View Full Version : Anyone have advice on apartment hunting?

04-22-2009, 09:46 PM
I know I'm pretty new on here, and most of you don't know me at all, but any suggestions you're willing to give would be helpful. :)

I'm going to be apartment hunting for the first time within the next few weeks; I've been living in college dorms but am now looking at small studio apartments. My father is acting as guarantor and will be viewing these places with me. However, he's really the 'absentminded professor' type so I don't think he'll be much help.

What sort of questions should I be asking while being shown a place?

I already assume I need to ask the basics of:

- The monthly rent
- What, if any, utilities are already included
- AC or lack thereof
- Move-in date

What else needs to be addressed? Help!

04-22-2009, 10:33 PM
Check their policies on: pets, parking, smoking, guests. Any noise ordinances? Security deposit? Who is responsible for pest control? A good many complexes and landlords have websites where you can find a lot of this information. Really, that would be my first piece of advice - get on the web and just start digging. The local town paper is also a good place to start. Some people like Craigslist, but it's far too sketchy for me. You may also want to look at apartments.com and places like that.

04-22-2009, 10:42 PM
Also, don't take the first place you look at. I've made this mistake before. Look at several apartments and complexes before choosing one, you'll be happier in the long run.

04-22-2009, 10:56 PM
Um, where is 'your happy place'?

Different things to ask about in different parts of the country=)

What exactly is contained in the rent- trash service, water, heat/hot water, air conditioning, electricity, basic cable, internet access?

What size flat are you interested in? How much furniture will you need to convince people to help you move=) Carpeting is a must, it helps keep random noise under control ... what floor is it on, being on an upper floor is better, no elephants doing the tango above you when you are trying to sleep=) Which side of the building is it on, if you are in the south, having a lot of sun in an apartment with no AC means living in an oven ...

04-23-2009, 02:20 AM
I'm on the east coast in a major city. Lot of apartments, but very little that's cheap.

I don't smoke or drive; parking's not an issue, though proximity to public transit is. I'm restricting myself to around a half hour commute time.

Pet/guest policies are a good idea to look at.

Carpeting is actually a dealbreaker for me, because I'm allergic to dust and mold; carpets tend to trap things. So a higher floor would actually be an even better idea to minimize noise!

04-23-2009, 04:47 AM
I'm actually apaptment hunting right now so if you need someone to bounce ideas off of let me know.

I don't know if there is one where you are but we have a place called the tenants union and they are great for finding out if landlords have a lot of complaints against them and what not.

Most of the places i've found so far came from two places. The internet is very helpful. Also by doing a bit off driving around or taking different routes, i've discovered rental companies i hadn't heard of who i could then look up online.

Also see if you can find somewhere online where you can talk to people where you live to get ideas from. The one i use is a live journal community and it's been a lot of help.

04-23-2009, 05:00 AM
Ask if the bathroom fans are vented to go outside or if they just circulate air. Double pane windows and check for mold. Look at the plumbing under sinks to make sure there aren't leaks or duct tape. Look at kitchen cabinet hinges to see how they are holding up and whether they have been fixed a lot. I would avoid base board heaters unless the place is really well insulated and sealed. Ask about rules regarding ac units if they don't already have something installed.

04-23-2009, 06:40 AM
I am going to throw some ideas at you, just from my basic home-hunting methods I've developed over the years. Keep in mind, I've had almost as many residences as I've had birthdays, so I've done this quite a few times.

First, be organized. Bring a notebook and a pen. Yes, I'm serious. But before you go, write down in the notebook the questions you are going to want to ask and/or look for the answers for. Some suggestions (in no particular order):

How long are the leases that they offer? What are your options? (three month, six month, year long, month to month, etc.) If you want to leave at a future date, how much notice do they need? Do they automatically renew your lease if you don't give them notice you'll be leaving? How much do they normally increase rent from lease to lease or year to year?

How much to move in? How much of the deposit is refundable when you leave?

Are utilities included? If so, what? If not, how much do utilities average (water and electric....obviously phone or cable or internet would vary tenant to tenant).

Where are the dumpsters? How often are they emptied?

Do they have a pool? What is their policy on having guests to the pool?

What amenities do they have? (Rec center, exercise room, pool, bike racks, business center, vending machines, etc.)

What is their policy on alterations to the apartment (paint, hanging things, etc.)?

