It’s time to look for your first apartment. This experience can be daunting, but finding a new home should also be a great adventure. It’s exciting and a little scary! To prepare you for this task, you can find lots of apartment hunting tips online, and it can be confusing. As an experienced property manager committed to making the rental process as smooth as possible, these are the most important things I think first-time renters should know.
1. Read the Lease
You need to read the lease — the whole thing. Leases are not always cookie-cutter and you need to be aware of every little (and big) point included in the language. Once you sign a lease, you’ve agreed to everything in it! Make sure you have a solid agreement, as it can be protection for you as well as the landlord. If you don’t understand the legal terminology, bring someone with you who is knowledgeable.
2. Check Out Your Landlord
The property owner will be checking you out (credit check, employment check), and you should be checking them out too. Search online and ask current renters about their experiences. You will be entering into a legal agreement, and you’ll have a relationship for a while. A good fit here is important — just as important as feeling at home in your new space. Go with your gut feeling!
3. Do a 360 Degree View
Don’t neglect the back of your property! A newly painted, spruced-up apartment can be very inviting, but take a good look around the neighborhood. Be sure and drive around the block, and visit the property at different times of the day and week. If the other side of your building backs up to a nightclub, you may be in for some noise!
4. Wants vs Needs
Be flexible enough to let a really great place go by. You probably know that you won’t find perfection, so make a list of your wants and needs. Then, prioritize your absolute must-haves, then be willing to bend on the rest. Otherwise, you could be searching for a very long time.
5. Take Your Time
While it’s good to be flexible, it’s also important to take your time. Find a place where you really feel at home. As they say, “Decide in haste, repent at leisure.” Don’t sign a long-term rental agreement with a “this will do” attitude. You’re committing to an entire year of your life!