5 Thing To Consider When Renting an Apartment

Whether this will be your first post-college apartment or you are moving places, there’s a lot to think about when renting an apartment. What will be the ideal location to start looking for an apartment? What size apartment will suit your lifestyle and budget? Are there particular amenities you’re interested in?

It might be overwhelming, but renting an apartment shouldn’t be so daunting. Before signing on that dotted line, here are five important things to look for when renting an apartment. 

Location 

It’s tempting to rush into securing the first apartment that you find within your target rent range. But you need to take the time and consider whether it’s in an ideal location for your everyday lifestyle.  

Location tops the list of the things to consider when looking for an apartment because it impacts everything else, from your finances to commutes and peace of mind. 

When comparing apartments in terms of location, you’ll want to think about transportation. Conventional wisdom suggests living within a 20-30-minute drive away from work if you commute to work. Shaving 10-15 minutes from this means some extra time for personal use. You’ll also be saving some dollars on gas.                

Renting an apartment within a biking or walking distance saves you more money while offering you an easy way to stay active. Assuming you work from home, you still want to stay in a location that lets you easily access local amenities, such as grocery stores, entertainment hotspots, fitness centers, and shopping centers. 

Another important factor of a good location is the vibe and security level of the neighborhood. A particular neighborhood might appear quiet during the day but quite different when darkness takes over. It pays to tour the neighborhood both day and night and during weekends for a clearer picture of what it feels like to stay there. 

Rent- How Much Rent Can You Afford?

The location, amenities, demand and local market prices all figure heavily when landlords determine apartment rental rates. 

As the renter, your income is not the only determinant of how much rent you can afford when renting an apartment. You also want to factor in other monthly expenses that eat away your paycheck, including insurance premiums, loans, groceries, commuting/transportation and food. 

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to how much of your income should go to your rent. However, most financial experts suggest not spending more than 30% of your monthly gross income on rent. That’s to say, an individual making a monthly gross income of $5000 shouldn’t pay more than $1500 on rent. 

Another more accurate method of determining rent affordability is using net income. Under this rule, you should spend no more than 50% of your net income on all monthly living expenses, including rent and utilities. 

What about the three-times-the-rent rule? Landlords in cities with a high cost of living, for instance, Chicago and New York, impose this rule as proof of your financial capability to continue paying the rent.

If your gross income isn’t three times the rent, you may want to go with smaller landlords (not companies) as they are likely to be more flexible. Looking for a roommate or a guarantor and offering a higher security deposit are other ways of getting a rental without meeting the three-times-the-rent income requirement. 

Consider Purchasing Renter’s Insurance Policy

There are chances that your apartment will be covered by landlord insurance. But keep in mind that this policy specifically protects only the landlord from physical damage to the property, liability claims and loss of rental income. In other words, landlord insurance does not cover tenants and their liabilities. Instead, tenants need to purchase a renter’s insurance policy that they pay for. 

Renter’s insurance policy or HO4 is not required by law. However, some property owners require you to purchase it to rent their apartments. Even if your landlord doesn’t force you to buy it, there are several solid reasons why having a renter’s insurance is a smart financial decision. 

First, it’s one of the cheapest insurance policies you can buy at around $15 per month. Second, despite its low monthly cost, a renter’s insurance policy covers the cost of repairing or replacing your personal belongings, such as electronics, furniture and clothing. A renter’s insurance policy also includes liability coverage. The latter pays for legal costs if other people suffer injuries or property damage, or loss while at your place. 

Enquire About Security and Safety Features and Systems 

Safety is crucial before committing to live in an apartment. There’s a lot to consider when apartment hunting to ensure your “home” is as safe as possible. 

Start by researching local crime to understand what you’re getting yourself into. For US citizens, sites like CrimeGrade and Spotcrime are reliable places to assess a particular area’s crime rate objectively. It also pays to enquire from neighbors and police about which crimes pose the greatest risk in that neighborhood. 

Going beyond the neighborhood crime rate, you also want to inspect the building and its premises to ascertain its safety level. Is there an access control system to control who enters the property or specific units? Surveillance cameras in common areas, such as parking lots, package rooms, outdoor amenities and bike storage, will also help you feel more at ease. 

Available Amenities 

Amenities are additional features or services provided to apartment renters to make their renting experience more fulfilling. Before renting an apartment, ask about the amenities to ensure that you get your rent money’s worth. 

It’s important to have two separate checklists of amenities when hunting for an apartment:

In-unit amenities- as the name suggests, these are amenities that improve your resident experience inside the unit. These include appliances, such as refrigerators, ovens, microwaves, dishwashers and clothes washers, pet-friendly features and heating and cooling systems. 

Community amenities- these amenities are shared by all renters occupying a particular apartment complex. They are located in communal spaces for easy accessibility by residents and, sometimes, their guests. Some of the most important community amenities to consider when renting an apartment include a secured parking lot, bike storage area, swimming pool, dog park, laundry facilities and fitness centers. 

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