What are the dimensions of the various rooms? Most apartments you'll see are going to be empty, and gauging the size vs. your furniture may be difficult to gauge from just seeing it, especially after seeing many apartments. I would suggest bring a tape measure so you can measure rooms and closets, and write down that info, as many places really DON'T know the dimensions of each unit's rooms.

If you are in a place that snows, how is snow removal in the area? Does the area flood from rain? How does the complex fare in such situations?

Check out how many electrical outlets there are, and where. Are there enough? Are they in convenient locations for what you will need?

Check out the appliances. What shape are they in? I have been burned with bad and old fridges, ovens, stoves, etc. (Keep in mind, old does not necessarily equal bad.)

Who are the neighbors? Don't ask "how" they are, because of course they are great! Ask what they do, who they are. For example, if you like quiet, chances are living next to a professor and an engineer and his family is going to be more conducive to your lifestyle than living next to four college students and a couple who are a bartender and a guitarist. Naturally, not everyone fits stereotypes, but its good to get a gauge on what people are going to be like in your neighborhood.

LISTEN. LOOK. Don't just rely on what they landlord tells you, but look around the apartment, poke around, open doors and cabinets. Pay attention to noises from other apartments, if there are any. Check out the neighborhood when you are being led to the apartment. Observe.

Ask about nearby restaurants (if that's a priority to you). What's there, how are they, etc. Hell, familiarize yourself with the area in general, if you're not already familiar with it.

How do the locks look? No area is immune from crime. Deadbolts rock.

If there is no washer/dryer in the apartment, does the complex have a laundry room? If not, is there a laundromat nearby?

Check out the kitchen. Do you cook, simply prepare sandwiches, or do you just open to go food? I love to cook, so I like to have at least some prep space.

I don't smoke or drive; parking's not an issue, though proximity to public transit is. I'm restricting myself to around a half hour commute time.

Pet/guest policies are a good idea to look at.

You might want to ask about their parking anyway--"I don't drive, but if I do get a car, what is the parking policy?" Also, if you have friends that drive and visit you, and the complex has a spot assigned to your apartment...why not?

Also, ask about proximity to public transit, and WHAT transit it is (bus, train), and where the stops are in relation to the apartment, etc., etc.

Look, some of these questions may be appropriate for you, some may not. My point is simple....write down the things that are important to YOU for an apartment, before you ever go look at any. That way, when you see them, you will not only have a clearer idea if they are right for you, but when you write stuff down about each one, you'll be able to compare and contrast among them.

Der Cute
04-23-2009, 07:39 AM
Figure out what are the main streets/ arteries in the city.
Find bus routes / map for city.
Start driving (yes bum a ride from someone) around a multi-bus bus stop looking for apartments.

Some of my criteria were: (when I didn't drive)
How many bus routes are within a 10 minute walk?
How far is it from here to grocery store?
Is the building wired for cable tv and phone and internet?
How far is it from here to a mall with banks and other errand-y stuff?

Now, as I do drive:
Garbage disposal?
Double paned windows?
Air conditioning or none?
Mold issues?
Roach or mice or rat issues ever?
Corporate or mom & pop owned building? (pros and cons for either)
Parking spaces for me and visitors?
Pet rules?
Insect & pest control?
Is the heat electric, HotWater Baseboard or gas or what?
Ground floor or what?
Utilities? - Heat, Water, Electric, what?
Circuits - how many - make sure a kitchen circuit is separate from rest of apt. (Older buildings may not do that)
How old are the appliances?

Lock and deadbolt on the door?
Is the door and jamb sturdy?

Can you hear neighbors?

Find an apartment building you kinda like, and then go out from there. Find the nearest gas station or convenience store and ask them how the neighborhood is. Really, they'll know.

Get a price range for an area too - some neighborhoods will cost more than others, but you can find hidden gems !

Good luck, and also go with your gut.


Eric the Grey
04-23-2009, 11:35 AM
A couple other things to consider.

Move-in deals. Here in Colorado, at least a few years ago, many, or perhaps most apartment complexes were offering spectacular deals to get people in the door. Some offered first and last month free, or $100-$200 discounts per month on rent, but these can bite you in the rear when it comes time to renew. These figures are taken off the actual stated rental price (in the lease), and when you renew, they go away, leaving you suddenly with much higher rent. Normally, rents can only be increased a little bit at renewal time.

