10 Questions to Ask When Apartment Hunting

Like entering a new relationship, finding the right apartment requires being a little level-headed. You wouldn’t just run off and elope with the first attractive person you see, right? No– you’d want to spend some time making sure your values, interests, and goals are a good fit.

10 Questions to Ask When Apartment Hunting

The same is true for apartment hunting: There are a few important things you should know before signing a lease agreement, even if you already love the way the place looks.

The great news is that we’ve put together a list of 10 questions to ask while visiting apartments to make sure you find the right place for you. Bring these questions with you while apartment hunting:

1. What Are the Lease Terms?

Ideally you should already be aware of when the lease begins and ends before you even look at a place. But if you aren’t, make sure you know when you’ll be able to move in and how many months the lease is for.

10 Questions to Ask When Apartment Hunting - What are the lease terms?

You should also know exactly how much the unit costs per month and what the manager’s late rent policy is– is there a grace period? Finally, ask if there are any other common lease terms you need to know about, like quiet hours or restrictions on painting.

2. Can You Go Over Any Move-In Fees?

Each property handles moves completely differently, so make sure you know what moving in will look like for you financially while visiting apartments.

10 Questions to Ask When Apartment Hunting - Can you go over any move in fees?

For instance, do they require first and last months’ rent up front? Do they need a security deposit? How about any moving or elevator fees? If the move-in expenses are too costly, you may have to find a different apartment.

3. What’s Your Pet Policy?

Whether you own a pet or just think you might want to adopt one within the next year (or however long the lease term extends), you should absolutely ask about the pet policy. Most importantly, are pets allowed?

10 Questions to Ask When Apartment Hunting - Whats Your Pet Policy?

If not, it’s best to move on– trying to hide a dog or cat could be very costly for you down the road. If they do allow pets, what are the deposits and fees? Pet policies vary widely, but most properties will charge at least a non-refundable pet deposit (this covers deep cleaning after you move out and any damage your pet may cause), if not monthly pet rent.

4. How About Your Guest Policy?

Most leases will mention a guest policy, but some are stricter than others.

10 Questions to Ask When Apartment Hunting - Guest Policy

For instance, in some places, having a visitor for longer than two weeks is not technically allowed (which means allowing your friend to stay with you for a month this summer may not be an option).

5. Do You Require Renters Insurance?

Renters insurance is another thing to think about while apartment hunting. Renters insurance provides coverage for all of your property in the event of things like a fire, flood, and often even theft.

10 Questions to Ask When Apartment Hunting - Do You Require Renters Insuance

It may also cover injuries that happen within your apartment. This type of coverage tends to cost very little per month, so it’s a good idea to get it anyway. However, some apartments actually require renters insurance, so it’s important to ask while making visits.

6. What’s Included in the Rent? What Isn’t?

Rent is almost never the only expense you’ll have when living in an apartment, but many property managers roll some utilities and other amenities into the cost of rent. Often, things like water, gas, heat, and cooling are included in rent, for instance.

10 Questions to Ask When Apartment Hunting - What's Included in the Rent? What Isn't?

It’s best to know exactly what is and isn’t included in order to determine the total monthly cost of living there. If an apartment’s rent is cheap, but covers no utilities, cable, Internet, or anything else, it still may be a bit above your budget.

7. How Are Emergency Repairs Taken Care Of?

Even if everything in the apartment appears to be in good working order, make sure you check how emergency repairs are handled. You definitely don’t want to be stuck in an apartment with a broken heater in January for any longer than you have to.

10 Questions to Ask When Apartment Hunting - How are emergency repairs taken care of?

Is maintenance available 24/7? How quickly do they typically respond? Also, ask about non-emergency repairs. Sometimes landlords and property managers will ask tenants to take care of those themselves and subtract the cost from the month’s rent.

8. How Secure Is the Property?

Ask the property manager to cover what security features the apartment has, including a doorman, a buzzer system, and anything else.

10 Questions to Ask When Apartment Hunting - How Secure is the property

You may also want to ask about the neighborhood– is it a relatively safe area? Make sure you walk around and scope out the area before you put down a deposit.

9. How Often Does Rent Go Up? By How Much?

Many apartments go up in rent upon a renewal of the lease. These types of charges aren’t always spelled out in the lease, so make sure you know going in how much you can expect to pay if you decide you want to live in the same apartment after your lease term is over.

10 Questions to Ask When Apartment Hunting - How Often Does Rent Go Up? By How Much?

If you’re looking for a long-term apartment, but the rent goes up by quite a bit each year, this may not be the apartment for you.

