8 Important Factors To Consider Before Taking An Apartment

Flickr / Nicolas Huk

Whether you’re renting your first apartment or hoping for an even better experience further down the line, it probably comes as no surprise that you should do some background research on the place you think you love. But beyond the obvious details like rent and location, have you really checked the place out from top to bottom? Here are eight major factors you should consider before signing any lease.

1. Your Utilities

You already know that you should consider the cost of the actual apartment before taking it, but your landlord or management company should be crystal clear about how much you’ll likely spend on utilities. Don’t sign anything until you know how much you’ll be paying for electric, gas, heat, water, WiFi, cable, etc. and how much each utility bill typically costs.

Bonus: Ask your landlord to give you the average cost of your temperature-sensitive bills like electric and heat, which can be higher in the summer and winter months. If you can’t afford your dead-of-winter heat bill, you shouldn’t take the apartment.

2. The Superintendent Or Maintenance Team’s Availability

Even if the apartment description indicates that there is an on-site super, that doesn’t always mean he or she is gonna come through when your bathroom sink is leaking on a Saturday morning. Of course, a landlord or management company might lie to you about the super’s availability, but you should ask anyway — just to be sure. If you want an honest opinion and don’t mind knocking on a potential neighbor’s door after a viewing, you can always ask another resident, too.

3. Your Potential Neighbors

Speaking of those neighbors, ask your landlord how many people live in the building and what you can expect from them. The answer really is dependent on how big of a building you live in, though. If you’re looking at an apartment in a big complex, the building owner(s) might not actually know who they are. If you’re looking at a smaller duplex, your landlord might be able to give you more information. At the basic level, though, your landlord or management company should know if your building includes mostly families, young professionals or people with bazillions of pets.

4. The Neighborhood On Nights And Weekends

Sure, the area might look super cute during the day, but consider what it’s like when the sun goes down. You can find this kind of information easily online by typing in the address or finding the apartment listing. Most listings include crime and safety data for the area, and if yours doesn’t, just do a Google search to be safe.

5. The Appliances

Take a long look at the refrigerator, oven, stove and other appliances in the apartment. There’s nothing worse than signing a lease and moving in only to find out that the freezer can’t actually stay cold. Don’t be afraid to ask about the possibility of getting updated appliances, either. You might be able to negotiate all new appliances in exchange for a slightly higher rent.

6. The Fine Print

We don’t really need to tell you to read your lease, but we do need to tell you to read it at least three times. In particular, check the fine print under each point specifically detailing any liabilities or violations. For example, you’ll definitely want to know that you could be taken to court over drilling holes in the wall. And believe us when we say that some landlords and management companies will include less attractive parts of the lease in the most obscure spots just so you’ll be more likely to miss them.

7. Bed Bugs And Roaches

If you live in a city like New York, prepare to see some roaches. Whether they’re hanging out in the subway or scurrying across the sidewalk, rodents and bugs are neighbors to everyone in population-dense areas. But if you’d rather not see them in your apartment, speak now. Ask your landlord or management company what precautions they take against having roaches and bed bugs in the building. Do they have a pest control service come in? Are tenants personally responsible for keeping pests at bay? Depending on your area, you may also be able to locate any bed bug or roach complaints filed under your building address online.

8. Building History

Do you know if your building is pre-war? Were there ever fires or carbon monoxide scares? Has the management company or landlord changed over the years? These are all questions you should be finding answers to before you sign your lease. Knowing a little about your building could make or break your decision, so do a Google search on the property and see for yourself.