Once you do pick out an apartment, do a walk-through with a representative of the complex and a friend if possible. Make notes of ANYTHING that is amiss in the place. Holes in the wall, even small picture-nail type holes. Anything dirty, or damaged needs to be noted down, and signed by both you and the rep. This protects you from having to pay for these damages when you move out. Take pictures if possible. I almost got burned on this one once before.

Anything agreed to (changes made to the apt, replacement appliances, etc) should be in writing and signed off on by the building rep/manager when or before you sign a lease.

It may be a good idea to come back and wander the grounds, including near the apartment you're looking at in the evening. This is the time when most people are at home, and if there is going to be noise, it's more likely to be at this time.

An apartment finder place (http://www.apartmentfinder.com/Default.aspx) can be of help, if you feel overwhelmed. Most of these work for you for free, and get a fee from the place you rent. I have used a service like this once, and had a good experience. I have no idea if this site is related or not. Take it with a grain of salt.

If you have pets, expect to pay a pet deposit, to cover damages the furball may cause. Some places are now charging additional rent for each pet. :rolleyes: Anything to make a few extra bucks.

:cool: Eric the Grey

05-01-2009, 06:24 PM
In my 18 years of renting, I found a unit from an ad only once--That's right 1 and only 1 time. Pound the pavement--the best apartment deals are not advertized...OK a 'For Rent' sign at most.

At best, advertisements and referral services point you to the areas. The rest is up to you. One other pavement pounding hint--scope out the area at 2:00 AM--if you see a woman alone at that hour it's safe to assume that the neighborhood is OK.

05-01-2009, 09:59 PM
One other pavement pounding hint--scope out the area at 2:00 AM--if you see a woman alone at that hour it's safe to assume that the neighborhood is OK.

Unfortunately, given the neighborhood my school is in and how close I need to be to commute, I can almost guarantee that the area I'm in will be very unsafe. There's a lot of gang violence around here. However, that is a very good tip, so thank you.

05-01-2009, 10:14 PM
A lot of good questions to ask have been posted, so here's my $.02.


Now there will be sour grapes and even some possible fake entries but overall, they have gotten my various complexes down well.

05-01-2009, 11:43 PM
I haven't read all the comments so I'll probably repeat stuff others have said, but I did this a year and a half ago, so...in no particular order...

Utilities included, and can they give you an idea of an average monthly expenditure of the things you are responsible for (obviously things like the electric bill will depend on things like whether you leave the lights on all the time and whatnot, but if you also pay for the gas or water bill they may be able to give you some rough numbers). Trash, recycling, snow removal?

Rent. When is it due? Is there a grace period? Does it have to be paid a certain way? (For instance, my complex prefers that you send a check or money order to their PO box address, rather than bring it to the office. However, they will take cash at the office but only during weekday business hours.) If pets are allowed, is there an extra fee? (Even if you don't have one now, who knows about the future.)

Heat. What kind of heat is it? Most likely you will be paying for electricity, so if the heat is electric your bill will go way up in the winter. One of the places we looked at we really liked, but the rent was at the upper end of our budget and the heat and cooking were electric, which would have made it too expensive. My most recent Ex had electric heat, too, and it was a killer. How much can you control the thermostat? Where I'm at, when the temperature drops below a certain point they automatically turn on the heat to a certain base temperature (the lease says the place has to be kept at at least 40 to ensure the pipes don't freeze); it's baseboard heating that runs the length of the place, but there's only one knob to control it, and it's basically 0-8. My roommate pretty much sleeps with her window open year-round.

Air conditioning? If there is no air conditioner, can you put one in? My complex has one through-the-wall unit in the living room of all the apartments, and there is a sleeve in the bedroom wall if you want to put one in there (only the master bedroom in a 2BR apartment). We are not allowed to put them in the windows and they have to be within a certain wattage range as well.

Cooking? Gas or electric? Does it matter to you? (I'm not real comfortable with gas stoves, having grown up with electric, but I didn't have much choice.)

Bathroom ventilation? My current place just has a window in the shower...being wet and naked with the window open when it's 20 degrees outside is not so fun. Is there a fan? How much noise does it make (this is probably more something to check out when you are actually looking at a place). My last apartment had a fan in the bathroom that was pretty noisy, and I couldn't turn it off becuase it was wired to the light switch. Since I lived alone sometimes I'd just leave the door open and keep the light off so I wouldn't have to hear it. If there's no window the building codes most likely require a fan.

