Moving into a new apartment, especially your first apartment, is a big deal. For many, it might be your first time living on your own or your first step into adulthood. With that in mind, you want to go into it with as much information as humanely possible. If you’re on a budget or in a time crunch, you may be eager to jump at the first apartment that fits your main criteria, but before you sign a lease and commit to the apartment, know the answer to these nine questions. If they aren’t explained verbatim in the advertisement or listing, don’t be afraid to message the renter to get your answer.
Is there on-site parking?
If you’re bringing a car with you to your new location, make sure there is parking available wherever you’ll be living. In many cities, this isn’t a given. Some cities allow residents to get street parking permits, but check first and see if your apartment has an included garage or lot you can utilize.
How close are the nearest transportation options?
As someone who doesn’t drive, but has lived in DC a ton, knowing how long the walk is to the nearest metro station is a must. If you’re going to be relying on public transportation to get to work, you’ll want to make sure you can easily get to an from that location no matter the weather, the temperature, or the time.
Is it pet-friendly?
Nothing sucks more than signing a lease and realizing you can’t bring your beloved dog, cat, or chinchilla with you. Most apartments will tell you right away whether they are pet friendly to cats and dogs, but you may want to ask directly about more exotic pets. Most apartments that are pet friendly will require a pet deposit and maybe additional rent each month. Be sure to factor that into your budget.
Is there on-site laundry?
Laundromats aren’t exactly plentiful in 2018. Before you sign a lease, think about how far you’re going to have to lug your dirty laundry and whether it is coin operated or free. When I lived in a rented townhouse, I was lucky enough to have free laundry in the basement and I could do laundry whenever I pleased. In another building, I shared four washers and four dryers with about a hundred other residents and had to pay for laundry in quarters. Neither is the end of the world, obviously, but you should be prepared going into your move.
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How many people will be sharing the bathroom?
If you’re living alone, this obviously isn’t a problem, but with roommates, you’ll want to know who you’ll be sharing a bathroom with. If it’s a co-ed house and you aren’t comfortable sharing a bathroom with a man, you may want to reconsider. Similarly, it is crucial to know how many people are going to be relying on one shower to get ready for work every morning.
Are utilities included in the rent?
Budgets can be tight, especially for your first apartment. Finding out after a month that your rent didn’t include electricity or cable can be a real downer. Be sure to budget for utilities like gas or electric, cable, internet, and water, et cetera, along with rent if they are not included. If you’re paying rent plus utilities, you’ll likely find that you’ll pay less in utilities during the warmer months when you aren’t heating it, and there are of course sustainable ways to use less water.
How will rent be paid?
This may seem obvious, but I can promise you that it isn’t. Most of the time, you’ll be renting or leasing from someone you may never see. How will you get your rent to them? If it’s a larger apartment building or complex, they may have an automated or online system. Subleasers may use Venmo or Paypal. Anyway you choose to be, be aware of it in advance so you can take into consideration how long it takes to clear so you don’t end up late on your rent. Of course, you should always get a receipt of payment no matter how you pay.
How much is the security deposit?
Something that was probably waived in college but is an absolute reality in the real world is a security deposit. Landlords use security deposits as leverage in case you dip out on your lease early, absolutely ruin the carpet, or punch a hole in the wall. Most of the time, you’ll get your security deposit back when you move out, but it is a commitment you’ll need to be aware of when you move in. Often, a security deposit is 50-100% of a month’s rent. Be sure to budget for that during your moving process.