Finding the perfect apartment for you and your family is no easy task. With that said, relocating is linked to a fresh start and opens you up to a world of opportunities.
Even though the process of renting an apartment can be challenging since you will need to gather and review all the possible information to narrow down your apartment search in an effort to get the best deal, getting an ideal apartment can be straightforward with the right information.
Here, we offer tips to help you get the best apartment in the current rental market.
How to Find the Perfect Apartment
Below are tips for finding the perfect apartment for your family:
Consider the Location of the Apartment
One important apartment search aspect that is typically one of the top priorities is the location. Before you commit to an apartment, we recommend that you ensure its location aligns with your needs.
For instance, if you want a rental unit near your school or family, ensure your soon-to-be apartment is within walking distance, closer to public transportation, or simply a short drive away.
We recommend that you consider the location’s traffic during rush hour. In many cases, a place that is only 20 minutes from your place of work might be as much as two hours away during rush hour.
Since many apartment listings exaggerate how close their unit is from critical spots, you should go in person to check them out. You can even use Google Maps to determine the distance, too.
Consider What You Can Afford
Before you sign your lease, we strongly recommend comparing apartments within the locality that you desire. Check whether the prices are similar between the different rentals. Even if the price is somehow high for some apartments, consider amenities offered that can help justify the price.
You should, therefore, consider whether you can afford the apartment comfortably or not. Here, determine whether you have enough savings to keep paying rent, even if something unforeseeable happens, like if you lose your job.
Typical rule of thumb is that your monthly rent should be about 20%-30% of your monthly income. For instance, if you make $5,000 per month, setting aside at least $1,200 for your monthly rent makes sense.
We also strongly recommend taking enough time to polish and update your budget before you begin your apartment search. You might even discover unnecessary expenses that you can drop during this process so that you can afford more of a monthly rent.
If your income is too low, but you want to go for a decent apartment, another option is that you can consider having a roommate. If your landlord acknowledges and approves the decision to have a particular roommate, you are then good to go.
Have Your Documentation Ready
Most landlords require a rental application to be filled out and will do a thorough background check to determine if you are the right tenant for their apartment. Therefore, they will require some critical documents considering you to settle in their apartment.
To get the best apartment for your family, you need to have the following documents during rental application:
Proof of Employment
Why does your landlord need proof of employment, such as a letter from your employer? The answer is simple, they require proof that you have a stable source of income and can pay rent without challenges.
The letter should have the company’s letterhead on it, which should include contact information, and it should spell out the duration of your employment. It should also come with an affirmation of you working there and an indication of your monthly salary. Also, the owner or company manager should sign it.
These are meant to confirm the information on your employment letter.
Tax Returns from the Past Few Years
What if you don’t have pay stubs? In such a case, you can provide tax returns from several years in place of pay stubs. If you are self-employed, your landlord might require an additional explanation of what you do, along with copies of your bank statements.
Reference Letters from Previous Landlords
Some landlords require that you provide relevant reference letters. A reference letter assures them that you were a great tenant from the perspective of other fellow landlords.
A good reference letter would point out that you paid your rent on time and that you took good care of their property before leaving. Even though landlords will most likely also pull their own credit report on you, this letter would help lead them to believe that your credit report will come out good.
It would not hurt to also have your employer provide a reference letter, especially if you are a first time renter looking to find an apartment in a new city. Learn more about what to know for first time apartment renters here.
Start Hunting for an Apartment Early
The key to identifying the best rental is carrying out a thorough apartment hunting process. We recommend that you start apartment hunting as soon as you start thinking of moving. This will allow you enough time to locate the best apartment at an affordable price. Ideally, you should start looking for your next apartment at least three months before your move date. Learn more about what is the best month to look for an apartment here, because tenant turnover is higher in certain months compared to others, on average.
Before moving, let your landlord know of your intentions. Most landlords require that you give the notice to move at least one month prior to doing so. Otherwise, you won’t be refunded your security deposit.
We also recommend that you visit apartments in-person instead of just doing a virtual apartment tour, in order to do a thorough inspection. Also, as we have highlighted before, do enough research so you avoid apartment hunting for a unit beyond your budget.
While apartment hunting, consider the transportation in the area. Select a convenient unit that has access to excellent amenities. Safety should also be your top concern. Consider private entrances, door locks, and security cameras, just to name a few.
Signing the Apartment Lease
After identifying an apartment, you should review the lease thoroughly before signing it. The lease is meant to protect you from an unreasonable landlord. Learn more on how to read an apartment lease here.
In the lease, you will find things that the landlord expects from you, along with what you should expect from them. It, therefore, guarantees that you will receive rental services that are up to standard.
We recommend that you read through the lease in great detail before signing it. However, remember that lease contract terms vary, and you must consider them carefully before choosing one that works for you. You may even want to consider having a lawyer review your apartment lease, especially if you are not 100% comfortable with it.