10. What Is the Parking Situation?

If you own a car, parking should be high on your priority list. In many neighborhoods– especially in larger cities– street parking can be hard to find and expensive, so finding an apartment with a parking garage or lot may be necessary.

10 Questions to Ask When Apartment Hunting - What is the parking situation?

However, a personal parking spot or pass is often an added charge, so ask about the cost as well.

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How to Make Your Apartment Feel Like Home

Moving to a new apartment inherently comes with an adjustment period. You don’t know the neighborhood or the unit, so the foreign location isn’t quite as comfortable as you’d like it to be.

How to Make an Apartment Feel Like Home

The good news is that the discomfort doesn’t last long. Before you know it, your apartment and neighborhood will feel like home. Of course, you can expedite the process by trying a few of these tips:

Plan Lighting

Lighting is a powerful, often unnoticed and under appreciated element that can make your apartment feel instantly warmer. The right lighting scheme turns a drab space into an intimate and cozy one, so it should be one of the first things you tackle when you move in– after setting up all the necessities, of course. Here are some tips for using lighting to make your new place feel like home:

How to Make an Apartment Feel Like Home - plan Lighting

At Least Three: Interior designers agree that every room should have at least three lighting sources to help create zones. Each of the three must be task or decorative lighting, as these types create pools of illumination– so that means the ceiling light that came with the apartment doesn’t count.

You can add lamp to your side table that makes reading at night possible, place a standing lamp in the corner and decorate with string lights.

Consider Bulbs: Look for compact florescent light bulbs that are designed to produce warm, gentle light. Original CFLs create that awful bluish-white light that’s flattering on exactly no one. Fortunately, the smart people who make bulbs invented versions that glow in a similar way to incandescent, only CFLs last longer and use energy more efficiently.

Decorate According to Your Tastes

Once your furniture and other necessities are set up inside your new apartment, fill it with your personal tastes. That means decorating! Pick out artwork, knick knacks and details that make you happy. Everything from the painting over your bed to your lamps to your shower curtain can be infused with your style.

How to Make an Apartment Feel Like Home - Decorate According to Your Tastes

Be picky about what you decorate with– only use items that match your overall decor scheme and fit your tastes. When you shop for items, don’t just pick something up because you like it. It should be cohesive with the rest of your belongings. If it’s not, it will feel out of place and you may not get much use out of it.

Include Sentimental Items

As you plan your decor scheme, include personal items that mean a lot to you. A painting that hung in your grandma’s house, the throw blanket your mom knitted and the mirror from your study abroad trip are all examples of decorations that not only look nice but have sentimental value.

How to Make an Apartment Feel Like Home - Include Sentimental Items

Surrounding yourself with both new and old items can help make the place feel more like yours. That being said, if you have a lot of meaningful belongings, pick and choose just a few. They should match the rest of your decorating design and not create clutter.

Clean Up

Most apartments have already been cleaned before a new tenant moves in. However, that’s not always the case. Before you put stuff away, do a deep clean. This gives you a fresh start both literally and figuratively. Plus, you’ll quickly get acquainted with your new space.

How to Make an Apartment Feel Like Home - Clean Up

Carve Out Your Space

You may not have time to decorate every room immediately, so pick one. Start with that area and make it totally your own, using tips I’ve already mentioned. That way, as you settle into the apartment, you have at least one retreat that makes you feel at home.

How to Make an Apartment Feel Like Home - Carve Out Your Space

Have a Party

Fill your apartment with friends and loved ones and it will feel like home right away. There’s nothing like good times and good people to make you feel welcomed. Plus, moving is a perfect excuse to have a drink with friends.

How to Make an Apartment Feel Like Home - Have a Party

Explore the Neighborhood

You probably picked the apartment you did in part because you liked the neighborhood. Now that you’ve moved in, go explore! Take a walk outside to see what bars, restaurants, coffee shops, and stores are nearby.

How to Make an Apartment Feel Like Home - Explore the Neighborhood

As you do, you may start imagining yourself going to the coffee shop every night to work on your blog. Or, you could picture group outings to the bar. Find features of your neighborhood that make you happy and envision your future there.

Additionally, look for community groups you may want to join. Running clubs, book clubs and even wine-tasting groups exist in many metropolitan neighborhoods, and they’re an easy and fun way to make friends. And having friends nearby is a surefire way to feel at home.

Don’t worry: Your new apartment will really start to feel like home in no time. With these tips, the unit will transform from just a building into a place filled with great memories.

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How to Make  Your Apartment

How to Know if Your Apartment is The One

Nobody ever said finding “the one” was easy. It takes some time, a great deal of persistence, and definitely the commitment to make your way through a few bad eggs before finding one with potential.

