10 Things You Might Be Forgetting in Your Search for a Great Apartment

Gina Goff

10 Things You Might Be Forgetting in Your Search for a Great Apartment

Sure, natural light and high ceilings belong on your list of apartment must-haves. But don’t forget these less glamorous items, too

Gina Goff

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Neighborhood Safety
Neighborhood Safety

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Neighborhood Safety

The area you’re considering might’ve looked safe and vibrant on Saturday afternoon when you went to the open house, but keep in mind that many neighborhoods change dramatically depending on the time of day or day of the week. Before you sign a lease, check sites like crimereports.com and areavibes.com to get details on the crime rates (and crime types) in the area in which you’re interested. It’s also a good idea to do a drive-through during off hours to see what the scenery is like after dark, especially if you’re prone to working late hours or like to wake up before sunrise to go for a jog.

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Plumbing and Appliances
Plumbing and Appliances

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Plumbing and Appliances

Ask if you can turn on the shower when you’re touring the space to evaluate the water pressure and how long it takes to heat up. Likewise, turn on the stovetop burners and open the refrigerator and dishwasher doors to check for weird smells and any other damage you may want fixed before moving in.

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Cell Phone Reception
Cell Phone Reception

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Cell Phone Reception

You probably cut the cord on your landline ages ago, right? Unless you want to go back in time and start paying a long-distance bill again, you’d best check the cell phone signal inside your would-be new place. Many older buildings have plaster or cement walls that block a cellular signal indoors. Signal boosters may help a bit, but they’re notoriously unreliable and expensive. So do yourself a favor and look to see how many bars you have when you’re touring the rental and, ideally, bring along a friend with a different wireless provider and ask them to do the same.

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Commute Times and Public Transit Access
Commute Times and Public Transit Access

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Commute Times and Public Transit Access

It may have taken you no time to get from one end of the city to the other when you toured the apartment on a weekend, but be sure to check average commute times during the work week, too. You don’t even need to do a dry run—just pull up Google Maps at the time you’d typically be leaving for work and punch in the new apartment’s address to see what traffic looks like. We recommend doing this daily for a week, as outliers like accidents or road closures could affect the ETAs. If you take public transit to work, research where the closest bus or train stop is and how frequent service is. If you’re a bike commuter, keep an eye out for bike lanes and cycling-friendly routes.

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Lease Fine Print
Lease Fine Print

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Lease Fine Print

Is there a chance your partner or an aging parent might want or need to move in with you in the future? If so, make sure your lease allows for more than single occupancy. And if there’s a possibility you may get sent abroad for work for an extended period of time, you’ll want to consider whether your landlord allows subletters. It’s also a good idea to ask if there’s a policy around Airbnb or other short-term rentals. Depending on your outlook, a friendly policy could be good or bad.

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Rent Control
Rent Control

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Rent Control

Many cities offer some form of rent control or rent stabilization to prevent large increases year after year. If this protection is important to you, make sure the building you’re considering qualifies. In San Francisco, for example, only multi-unit residences constructed before June 19, 1979 are covered by the ordinance.

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Neighbors
Neighbors

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Neighbors

Ask to meet the neighbors, especially if you’re going to be sharing a wall. If so, you might think twice about moving in next to a family with a newborn baby or a group of college students who like to stay up late. Potential neighbors are also great resources for the inside scoop on things like how prompt the property management company is with repairs, how high utility bills run in the winter or summer, and local recommendations on mechanics, coffee shops, and more.

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Pests
Pests

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Pests

You obviously don’t want to see a mouse scurry across the floor or ants swarm the kitchen counter during your tour, but be sure to look a little deeper, too. Check all the lower cabinets for evidence of a pest problem, like droppings or traps. You should also check for signs of a bed bug infestation—in an empty room, the most common hiding spots are outlets, switchplates, and the area where carpet meets the baseboard. Bring a flashlight, or use the one on your smartphone, and look in all the cracks and crevices. If you see brown or maroon spots, that’s a bad sign.

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Parking
Parking

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Parking

If assigned parking for your car is included in the rent (or available for an extra fee), ask to see the spot. Make sure it’s big enough for your car and that it won’t take an advanced degree in geometry to get in and out of it. If the building or complex has a shared lot, inquire about policies like how long you can leave your car in a given spot and whether guests are allowed to park overnight. And if you’re dealing with street parking, make sure you check signs to see how often—and how early—street sweeping happens. In densely populated areas, you may even want to do a drive-by after work hours to see how difficult it is to find a space nearby.

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Landlord and/or Property Management Reputation
Landlord and/or Property Management Reputation

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Landlord and/or Property Management Reputation

You wouldn’t go on a date nowadays without first Googling the person, so why would you move into an apartment without checking the landlord’s Internet rap sheet? Do your research to make sure you’re not dealing with a slumlord or a subpar property-management company. Large complexes often have reviews on sites like Yelp, and there are niche sites for rating landlords, too: check out whoseyourlandlord.com and reviewmylandlord.com.

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