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Things to Remember When Renting an Apartment

Written by Neal F. Litherland. Posted in Uncategorized

Published on August 24, 2010 with No Comments

By Neal F. Litherland

Spring and summer are traditionally seasons when lot of apartment hunting and moving takes place. School ends in late spring, and college students start moving out of their dorms and looking for off-campus housing. And the weather’s cooperative for hauling furniture.

But before you start rounding up your furniture and your friends to help haul it you need to find the perfect place for you.

The first step is to ask yourself what you need out of your new apartment. Do you have to be close to work or school? Do you need one bedroom or two? How much can you afford to pay? Do you need central air conditioning? High speed internet? The list of questions just goes on. The best bet is to sit down one day and just look around at the space you already inhabit. Take a notebook, ask yourself what you can’t stand to live without (laundry is usually a good thing to have on hand), and write it down. Once you’re pretty sure you have your list ready, let a friend or potential roommate look it over. They might have something to add that you missed.

Once you have your list of must-haves, write out a budget. Look at your income, and try to find out what your average is. Look back through your bank statements and see what your income from work is, and add in tips or other dependable sources of money. Then write down estimated costs for essentials like food, internet, utilities (gas and electric for sure), cable and anything else you have to have.

You should also write down unexpected or occasional costs which may occur, like vacations, moving costs, entertainment, medical expenses and any other worst-case scenarios that might crop up. Add in taxes, any deductions for a retirement account, alimony, child support, or any other items you absolutely must pay. Once you’ve figured out those costs, you should be able to ballpark the rent you can afford to pay. For those who’ve never had an apartment before, your rent should be roughly one-fourth of your total monthly income.

After you’ve got your budget set, it’s time to start hunting culling through potential apartments. The internet is often a good place to start your search, especially if you live far away from the area you’re going to be moving to. Websites like www.rent.com will list the bigger, more-expensive apartments and townhouses in a given area, while free posting sites such as www.craigslist.org will list smaller, more-independent apartments and rooms for rent. It’s a good idea to check both the big and the small, because you never know what you might find.

If, on the other hand, you actually live near or in the area where you’re looking for an apartment, things get a lot easier. You can just cruise through the area and look for “For Rent” signs that mark out apartments and duplexes that are currently open. Local newspapers and pamphlets will also have some good apartment listings for places in the area, and you can usually find both the papers and the pamphlets in the foyers of local stores and supermarkets. Much like with internet listings, it pays to look at everything, because you never know when you might stumble across that unlikely find.

Call up the numbers listed for all of the apartments that catch your interest and set up a viewing. You shouldn’t, under any circumstances, agree to take an apartment until you’ve seen just what it is that you’re buying. When you’re looking over your potential apartment feel free to ask the landlord any questions that occur. Do they allow pets? Are they willing to negotiate on the rent? How long would the lease be for? What utilities does the apartment complex cover? How new are the appliances? Are there security problems in the neighborhood? Is there parking nearby? If, in the future, someone wants to move in, is there an option to add a person to the lease? Also make sure that you ask about any defects that you see. If the paint is peeling, the carpet is stained, or the tiles are chipped, then you should ask the landlord what they intend to do about it before you move in.

It’s also a good idea to bring a friend to act as the voice of reason when you’re looking at a new apartment. You might be too smitten with the hardwood floors and brick walls to notice the way the back door hangs askew and how the previous owner’s dog left stains in the rear corner, but someone who might not be living there with you will probably notice these things and draw them to your attention. Lastly, before you decide on one apartment over another, make sure that you’ve gone through all of your options and taken some time to think about it. Nothing is worse than finding out you could have gotten a much bigger, better, cheaper place if you’d just held off a bit longer and waited another day to look at one more apartment. Unless you’re really in love with the place and it gives you everything you need, make sure that you’re really certain before you sign the lease.

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About Neal F. Litherland

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All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. Neal Litherland is a Valparaiso resident who has been a freelance writer for several years. A graduate of Indiana University, he holds a Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice. He offers advice on money-saving tips using common-sense tactics. He welcomes suggestions and comments. Contact Neal: neal@thechroniclenwi.com.

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