How to Know if Your Apartment is 'The One'

The same is true for finding your ideal apartment– it really does take the same amount of dedication. However, in the same way that it’s hard to know if you’ve landed a guy or gal you could commit to, it’s also tough to know while apartment searching when you’ve found the place you want to snatch up.

Every place is going to have its advantages and disadvantages. So, to give you a little assistance on your apartment quest, here’s how to know you’ve found the one:

You Like Your Landlord (and Your Lease)

It’s important to enter into a lease confident in your landlord’s expectations and dependability. You don’t want to get stuck with no heat mid-December, only to find out you have a landlord who’s no help at all.

How to Know if Your Apartment is 'The One' - You Like Your Landlord (and Your Lease)

When talking (whether in person or over email or phone) to potential landlords or building managers, pay attention to how they answer your questions or concerns and how quickly they respond. Find someone who you like and feel you can trust.

Also, be sure the terms of your lease are OK. If no utilities are included and the rent is already on the high end of your budget or there are strict lease terms you can’t really agree to, the situation may not be the right fit for you.

It’s Well-Maintained

No renter should have to live in a place that’s constantly in need of repairs, small or large. During your apartment search, observe the overall condition of the building and the apartment, including its floors and walls.

How to Know if Your Apartment is 'The One' - It's Well Maintained

Then, inspect appliances, heating and cooling systems (if applicable), and faucets and fixtures in the kitchen and bathroom to make sure everything is in good working order. Don’t feel bad about taking the time to do this– as they say, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Your Location is Ideal

You should have done ample research on the best neighborhoods for you before beginning your apartment search. If not, consider whether the locations of the apartments you’re viewing are a good fit for you.

How to Know if Your Apartment is 'The One' - Your Location is Ideal

Is the neighborhood safe? Is the commute to school or work reasonable? Is the area easily accessible by public transportation or is there parking nearby? Are all of your everyday necessities in the vicinity (i.e., a grocery store, coffee shop, pet store, etc.)?

The Price is Right

It’s always best to go into apartment hunting with an ideal budget in mind, but you should nail down a maximum price you’re willing to stretch to in case you aren’t finding anything within your optimal price range.

How to Know if Your Apartment is 'The One' - The Price is Right

Your apartment may be “the one” if it’s a little over what you’d like to spend but makes up for that with amenities and location. Perhaps, for example, an apartment with a nice workout facility is more expensive, but then you could also cancel your gym membership to offset that added cost.

However, that doesn’t mean you should go over what you can reasonably pay per month.

It Has Your Non-Negotiable Amenities

Personally, I can’t live in an apartment without a dishwasher. In my experience, that will result in a sink constantly full of dirty dishes and an overextended food budget. Why? Because I’d rather buy food than clean my dishes and make meals at home.

How to Know if Your Apartment is 'The One' - It Has Your Non-Negotiable Amenities

Decide what your non-negotiable amenities are before apartment searching. Your ideal apartment should have as many of these as possible.

It’s the Right Fit for Your Furry Friend

Do you have a pet? Or are you considering getting one in the near future? Then the apartment has to be the right fit for your furry friend too. You wouldn’t marry someone your kids (assuming you have them) didn’t like, would you?

How to Know if Your Apartment is 'The One' - It's the Right Fit for Your Furry Friend

In any case, look for a place that has the right setup, amenities and location for your pets, and make sure the added deposits, fees and monthly rent will still keep the place within your budget. If you’re wondering how to know if a place is good for animals, look for other signs of dogs or cats in the building, like an outdoor doggie play area or a jar of treats at the front desk.

Keep in mind that it’s rare to find a “perfect” apartment. Much like finding the man or woman who is “the one” for you (you know, if you believe in that sort of thing), finding the right apartment may mean having to make a few compromises. While you shouldn’t settle for something that truly isn’t a good fit, give yourself a little wiggle room in all of these categories and look for a place that meets your most important criteria.

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How to Know if Your Apartment is The One

Tips for Finding an Apartment Before Moving to a New City

If you’re set to make a cross-country move– or any move to a new city you’re unfamiliar with– finding an apartment can be a little difficult. Not only is it hard to choose an apartment itself before looking at it in person, but it can also be tough to even know which neighborhoods will fit your needs until you’ve lived in the city for awhile. And the last thing you want is to move into a new apartment or to a neighborhood that, at best, isn’t really what you’re looking for.

