You’re ready for a change of scenery. You’re planning on searching for a brand-new apartment to call “home” sometime soon. Before you go on the hunt for this apartment, you should read these important tips first.
Look at Your Credit Score
You know that your consumer credit score can affect your ability to apply for all sorts of loans from credit cards to personal loans. But did you know that your score can affect your ability to get approved for an apartment unit? That’s right — your landlord might do a credit inquiry to see how risky you might be as a tenant. If they think that your credit score isn’t up to par, they may reject your application for fear that you won’t be financially responsible enough to pay your rent and related fees.
So, before you go apartment hunting, you should check your credit report to see what your credit score currently is. If you’re not impressed with the score, you might want to work on improving it before you start your search for a new place.
How Can You Improve Your Credit Score?
One thing that you can do is manage your bill payments better. Frequently making late bill payments will hurt your credit score. You should be paying your bills in full and on time. Learn more about the importance of managing your loan payments for the sake of your financial well-being. It’s not just a good habit for your credit score. It benefits so much more.
Other than paying your bills on time, what can you do to improve your credit score? These are some strategies that could push the score higher over time:
- Pay down outstanding balances on revolving credit accounts (credit cards and personal lines of credit).
- Correct any errors sitting on your credit report.
- Keep your oldest credit accounts open.
- Avoid getting multiple hard credit inquiries throughout the year. Multiple soft inquiries are fine.
Boosting your credit score can boost your chances of getting approved for a unit.
Budget for More Than Rent
Remember that landlords are often asking for a little more than the advertised rent price. You don’t want to be caught by surprise when you go to sign the lease and realize that you owe more than what you budgeted for. These are some additional costs that you should consider.
In addition to paying the first month’s rent, you will have to pay a security deposit. Typically, a security deposit will be worth a single month of rent (although it can be more). This deposit won’t be returned to you until your lease ends — and only if you haven’t damaged the unit. If you’ve damaged the unit, the security deposit could be used to cover the necessary repairs.
The apartment building may offer a long list of amenities to tenants. These amenities could be included in the rental price, or it could cost you a little extra.
Something as simple as a parking space may not be included with your rental unit. You should ask the landlord about the parking arrangement. You might find that it costs over $100 per month just to snag one designated spot for your car in the building’s garage. Or you might find that there are no parking spots available in the building’s garage, and you will have to figure out a different parking arrangement.
These are some other amenities that may not be included in the rent price:
- Access to the building’s gym.
- Access to the building’s pool.
- Access to the building’s laundry room.
- Utilities like electricity, gas and water.
Never assume that something is free. Always ask the landlord what it will cost before you decide to sign anything.
Prepare to be charged some extra fees right after signing the lease. Are you bringing pets with you? You can expect to fork over a pet fee or pet deposit. You might have to pay a broker fee (also called a brokerage fee), which is quite expensive. It tends to be 10-15% of the unit’s annual rent. And you might get charged an application fee, which tends to range between $25-$75 per person.
Inspect the Apartment
Whatever you do, do not agree to rent an apartment that you haven’t seen in person. The listing’s online description isn’t enough information to base your final decision off of. You should at least tour the unit once and give it a thorough inspection.
What should you do during the inspection?
- Flick the room lights on and off.
- Check how many outlets there are in every room.
- Turn on the taps and shower faucet to check the water pressure and temperature.
- Flush the toilet.
- Look under sinks for signs of leaks.
- Look in cabinets for signs of pests.
- Open and close windows.
- Open and close doors.
- Look for built-in storage like closets and cabinets.
- Test out major appliances that come with the apartment (stove, refrigerator, etc.)
Visiting in person doesn’t just give you a good look at the unit. It gives you a good look at the entire building, too! You’ll be able to notice things like whether the building is clean or filthy. You’ll notice whether fixtures are left in disrepair in main areas, like burnt-out lightbulbs or out-of-service elevators. You’ll notice whether the building has paper-thin walls where you can hear all of the other residents going about their business.
You shouldn’t just like the rental unit. You should also like the apartment building that the unit is in.
What If You Can’t Visit the Apartment in Person?
The next best option is to do a virtual tour. Virtual tours gained more popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic because social distancing made it difficult to show units off to tenants safely. As a solution, potential tenants were guided through apartments via videoconferencing apps.
The virtual tour should be live and should be hosted by the property manager or landlord so that they can answer all of your questions in real time. You can ask them to go through your inspection list throughout the tour. They can do things like turn on taps, open up windows and count outlets for you.
Whatever you do, do not accept a prerecorded virtual tour. You won’t get a thorough inspection this way. In the worst-case scenario, a virtual tour could encourage you to sign up for an apartment that you’ll regret living in.
These tips will help you get the right apartment. You’ll be thankful that you followed them once you’ve signed the lease and gotten your hands on the keys.