Searching for an Apartment
Follow these simple tips when apartment hunting:
- Set up a realistic budget so you know what you can afford. Put together a budget showing your monthly income (after taxes), your expenses and at least a small amount of savings. That will give you a realistic cap. Don’t forget to figure in expenses such as security deposits, moving costs and furniture.
- Shop around and compare rates. Become familiar with the neighborhood and the average rates. Read online reviews of landlords and apartments. Seek advice from family and friends who live in the area. Ensure the apartment building is located in a safe area.
- Ask the landlord for a written copy of all the fees you’re responsible for in addition to the rent. Sometimes, first-time renters forget about the security deposit, utility fees or other miscellaneous fees.
- If you’re considering a roommate, room with someone you know. Splitting the cost of rent can save money, but make sure you’re choosing someone who will be responsible enough to pay his or her share of the rent. Make sure any roommates also sign the lease.
- Ask questions. Is parking included? Are pets allowed? Is the apartment furnished?
- Keep a written record of everything. Your lease agreement should reflect everything your landlord promised or said was included. It’s OK to ask for an electronic copy of the lease to review before you sign – and to ask for changes if you aren’t happy with one of the terms.
- Store a copy of the lease in a safe place. If there’s ever a dispute, the lease is the document that decides who’s right. You want to have a copy that’s signed by you and your landlord.
- Never wire money or pay before you sign a lease. If the property manager or landlord asks you to wire money, that’s a red flag for a scam.
When you’re apartment shopping, make sure a housing scam doesn’t steal your deposit money. Unfortunately, scam apartment ads can read a lot like real ones. Scammers who use free online sales sites sometimes steal a legitimate landlord’s ads or photos to trick people into sending a security deposit or sharing personal information such as Social Security or bank account numbers.
You can steer clear of scams if you:
- Ask friends, coworkers or family members to recommend landlords, companies or apartment buildings they’ve had positive experiences with.
- Meet with the landlord or property manager and inspect the property in person. If a landlord tells you he or she is traveling overseas and can’t show you an apartment, it’s likely a scam.
- Never agree to wire money or buy gift cards to pay a landlord. These are payment methods that scammers favor because they’re hard for law enforcement to trace.
- Are suspicious if the rent is a lot lower than similar-size properties in the area. Scammers often use low rents to lure victims.
- Arrange to inspect the apartment before you pay a deposit.
- Research the landlord before you rent. Read online reviews about the company. Check court dockets to see if a landlord fights with tenants often. Check the landlord’s reputation with the Better Business Bureau.
- Do your research before agreeing to a lease. Check out the company’s website, visit the leasing office and read reviews.
- Although you may be anxious to sign the lease, carefully read the contract. Confirm there are no hidden fees or additional agreements you’re not aware of.