Tips for Finding an Apartment Before Moving to a New City

Step one: Don’t get discouraged. Finding an apartment when moving to a new city can be done! Read on for some tips and guidelines for finding an apartment in a new city:

Start by Researching Neighborhoods

The first step is to do your best to determine which neighborhoods will be most ideal for you. Whether you need a neighborhood that’s an easy commute from your job, one that’s affordable, or you’re simply looking for an area that suits you, you can discover a lot about neighborhoods by going online.

Tips for Finding an Apartment Before Moving to a New City - Start by Researching Neighborhoods

You may want to connect with some friends, family members or even acquaintances who live there and ask for their advice. They’ll likely be happy to give you a rundown of a few good options.

Ask Your Employers

If you’re struggling to find neighborhoods or apartments that work for you, and you’re moving for a job, you may want to talk to your employers for a little assistance.

Tips for Finding an Apartment Before Moving to a New City - Ask Your Employers

They’ll at least be able to help you figure out some neighborhoods that will be easily accessible from the office, and it’s possible they’ll be able to connect you with a realtor or local apartment-finding service that you’ll find helpful.

Decide What You Want

After getting a better understanding of the neighborhoods best suited to your lifestyle, you have to prioritize your apartment wish​ list. First decide what type of apartment you’re looking for (studio, one-bedroom, etc.).

Tips for Finding an Apartment Before Moving to a New City - Decide What You Want

Then, write down some of the amenities you need and make a separate list of any features you want. These can be any number of factors, such as included utilities, a parking space, in-building laundry, a doorman, a workout room, and so on. Knowing what you want will make narrowing down the hundreds of online listings that much easier.

Go Online

Speaking of online listings, most of your apartment search will have to be done on the Internet. You can use ApartmentGuide.com to look for available apartments that meet some of your requirements (you’ll be able to search by area, type of apartment, price and amenities).

Tips for Finding an Apartment Before Moving to a New City - Go Online

You can also use online apartment hunting sites to peruse listings and get a better idea of what prices are like in each neighborhood you’re interested in.

Pay Attention to How Landlords Communicate

Once you begin connecting with landlords, pay attention to the way they communicate with you. If they respond right away and are eager to share whatever information you need, that’s a very good sign.

Tips for Finding an Apartment Before Moving to a New City - Pay Attention to How Landlords Communicate

Landlords who don’t respond right away, don’t answer your questions or otherwise don’t communicate as well should be a red flag. The apartment may not be exactly what they’re advertising, or you may find them just as hard to reach in the future if you ever need help with a maintenance issue or anything else.

Consider a Staycation

​If looking solely online seems overwhelming or risky to you, you may want to think about setting aside a few days for a short trip to your new city. Plan on a time, then get in touch with some of the landlords you’ve been talking to and ask to set up in-person viewings.

Tips for Finding an Apartment Before Moving to a New City - Consider a Staycation

Go prepared to apply for an apartment on-site, so bring your ID and three recent pay​ stubs, along with enough money to pay for things like deposits, application fees and first month’s rent.

Ask Friends for Help

If a short trip isn’t in the cards for you, you can still learn more about the apartments you’re considering. One of the best ways is to ask your friends or family members who live in the city to go check out a place for you.

Tips for Finding an Apartment Before Moving to a New City - Ask Friends for Help

You’ll be able to trust their opinions, and they can provide you with as many pictures as you need while doing a walk through.

Don’t Sign Before Seeing

Whether you ask your friends for help or simply request as many pictures as possible from the landlord or building manager, it’s best not to sign a lease before seeing the place yourself. Ask your landlord if it’s OK for you to wait to sign on the dotted line until you’ve seen the place with your own eyes.

Tips for Finding an Apartment Before Moving to a New City - Don't Sign Before Seeing

If that’s not possible, see if they’ll negotiate a clause in the lease that says you’re allowed to back out within a specific amount of time if the apartment isn’t what they’ve advertised. It’s a great way to protect yourself and feel secure in your decision. Just make sure you have a back-up plan if that apartment ends up falling through!

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Tips for Finding an Apartment Before Moving to a New City

How to Fit Everything You Own Into One Storage Closet

One of the biggest shortcomings of many small apartments is the amount of storage space they offer. Or rather, the lack of storage space. In fact, in many cases, it’s not uncommon for small apartments to have a single storage closet for everything from clothes to shoes, cleaning supplies, luggage and more– especially in single-room studios.

How to Fit Everything You Own Into One Storage Closet

For people with numerous belongings, small storage makes for a big problem. However, if you’re planning on moving into a place with a single closet, there are a few practical ways to handle the matter. Here’s how to fit everything you own into a single storage closet:

Organize, Organize, Organize

Even in apartments with multiple closets, organization is the key to maximizing your storage. This means you should do two things: downsize and consolidate. Start by getting rid of stuff you don’t need anymore or items you’re simply hanging onto because you’ve had them forever (you know, like the CDs from your favorite band in middle school or your class notebooks from college).

