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9 Apartment Hunting Mistakes To Avoid

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Apartment hunting is a three-step process: just find a place, sign the lease, and move in. If only it were that simple! Plenty of mistakes can be made along the way, and that once-hopeful feeling of starting a new chapter in your life can become overwhelming and downright nerve-wracking.

Here are some common myths about apartment hunting to take into consideration when you’re looking for your new abode. 

Mistake 1. Leases are all (basically) the same

Apartment hunting can be stressful, so once you’ve found the right place, you’re eager to move in and quick to sign on the dotted lines. While not carefully reading your apartment lease can save you time, it can lead to trouble down the road. 

A lease is a legal contract and you are bound by what it says – so don’t sign an apartment lease until you’ve read above, below, and between the lines. Research anything you don’t understand and make sure you have a basic understanding of your local lease laws. And make sure the owner or property management company provides you with a copy of the signed lease agreement for your records. 

Mistake 2. Only one roommate needs to see the apartment.

Apartment searching can be time-consuming — it may take days or even weeks to find the right place. While it seems tempting to split up the appointments, the demanding rental market may not lend time for a second person to visit the apartment after your initial appointment. Viewing apartments separately may not be the wisest idea, and making a major decision without a major party being present is not smart either.  

So don’t sign up for an apartment you haven’t seen. If you’re in a fast-moving rental market, you and your roommates should look at the apartment simultaneously. It’s the only way to be sure everyone is happy with the final decision and make no mistakes.

Mistake 3. The commute shouldn’t be a deciding factor

You’ve found the apartment you love at a cost you can afford, but there’s one problem: it’s far from work. While you’re saving money on rent by living in an affordable neighborhood, it’s costing you more to get to your job. Longer commutes not only add stress and car time to your day, but they also mean spending more money on gas, oil changes, and vehicle maintenance. Don’t forget to factor in your commute. 

Mistake 4. Follow your heart, not your budget.

Sometimes it’s love at first sight when you see an apartment. This makes convincing yourself that you can afford it become all the more difficult when you know you can’t.

Know your budget before you start apartment hunting. Have a number in mind and stick to it. Financial experts recommend that you never spend more than 30% of your net income on housing. It’s important to give yourself a little wiggle room for those emergencies and unexpected expenses. And once you’ve found your new apartment, don’t forget to factor in a moving budget.

Mistake 5. Pre-existing damage isn’t your problem.

Moving into a new place is exciting, but you can’t afford to overlook all its imperfections. If you forget to document the condition of the apartment at move-in, you could be held financially responsible for them later on. Those mistakes can come back to haunt you when you move out.

Before you sign a lease, tour the apartment with the landlord and document any damage to the unit. Include photos with a time and date stamp. Don’t get charged for damage you didn’t create! 

Mistake 6. Cell phones work everywhere. 

You may have found the perfect apartment only to realize that your new location gets poor cell phone reception. It’s a trivial-seeming quality in an apartment that’s easy to forget about – but poor cell phone reception in your living space can turn out to be an enormous problem.

If cell phone service is vital to you, double-check your phone carrier’s signal strength before making that final move-in decision. You don’t want to walk around the block every time you need to make a call. That would be one of the most inconvenient and annoying mistakes to make.

Mistake 7. No one really needs renters insurance. 

Your landlord may have insurance on the property, but that doesn’t mean you’re covered. You need to have your own renters insurance if you want your possessions to be protected financially. Keep yourself safe and purchase a policy right after signing a contract. Renters insurance is surprisingly affordable and can save you money down the road. 

Mistake 8. Sometimes you have to go sight-unseen.

Online shopping may seem like a quick way to find what you need before you rent, but some renters go solely off what they see online without checking the property in person. Photos can be deceptive, so don’t run the risk of disappointment after signing the lease – no matter how quickly the rental market moves in your city.

Visiting your potential new living space in person protects you from falling prey to a scam artist while ensuring you really like the place you’ll be living. So many mistakes can be avoided by touring the home. Fight the urge to move quickly and inspect the apartment firsthand! 

Mistake 9. You’ll always find parking if you look hard enough.

You’re driving home from work and can’t wait to relax in your new apartment, except there’s one problem – there’s no place to park. 

When looking for apartments, don’t assume parking is always available. If your apartment doesn’t have a dedicated parking spot for tenants, make sure there’s ample street parking around you. And don’t forget to pay close attention to the street signs. Check permit issues, overnight restrictions, tow-away times, and more. You and your future guests will thank you if you’re aware of these things in advance.

Tired of the apartment hunt? See what Common coliving is all about.

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