Apartment Hunting: Know what to look and ask for
Whether you're moving out of your parents' house or you just need a change of scenery, finding the right apartment is never easy.
Here's the track to follow on your apartment hunt--hopefully you'll find a place that feels like home.
There are hundreds of websites, but none of them have every listing available in your area. Check out the following websites, any local housing sites and your local newspaper. Craigslist.org -- Search "apts/housing" to find a new place to live. You can set a minimum and maximum price to ensure that the results fit your budget. Apartments.com -- This site has great resources for those relocating. Rentals are separated by state, then region, and categorized by features, amenities, etc. until you find the exact rental you're looking for. Apartmentguide.com -- You can search for apartments and read up on managing your money and apartment-living tips.
Once you find a promising rental, it's time to check it out in detail. Virtual online tours are good for seeing the general layout, but never skip the on-site tour. These are some key tests for your potential apartment: Request to see a vacant unit; model units are sometimes better kept. Survey the appearance of the grounds -- see if the parking area is well lit and if all elements of the complex (windows, roof, etc.) are well maintained. Visit at different times to see what the noise level is and evaluate how thin the walls are. Check if neighboring tenants are families, teenagers or elders. This could give you an idea of what noise level to expect and what could be expected of you by your neighbors.
Test everything in your potential unit: flush the toilet, check the faucets and electric outlets. Look for damages that you would want fixed prior to moving in. These little things may factor into your decision to take the place or not. Ask if animals are allowed in the units. Even if you aren't bringing one, you can be affected by neighbors' pets.
If the apartment passed the physical test, then it's time to find out how much it's going to cost you.
Maintaining your budget will be top priority, so find out if any utilities are covered in the rent, if a washer and dryer are provided, or if there are any miscellaneous charges, such as administrative fees or fees for changing the locks.
A new lease can require a security deposit and first and last month's rent. You don't get your security deposit back until you move out. Your landlord's insurance policy doesn't cover your stuff if it's stolen or damaged. Renter's insurance policies generally cost $350 a year for a $50,000 policy and have a deductible of $250 or $500. Find out how "damages" will be assessed and taken out of your deposit when you move out. If the landlord considers carpet cleaning or other wear and tear items part of that, you'll want to know.
Now that you know all the details, you're on your way to an IKEA-clad pad you can call your own