How to Fit Everything You Own Into One Storage Closet - Organize, Organize, Organize

Then, with the items you have left, categorize them and decide the best way to store each group. Use similar containers when you can to eliminate as much dead space as possible– rectangular containers will stack together better than a mixture of square and round boxes and baskets.

Find Storage Elsewhere

Remember that even if you have one storage closet, it’s not the only place in your apartment where you can tuck extra stuff out of sight. Utilize other storage options to make more room in the closet. Try under-the-bed containers or drawers, for instance. You can even place bed risers underneath the legs of your bed to give yourself more room for bins and drawers.

How to Fit Everything You Own Into One Storage Closet - Find Storge Elsewhere

Or, buy double-duty furniture, like an ottoman with built-in storage or a dresser you can use as a TV stand. And don’t forget to use your bathroom and kitchen cabinets for as many items as you can– the more you use these other storage spots, the less you’ll have to worry about fitting into your closet.

Use Every Inch

Make practical use of the top shelves as much as you can by keeping items you don’t need very often on them. Opt for tall containers that will fit plenty of your things and maximize that often unused space at the very top (you may need to keep a step ladder on hand to get to these items).

How to Fit Everything You Own Into One Storage Closet - Use Every Inch

If you can, utilize floor and wall space, too. Hanging hooks and baskets on the back of the door or on the wall will provide an extra place for stuff that doesn’t fit anywhere else.

Store By Ease of Access

The best way to organize your belongings in a stuffed storage closet (or anywhere in your apartment) is by how often you’ll need them. Keep little-used items in places you can’t access as easily, like on the top shelf, in the back of your bathroom cabinet or under the bed.

How to Fit Everything You Own Into One Storage Closet - Sort By Ease of Access

You don’t want to have to move around piles of boxes to get to items you’ll need regularly! Stuff you’ll need to access daily should be in drawers, shelves, or hanging in spots where you’ll be able to access them as easily as possible.

Vacuum Seal

If you’ve ever watched late-night infomercials, you’ve likely seen those vacuum-sealed bags that claim to turn stuffed and untidy closets into amazingly organized spaces that even have plenty of extra room for storage.

How to Fit Everything You Own Into One Storage Closet - Vacuum Seal

These vacuum-sealed bags really do work to consolidate soft items like linens and out-of-season clothes you won’t need for awhile. They’re certainly worth a try– you may find yourself with more storage than you anticipated!

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How to Fit Everything You Own Into One Storage Closet

How to Fix Common Damage Issues Before Moving Out

Moving out of your apartment can be bittersweet. You pack up all of your things, begin moving furniture, start taking down wall art– and, lo and behold, there’s that golf ball-sized hole in the wall you accidentally made one night, then covered with art.

How to Fix Common Damage Issues Before Moving Out

After living in an apartment for at least a year, there’s bound to be some small damage here and there. While some wear and tear is normal and should be built into your lease, fixing minor damage before moving out will ensure you get your full security deposit back. Plus, you’ll stay on good terms with your landlord, who you may need for references down the road.

To make sure you leave your apartment in good condition before moving out, take a look at these normal damage issues and their fixes:

Small Holes

After taking down the photos from your gallery wall, you probably noticed the many small holes left by nails that were used to hang the frames. Patching small holes left by nails, tacks and screws is simple and will leave the walls looking great again.

How to Fix Common Damage Issues Before Moving Out - Small Holes

You’ll need some spackling paste, a putty knife and some sandpaper. Squeeze a small glob of the spackle into each hole, then use the putty knife to spread and blend it over the hole and wall. Once the spackle is dry, use the sandpaper to lightly sand the area, especially around the edges, to leave a smooth, flat wall.

Scuff Marks

Though scuff marks likely aren’t going to cost you any of your security deposit, they make the apartment appear dirtier than it is.

How to Fix Common Damage Issues Before Moving Out - Scuff Marks

Since I seem to make an inordinate amount of scuffs on the walls of my apartments, I typically don’t try to tackle them all– just really noticeable and large ones. A magic eraser works wonders to get rid of them, so pick up a couple and your walls will be white again in no time.

Large Holes

Now it’s time to tackle that large hole you hid under your favorite painting. Mending large holes in drywall isn’t as easy as some of the other fixes, but it will most likely cost you less than if you were to let your landlord handle it and deduct it from your deposit.