These kinds of leases are ideal for shorter durations. Here, the landlords understand that situations change and allow you to renew the lease monthly (also known as a month-to-month lease).
Even though these types of leases may seem ideal, they typically are much more expensive, with the landlord reserving the right to increase the rent anytime they want with a 30-day notice. Learn more about when can your landlord increase rent here.
Fixed Term Leases
With a fixed term lease, you enter into a contract with the landlord to stay in the rental unit for a specified period of time. The time lengths typically are six months, one year, or two years.
If you decide to move before the lease expires, you will be required to pay for the remaining period, plus penalties may apply. Learn how to break a lease without penalty here.
These involve a third-party agreement and are sometimes called “three-party lease agreements.” This is common when the original renter seeks to vacate an apartment, but does not want to have their credit hurt or pay extra fees.
For a sublease, typically the leaseholder finds a new apartment tenant who takes over the responsibility of the lease up to its end. Usually, the new tenant takes over monthly payments, such as rent and pet fees. With that said, many landlords do not accept subleasing, so make sure you have your landlord’s approval before moving forward.
Inspect the Apartment
You would be making a mistake if you proceed to sign the lease without inspecting your new apartment. The previous tenant may have caused maintenance issues and serious damages that the landlord did not take care of fully.
It is important to ensure that you are not held responsible for damages you did not cause. A thorough inspection before accepting the keys to an apartment will ensure that you occupy a unit that is in the proper condition. If you do not have the skills to do a thorough inspection, contact a professional to help you out.
Once you get into the apartment, the first thing you should do is flush toilets, run all faucets and turn on all lights to ensure there are no plumbing or electrical issues. Some apartments present challenges with electricity. We recommend that you test all power sockets by plugging in a phone charger to see whether or not it works.
Check in the storage spaces and cupboards to determine that they are all in working order and that there are no hidden issues. Droppings or chew marks should present a red flag (possible infestation).
Inspect fire safety equipment and check smoke alarms. We also recommend opening and closing windows and doors to identify any damages. If there are appliances in the apartment, turn them on to identify potential problems. You should also inspect walls and floors, with a key focus on linoleum, carpet, hardwood, tiles, and drywall.
In most cases, the landlord takes note of damages for repair before a new tenant occupies their unit. Remember to take pictures of any problems using a quality camera. Show the problems to your potential landlord so they can take care of ths issues prior to you moving in. With that said, if the needed repairs are not addressed, avoid moving into the apartment.
Reduce Rental Expenses and Costs
An ideal apartment has exciting features and amenities all at an affordable cost. It is also up to you to look for ways to reduce your rental costs through all possible means.
Below are approaches you can consider:
Find an Apartment Outside the City
There is no argument that many people prefer to settle in an urban setting. However, the rent in such areas is very high. Instead, you can check for affordable, but quality, apartments in the suburbs. Just make sure the location is conveniently commutable to your place of work.
Consider the Transportation Costs
Settling in the urban areas will consume less of your transportation budget. This can be attributed to the readily available subways and public buses. Therefore, it would help to still consider transportation costs, especially if you settle away from the new city center.
Rent an Apartment with a Roommate
No matter the quality of the apartment, you can always cut down its costs, such as utilities and renters insurance, by sharing it with a roommate, as mentioned earlier. However, before you bring in a roommate you will need the landlord to approve. You should also have a separate written agreement with the roommate outlining all the obligations.
Always Think Small
The smaller the unit’s square footage, typically the lower the monthly rent and security deposit for an apartment is. With that said, you should also realize that this means losing some critical spaces.
We, therefore, recommend that you analyze beforehand how many bedrooms or how much space you need for your pets, storage, family, and visitors. You might just find that a smaller space is perfect, as long as it accommodates all your stuff.
Consider Subsidies from the Relevant Authorities
The Department of Housing and Urban Development offers subsidies for low-income persons that have difficulties paying their monthly rent. Search their website to check whether you can qualify for these subsidies.
Negotiate with Your Landlord for Reduced Rent
If you find a perfect apartment, but can’t afford the monthly rent, you can try to negotiate with the landlord to lower the rent for you. FYI, landlords typically offer a better deal to most renters who sign a longer lease. Also inquire about any rent specials that are being offered.
Consider Reviews and Ask Questions
Lastly, you should consider the apartment reviews during your apartment hunt before signing a lease. Just simply go online and check for reviews attached to the apartment list you are looking for. Here are the top five websites to search apartments for rent.
You can also ask for the opinion of those already living in the apartment community. This is a great way to get first hand knowledge so you can weed out poorly maintained and managed apartments.
Another thing we recommend is comparing the different options on your apartment list as a great way how to choose an apartment complex that you will love. Ensure you compare the reputation, lifestyle, value, and location of the relevant apartments.
Finally, know what to ask when apartment hunting. Ask the property manager or potential landlord as many questions as possible regarding their apartment and the housing market. This will guarantee that you get a good apartment.