So it’s about a month until school starts for all of you college students and if you haven’t found housing yet…it’s crunch time. If you’ve decided that living at home will drive you (and your family) crazy, dorming just didn’t fit your personality, or you had a bad roommate in a different living situation, it may be time for you to look at apartment living.
This can be daunting for a few reasons.
It can definitely be scary to be in charge of where exactly you will be living. You will have to deal with the consequences of your decision — whether they be good or bad. But have no fear, you can make this decision confidently if you ask the right questions.
When you get to your apartment tour, the leasing agent will go over what apartment they have available with you. This is definitely the time to be very open about what exactly you’re looking for and what your price range is.
While it may be fun to check out a really high-end apartment, if it’s not in your budget at all, it ultimately takes time away from touring apartments that you can actually afford.
Most of this time, the prices are available online to save yourself the hassle and cost of transportation to each complex. You can also always call to get the most accurate prices and availability before you go.
While on your tour, I would recommend taking notes and having your questions lined up, just so you don’t forget anything.
While most tours will start with this, it’s still good to ask: What kind of amenities are offered here?
Some places have gyms, clubhouses, pools, courtyards, credit reporting, complimentary coffee and tea, or monthly resident events to offer, so it’s good to know what is included with your rent money! If living there means you can ditch your costly gym membership or daily Starbucks, it may be an even better fit for your lifestyle!
A great follow-up question is if the amenities are open 24/7. Some complexes may only have their amenities open during office hours, so depending on what’s important to you, this may be a make or break question.
Something else that is good to ask is: What utilities am I responsible for?
Some properties may include the price of your utilities up to a certain amount in your rent, while some may require you to pay for your own electricity, water, sewage and trash bill on top of rent. Apartment complexes may also include some of these bills in your rent and not cover others. It is good to know the answer to this question to have a better gauge of what you will actually be paying month-to-month.
Everyone’s preferences are different but for me, laundry in the actual apartment is a MUST. I would definitely encourage everyone to ask: What is the laundry situation?
I’ve toured a few complexes that don’t have in-unit laundry and the leasing agent has just not touched the subject. If this is an important aspect to you, I would ask point-blank what laundry services they have available. Some apartments have them in every apartment unit (yay! for being able to leave you things in the dryer for a few hours…or days), while some only have them on every floor, a laundry unit in the middle of the complex, or just not at all.
If you have the time-management skills to plan a weekly trip to the laundromat, all the power to you. If you don’t, definitely try looking for apartments with in-unit laundry.
After your tour, your leasing agent will bring you back to their desk to go over some final details of their complex with you. Here is where I would ask a few more questions.
Something that I recently learned is that communities often offer specials on apartments that they are having a hard time leasing. I would definitely ask if they have any current specials.
Current specials or concessions can range from free parking to two months free rent. Not all communities will be offering deals like these, but it’s great to find out that one is! If a community thinks you’re really interested in them, they may even reach out to you afterwards to offer you a special to get you to sign a lease with them!
Every complex is going to be different, but it is important to ask what each community’s income requirement is.
Most complexes may require you to make 2.5 times to 3 times the actual rent. Again, depending on the situation, this may be a make or break situation for you. If you have a roommate or a guarantor (co-signer), their income will also be included in this assessment.
I would also make a point to ask what would be required to live in the community and what your move-in costs will be.
Money is usually a big deciding factor (especially for us college students) so this is an essential question. Sometimes move-in costs can be two or three times as much as a month of rent, so understanding what you’ll pay in the beginning is essential. On top of a security deposit, you may have to pay for pro-rated rent, parking, and fees associated with having a pet.
Also, many communities require you to obtain renters insurance and proof of setting up your account with an electric company. But knowing what they require will be helpful to plan for your future move as well.
So you decided you want to live at a certain complex and their answers have check off all of the boxes on your list? Ask them what the application and administration fees are!
Every complex will be different, but typically paying those fees will take the apartment that you are interested in off of the market and they will start getting it ready for you to move-in!
Good luck! I hope this helps you narrow down your search to find your perfect home!
Also published on Medium.