Renting an apartment typically involves a one-year lease. Once you sign it, you are on the hook for the full year of payments, even if things go wrong with the place. For that reason, it is important to be an informed renter, so you make a good decision about which apartment to get.
First, you want to determine how much you can afford to spend on rent each month. When figuring that out, remember to leave yourself a financial buffer to cover unexpected personal expenses. That way, you won’t be caught short.
Second, check out the neighborhood and make sure it is safe. You need to be somewhere that the crime rate is very low, and security is very high.You also want to be in an area that is physically safe: no environmental toxins or safety hazards like potholes in the road. Good lighting is also essential.
Presumably, you’ll want to get involved in your new neighborhood. Is there a pool nearby? A gym to work out at? A nice park with running trails? All of these things can add to your quality of life if they exist near the apartment you rent.
Especially in Manhattan neighborhoods, you’ll want to check to make sure that a reserved parking place goes with the apartment you rent. Otherwise, you could get home some evenings and have nowhere to park your car. Make sure to confirm that your parking place is reserved and is clearly marked.
If you don’t have a car or simply prefer to go by bus or train, it is best to see how close public transportation stations are. If the nearest one is a half hour walk away, that could be inconvenient on a daily basis.
Before signing a lease for the new apartment, it is advisable to ask the landlord about maintenance. Typically, there will be some things that the landlord is responsible for and some things the tenant is responsible for. If you clarify which is which before moving in, there won’t be any confusion later. On a related note, it is worth the time to ask other residents in the building about maintenance issues. They can tell you about any chronic problems, and how quickly the landlord takes care of them.
Before renting, see what the building has to offer. There might be storage units for each tenant, where you could keep a bike and sporting equipment. There might also be onsite laundry, which can be tremendously convenient.
Especially if you have daughters or sons, checking out local schools is a good thing to do. For many parents, local schools not being good enough is a deal breaker when looking for an apartment.
It is important to know how often rent is increased, and what the typical percentage is. This is particularly true if you want to live in the apartment long term. Knowing in advance what the annual rent increase tends to be can give you a lot of stability.
Perhaps most critical is the question only you can answer when you walk through a new apartment: Does it feel like home? Can you envision waking up there every morning?
If the answer is “yes”, you’re off to a good start.