How to Fix Common Damage Issues Before Moving Out - Large Holes

Pick up a mesh repair patch at the hardware store to use with your spackle. Then, cut the patch so that it fits over the hole and the surrounding wall. Cover the patch with spackle, and after it dries, sand down the edges so they blend into the wall completely.

Broken Blinds

Another common damage issue I’m guilty of is bending or even breaking some of my window blinds. Before moving out, dust your windows and blinds, and make sure none are bent or cracked. If bent, do your best to straighten them out as much as possible.

How to Fix Common Apartment Damage Issues Before Moving Out - Broken BlindsIf you can’t straighten them, or if one of the blinds is broken, look for blinds of the same size and color at your hardware store. Replace the broken slat with the new one, and your landlord won’t ever know the difference!

Carpet Stains

If you’re a red-wine drinker living in a carpeted apartment, you probably know a thing or two about removing carpet stains. Tackling stains before they get a chance to set will help your carpet look better overall, but before moving out, peruse the carpet for any stains you might have missed.

How to Fix Common Damage Issues Before Moving Out - Carpet Stains

Try using baking soda or carpet cleaner first. If that’s not strong enough to remove the stains, consider renting a carpet cleaner from your hardware or grocery store. They’re easy to use, and your carpets will be unrecognizably clean when you’re done.

Scratches on Hardwood

Renters love apartments with hardwood floors because they’re much easier to clean than carpet, but they do have one common problem with them: Hardwood is easy to scratch. There are a couple of quick fixes for the shallower scrapes, though.

How to Fix Common Damage Issues Before Moving Out- Scratches on Hard WoodMany people swear by the walnut method, which involves rubbing a raw walnut along the scrape until the scratch blends into the rest of the floor. This method works well, just not on deep scratches and darker woods.

For deeper scratches, look for a wood-colored marker or pencil at the hardware store. These products are specifically made for filling in and disguising the scrapes.

General Dirtiness

Deep cleaning your apartment is generally recommended to ensure you get your full deposit back, and to give your landlord less of a headache when he or she is trying to ready the unit for the next renter.

How to Fix Common Damage Issues Before Moving Out - General Dirtiness

Give everything a good wiping, sweeping and dusting, but spend extra time in the kitchen and bathroom. The refrigerator, microwave, oven and stove should all be thoroughly cleaned, along with the toilet, shower, tub and sink.

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How to Fix Common Damage Issues Before Moving Out

Photo Credit: deadmanjonesNic TaylorDan PupiusSean McGrathSalva Barberakaiton

8 Tips to Help You Get Along With Your Landlord

The landlord-renter relationship can be a very tricky line to walk for many reasons. For one thing, renters and landlords are both taking very huge risks when they sign a lease. For another, the document itself makes each person dependent on the other.

When renting out their own private property, landlords are risking a lot financially. If a tenant causes damage, stops paying rent, or any apartment-related issues become litigious, they could be out thousands of dollars or more.

8 Tips to Help You Get Along With Your Landlord

The renter depends greatly on the landlord as well. Uncomfortable, dangerous, dirty, or otherwise unlivable spaces can cause a lot of stress. Not to mention, landlord disputes and evictions can put renters out of a place to live altogether.

For these reasons, it’s very important – even crucial – to foster a good relationship with your landlord as soon as possible. While a bad situation can be traumatic for both parties involved, the opposite is also true. A positive relationship with your landlord will keep both of you sane, safe, and happy.

Check out these eight guidelines to help you get along with your landlord:

1. Be Honest

It’s almost impossible to get along with your landlord after starting off on the wrong foot, so start making an effort to build a good relationship on day one.

8 Tips to Help You Get Along With Your Landlord - Be Honest

Little fibs, like hiding Fido or having an extra roommate, can create instant distrust and tension if (and when) your landlord finds out. From the day you sign the lease and step into the apartment, make sure you’re being completely honest.

2. Pay Your Rent

There is nothing worse for the landlord-renter relationship than a tenant who doesn’t pay rent on time or in full. Even if they give you a 2-5 day cushion before the rent is officially deemed late, it’s better to get it in early or on time.

Rent issues don’t just affect the landlord or your relationship, though. If you pay late often enough, your credit will take a hit, and your landlord will likely mention it if called for a reference in the future. If you don’t think you’ll be able to pay rent on time, get in touch with your landlord right away, and make sure not to let it happen again.

3. Say Hi

If your landlord is actually the guy who lives down the hall, make sure you say hello when passing in the lobby or laundry room.

8 Tips to Help You Get Along With Your Landlord - Say Hi

Being friendly and likable will build trust, and it will also make your landlord more likely to give you some leeway or quick maintenance help if problems arise down the road.

