Apartment life can be awesome if you know what questions to ask
If all signs point to starting apartment life, you need to plan early for the best outcome. Start by asking yourself specific questions about the apartment lifestyle (sharing walls isn't for everyone) and setting a realistic budget. You’ll also want to talk to the leasing manager about the apartment’s features and the lease details before you get your heart set on the property with a dog park and 24-hour concierge service.
Questions to Ask Yourself Before Renting an Apartment
You might feel completely ready to live out on your own, but you need to answer some due diligence questions before signing the lease agreement.
1. Am I Prepared for a Credit and Background Check?
Getting ready to move into an apartment should start months ahead of your planned move-in date if you want to find the best apartment for you and your budget. Yes, it's fun to shop online for the apartments with the best amenities, bedrooms, and square footage, but you’ll also need to prepare your financial reports and background checks. Chances are, the leasing office will ask to run both. So, before applying for an apartment, you’ll want to prepare early.
Review your free credit reports at annualcreditreport.com for mistakes and inaccuracies.
Know your credit score and start to clear up delinquent accounts.
Gather proof of your monthly pay to verify income.
2. Are My Finances Ready to Add a Rent Payment?
In a lot of ways, signing a lease for an apartment, especially your first one, offers a sense of freedom—you’re living your life on your terms. On the other hand, you’ve also started tying your money to another monthly payment. You’ll have to calculate your living expenses to find out how much rent you can afford. Start with a rent calculator to give you an idea of a manageable budget.
3. Do I Have Enough Money Saved to Sign a Lease?
Unfortunately, you’ll need more than just your first month’s rent to move in. Each apartment company has specific policies, but you’ll probably need two to three months’ rent when you sign the contract. You could also be on the hook for any combination of these:
Pet deposits, fees (refundable and non-refundable)
Utilities start-up fees
4. Do I Need a Roommate?
After adding up all of the expenses, it might become clear you need a roommate to make your apartment dreams come true. Living with a roommate could be some of the best days of your life, but remember, they come with their own set of rules and understandings to live peacefully with you. These are just a few of the questions you’ll want to ask potential roommates.
Do we need a roommate agreement?
Whose name is on the lease and utilities?
How do we agree on pets, guests, and household chores?
What happens if a roommate wants to move?
How do we split rent if the bedrooms are an unequal size?
Questions to Ask Your Apartment Leasing Office
Of course, you’ll have dozens of questions to ask the manager or leasing agent. And, some of the answers could make or break your decision to apply.
5. What Are the Important Lease Details I Should Know?
There are so many, but it's essential to make sure you ask about the most common apartment rental mistakes that sometimes lead to trouble later. Topics like:
Lease terms and how to break the lease and the fees attached
Prorated rents for partially occupied months
If anything you and the lease manager agree to change, make sure the amendments are documented in the lease and have the necessary signatures.
6. Is the Apartment Family-Friendly?
If you’re a parent considering apartment living, it’s a good idea to ask just how family-friendly the apartment community really is. Ask for an estimate of how many other children live there and the amenities geared toward kids like playgrounds, sports courts, bus stops, and community study space.
7. Are Pets Allowed?
Some people want furry friends, others not so much, so make sure your apartment accommodates the pet-free or pet-inclusive lifestyle you want. If you hope to bring Lola the Bulldog or Buster the Calico, it's essential to read the pet details in your lease carefully. There may be species, breed, size, and weight restrictions you’ll have to work around—not to mention pet deposits, cleaning fees, and possibly pet rent each month. Also, ask about pet-friendly options like bark yards and dog groomers in your area that will pick up and drop off at the apartment building.
8. Are Utilities Included in the Rent Price?
Sometimes, yes and sometimes no, and, occasionally, leases include (and exclude) certain utilities. For example, your rent could cover power and water but not Wi-Fi or cable. If the utilities aren’t covered, ask if the lease manager has an idea of average use for the building.
9. What About Parking?
Parking doesn’t seem like a big deal unless you don’t have a dedicated place to park each day. There are various solutions from assigned spaces to first come, first served, so it’s best to know upfront what to expect. You’ll also want to ask about roommate and guest parking and options for multiple cars and motorcycles.
10. Is There On-Site Storage?
There’s no better time than moving to purge clutter and unneeded items, like the old futon that’s seen better days, but sometimes the square footage just doesn’t match the amount of stuff you have. Knowing if there’s on-site storage (and if you have to pay extra) helps you budget and plan for an off-property storage facility.