Parking and guests. Are you assigned a spot? If not, have there been issues with parking (too many cars for the spaces available; are there enough spots for all the apartments? Is there street parking available?)? Are guests allowed to park anywhere in the lot or are there restricted areas?

Is there laundry on the premises? If not, where is the nearest place? My complex has no laundry room but there are two laundromats within walking distance. If there is a laundry room, how much do the machines cost? I noticed that a couple of the places we looked at had a debit card-type system with cards that could be reloaded at the office, which would be pretty handy. (Personally, I go to The Parental Units' Laundry and Dinner Emporium. ;))

Do you have to provide carpeting? If you're not on the ground floor and the place isn't carpeted, you may be required to cover a certain percentage of the floor. My apartment has hardwood floors, and because we are upstairs we have to cover at least 75% of the floor, within a certain time frame (I think it was by 2 or 3 weeks after moving in). (Not that they've checked or anything. I don't know what percentage we've covered, but we have an area rug that covers most of the living room, one under the "dining room" table, and my bedroom floor is completely covered except for the entrance, which is an extension of the hallway).

Maintenance. What is the procedure if something needs to be fixed? Most likely you would call the office and they would let the maintenance staff know; and they'll probably have an answering service for nights and weekend emergencies, but my complex also has a sign outside the office listing which apartments the maintenance people live in (in case there's something truly urgent), and each person is assigned to a specific group of buildings (in general; they'll do whatever needs doing, though). (My downstairs neighbor also happens to be the son of the head of maintenance...don't know if that helps us or not ;).) How quickly are issues addressed?

Tenant demographics? Are there a lot of college-age tenants? (Might be lots of parties - which could be good or bad, depending on your point of view.) Older people? (You might have to be extra quiet.) Kids? (Screaming, crying, bikes in the parking lot...) This may affect noise levels and whatnot. Do a lot of people have pets (if they are allowed)?

Safety? Does the place seem safe? Is it well-lit, clean, etc? Are there any shady-looking characters hanging around? Try to swing by the place after dark one night. See how it feels. You want to make sure you'll feel safe when you get home late (this idea courtesy of my roomate's friend). What kind of locks are there? Do you share any common areas/doors? My place has one outside door for every two apartments (up- and downstairs), which locks automatically, and then the door to the apartment itself has a doorknob lock, a deadbolt and a chain.

Is there public transportation close by? Grocery stores? Good pizza?

I'm sure there's more, but when you find a place you think you like, try taking a walk around by yourself and see if you can flag down a tenant or two, and ask them how they like the place. My roommate and I didn't think to do that but I had a guy stop me in the parking lot last week. He just asked if I liked living here, how long I'd been here, if it was a safe environment, if maintenance was on top of things, etc. You'll probably get a more honest answer from someone who doesn't work for the place.

I take it you are planning to live by yourself? If you find you need to look for a roommate I would recommend checking out roommates.com. That's how I found my roomie. You can look just for someone that already has a room, or you can opt to also be matched with others who are also looking for a room. That's how I met my roommate and then we looked for a place together. So far, so good. :D If you do end up looking for one, PM me and I'll see if I can dig up my old thread all about what to ask a potential roommate. Lots of good stuff in there.

05-02-2009, 08:31 PM
Thanks again everyone.

I am going to look some places tomorrow, and hopefully I will have some luck.

05-02-2009, 11:28 PM
Anyone have advice on apartment hunting?



Be vewy vewy quiet. :wave: :angel:

Huhuhuhuhuhuh! :angel: :p :angel:

05-03-2009, 12:55 PM

I'm having absolutely no luck even getting to *see* a place.

I've called... at least 30 apartments by now. Several were taken already by the time I called (none had been on the market for more than two weeks!) and about half won't take a guarantor so I was ineligible. The ones that were even options required that the guarantor be there, in person, with their credit score info etc. before they'll even let you look at the place in person. My father lives 200 miles away and while he's willing to come up here to look at a place, he needs at least a day or two notice. I've said this before, politely, and tried to reschedule for the next day. Four or five hours later the place calls me back and says that someone else with all their paperwork has decided to take it in the meantime.

I'm not quite sure what to do now, because I literally only have nine days left to find a place to live.