4. Mind Your Lease

Respect the rules they’ve taken the time to lay out in the lease. Remember: The lease is there to protect both of you, and violating it will could create both a personal and legal issue.

If you signed on the dotted line and promised you wouldn’t paint the walls, bring home an adopted puppy, or sublet the place without permission, then don’t do so without asking first. Make sure you treat their property with care and respect.

5. Ask For Help

Make sure to notify your landlord as soon as possible with any maintenance requests or damage reports. The only way they’ll know about issues is if you tell them, and they’ll likely want to take care of anything as quickly as possible.

8 Tips to Help You Get Along With Your Landlord - Ask for Help

They want the apartment to be in good working order for you, but maintenance issues that go unfixed for a long time could actually become more expensive for them down the line.

6. Mind Your Attitude

After asking for help, remember to be patient if they don’t respond right away. Many landlords have other full-time jobs or properties that keep them busy, so as long as your landlord is normally dependable, it’s unlikely they’re ignoring or disregarding your needs.

Keep second and third notices polite, even if the tone becomes more adamant. If your landlord has shown a pattern of ignoring requests, it could legally be termed neglect, depending on the repairs needed.

7. Get Everything in Writing (or e-mail)

Since both of you are taking risks and depending on each other, try to put every apartment-related conversation and request into writing.

8 Tips to Help You Get Along With Your Landlord - Get Everything in Writing

Correspond by email rather than on the phone or in person. This will protect both of you and hopefully make the relationship a little less stressful overall.

8. Know Your Rights

While there are many things you can do to promote a positive relationship with your landlord, you aren’t the only person responsible if something goes wrong. All 50 states and many cities have legislation in place to protect tenants from discrimination, negligence and other issues that could potentially come up when renting an apartment.

Know your rights when you enter into a contract with your landlord so that you’re fully prepared just in case.

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8 Tips to Help You Get Along With Your Landlord

Photo Credit: Bradley GordonReganSimon ThulbournJeffrey PottSimplificamos Su Trabajo

The Rental Application Process

After hours of looking at apartments online and in person, you’ve finally found the one. It’s exactly what you’re looking for in terms of price, size, amenities and location, and you want to fill out the application so you can get approved immediately.

The Rental Application Process

If it’s your first time renting an apartment, though, the rental application process may be a little different than you imagined. Applying for the apartment is a lengthy procedure with several steps that both you and your potential landlord will need to take. For first-time renters, here’s what you can expect the rental application process to look like:

Filling Out the Application

The first step, of course, is filling out the rental application. In more urban areas, it’s usually a good idea to do this as soon as possible after finding your desired apartment, since landlords will continue showing it until someone has officially applied.

I’ve had more than one apartment swept out from under me within one day of seeing the place for the first time! On the application you should expect to include all of your personal information, including either a social security or driver’s license number, along with employment information and references.

Application Fee

Applying for an apartment also generally comes along with a few different fees, some refundable and some not.

Depending on the landlord and building, you’ll have to pay an application fee, a processing fee and sometimes a security deposit. Expect to pay as much as $100 or more per person just to apply for an apartment in some areas.

Proof of Income

Most landlords include an area on the application for your monthly income, and they will almost always require you to provide proof.

The Rental Application Process - Proof of IncomeIt’s a good idea to bring two or three recent pay stubs along when looking at or applying for apartments so you have that proof on hand. Some will accept a W​-2 form as proof instead of pay stubs as long as you’ve held the job for more than a year.

Most landlords and building managers also call your employer for proof of employment, and may ask questions about you personally and your salary. Many companies don’t answer those questions for legal reasons, but it’s a possibility.

Credit Check

When applying for the apartment, you’ll also have to give the landlord permission to check your credit. The credit check is really important for landlords because it gives them an idea of how financially responsible you are.

If you don’t have credit or have really new credit, it’s a lot harder for them to get a feel for your dependability, so it’s a good idea to talk to them about it at the time of application. They may ask you to provide a co-signer or depend solely on your roommate’s credit.

Background Check

The criminal background check is another thing that your landlord will need your authorization for. Landlords check your criminal history and will show your landlords your criminal history, again to get an idea of your personality and dependability.

The Rental Application Process - Background Check

There is also usually a spot on the application to explain any felonies on your record, so make sure to fill that section out in your own words if you have any.

Landlord References

Most landlords and building managers will do an extensive check on your rental history by speaking to your past landlords. If this is your first time renting, you won’t have any past landlords and they’ll have to rely only on your personal references.

Provide references outside of your family, like college professors and employers, so that they’ll be able to give the landlord an idea of your work ethic, responsibility and other important character traits.

