for people to write bad reviews about them if something didn’t work out to their favor. Most reviews about apartments are submitted after something unfavorable has happened. And most of the time, it’s not the properties fault, and the person is just venting or trying to retaliate. However, if the property has hundreds of reviews that are all negative, its okay to make an assumption that something isn’t right. My advice is to just check it out your self, first, and talk to some of the residents that currently live there. Don’t let the reviews give you a biased opinion before you see it.
8. AMAZING SPECIALS AND INCENTIVES
One thing that I never realized happened until I worked for an apartment complex was that the give specials and other concessions. So make sure to always ask about specials! Things that have been given out since I have worked at my job include things like 1 month free amortized for your lease, free X-box or PS4, mounted flat screen TVs, 99$ deposits, or even waived application fees. Anything is something! Chances are that the complex will advertise the specials and they should tell you about them when you tour the property, but just in case they don’t always remember to ask!
Obviously, some people aren’t going to care about the amenities, or don’t have pets. These things wont apply to everyone. But you should be thinking of at least some of them. My advice would be to make a wish list of things you want out of your apartment. Make it realistic. If it has to do with location in a popular area, be prepared to pay more. Also have a few things that you want, but can cross off if you have to.
Check what the market is like. Apartment complexes will change their prices as the market changes. So see what people are paying on average per square foot. This will make you set reasonable expectations for everything that you want in an apartment.
I tell my prospects to really start looking around 45 days before their move-in date. That way you can find the layout you want on the property you want. For example, my property will hold an apartment for 30 days if you’ve applied and been approved. Once we find a suitable apartment we’ll draw up the lease and once its signed we can hold the apartment so that you don’t have to pay until the day you move in. This is extremely helpful for people who are moving from out-of-state, or can’t afford double rent.
The chances of you finding an apartment that fits everything on your wish list is slim. But with enough knowledge you should be able to find one that you are proud to call home.