Co-signer Application

Co-signers or guarantors are people who sign the lease with you, saying they take legal responsibility for covering your rent if you can’t. Providing a co-signer is a good idea if you’re a first-time renter for a lot of reasons.

For one, if you don’t have a rental history, landlords won’t have any information about how dependable you are with rent or if you’ve caused damage before.

Landlords may also request a co-signer if you have poor credit or if your income isn’t more than three times the cost of the rent – that’s a pretty typical income rule that landlords use.

Lease

If your rental application gets approved, you’ll then be able to sign the lease!

Everyone living in the apartment will have to be present to sign the lease, and the co-signer will need to sign their own agreement as well. The lease covers expectations for the term (typically apartments are rented out for 12 months at a time), rent, pets, maintenance, subleasing and a variety of other aspects of renting.

Expect the lease​-signing process to take awhile, since you’ll be covering so much ground. You’ll also most likely have to pay the first month’s rent and any move-in fees or security deposits required by your landlord and the building.

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The Rental Application Process - Things You Need to Know

Photo Credit: 401(K) 2012Brian Turner

How to Stay Organized During Your Apartment Search

Let’s face it: Apartment hunting is stressful! From finding listings that match your criteria and making appointments for viewings to taking tours and choosing the best fit, there are a lot of details to keep track of.

How to Stay Organized During Your Apartment Search

Luckily, your friends at Apartment Guide are here to help. Here’s how to stay organized during your hunt for a new home:

Take Lots of Notes

Did the one bedroom on First Avenue have laundry in the unit, or was that the studio downtown? If you see numerous rentals during your apartment search, the details about one apartment start to become muddled with the amenities of the next.

Take copious notes while you tour apartments so you can keep the rental properties straight in your mind. Label the top of each set of notes with the address of the apartment and the name of the complex, when applicable. You might feel like you’re back in school, but taking notes now can spare yourself a lot of confusion later.

Create a Detailed Online Calendar

Rather than relying on a system of Post-It notes that could be destroyed by a strong breeze or overzealous housekeeper, put your faith in an online tracking system. Let your Google Calendar (or similar) be your best friend during an apartment search.

Make a calendar event for each open house, private rental viewing and rental application deadline. Also create a calendar alert for when each unit is becoming available. Update the calendar with the notes you take at a rental viewing so you can track the highlights or downsides of each apartment in one place. If you’re online calendar has an app, download it to that you can update it at any time to ensure that everything is up to date.

Have a Filing System

Even though most of your apartment search appointments can be stored in an online calendar, you may still walk away with some paperwork after a viewing. Rental applications, credit check forms and apartment complex brochures all need to be kept in one place.

Create a filing system using a filing cabinet or folders placed in a designated drawer. Put all paperwork for each property into a separate file. Always remember to organize your paperwork as soon as you get home from viewing an apartment that is going on your short list.

Take Pictures

Creating a mental picture of a rental is great, but even with detailed notes you may forget how big the closet really was in a particular apartment. Ask the property manager if you can take a few snapshots with your camera.

Even just a few shots of the living space and bedroom will help jog your memory when you try to remember important details about the layout. Label all pictures appropriately as soon as possible so you remember which apartment listing they belong to.

Start Eliminating Apartments Early

Keeping a long list of possible apartment rentals will only complicate matters, so it’s best to start eliminating apartments early on in your search process. Rather than maintaining a list of every unit you see, set aside or throw away the rental applications or photos of units that you already know you’re not interested in.

Work toward creating and maintaining a short list of possible new homes. As you add a new apartment to this list, make yourself eliminate one to prevent the list from getting out of hand. Remembering the details of just a few units allows you to remain organized and not become overwhelmed with information.

Searching for a new home involves a lot of planning and plenty of paperwork. To ensure that you don’t miss out on a great property due to a lost application or a missed deadline, learning how to stay organized is absolutely vital. The best units in your city will have you competing with other renters, and staying organized is your secret weapon for getting the best apartment on the block.

How do you stay organized during an apartment search? Tell us about it on Twitter!

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How to Stay Organized During Your Apartment Search

Photo Credit: Chung Ho Leung

Mid-year Rent Check: What’s the Going Rate for Apartment Rentals in Metros Nationwide?

It’s the middle of the year: do you know who’s paying more in rent, right now?

Here at Apartment Guide, we thought we’d take a look at our data about apartment rentals and determine just that.

Using information provided by the apartment communities which advertise with us, in July 2014, Apartment Guide calculated the median price for an entry-level apartment unit in about 250 metros areas (CBSAs) nationwide.

Check the interactive map above for the results.

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