Looking for a new apartment can be a fun and exciting time, but it can also be a somewhat stressful time. It’s a large commitment, but don’t feel like you’re signing your life away when you scribble on the dotted line. Especially if you’re going to be signing on for a year lease somewhere and committing to live and pay rent there, you’ll want to make sure you’ve chosen a place you truly want to be for that period of time. When you’re looking for apartments, especially if it’s your first time, don’t get caught up in hunting for a place that combines your price range with your list of ‘wants’—be sure to remove the star-struck glasses and consider every aspect of your potential new home. Forewarned is forearmed, and if you know what to look for, you can easily navigate in another direction if you recognize the warnings. Here are seven signs that an apartment might not be the right place for you:
1. You Can Hear Talking, Music or the TV from Adjacent Apartments
Especially if you’re sensitive to noise, your apartment should be well-insulated from the surrounding units. Some apartment buildings have really great soundproof walls, while others seem like they are paper-thin. Remember sound goes both ways: while you can hear your neighbor’s love for action movies, they can also hear your affinity for rap music. If you’re already hearing your neighbors through the walls on the tour, that may be a red flag.
2. The Building Has a High Vacancy Rate
While online reviews may be helpful, it’s hard to ask a landlord for a list of happy customers. Instead, you can get a sense of how well people like living there by checking out the vacancy rate. Just ask the landlord or manager how many units in the building are currently vacant while you’re on your tour of the grounds. If 10% or more of the units are unoccupied, this could be a sign that the building is not being properly managed or maintained. However, if a complex is new, it may simply be a sign that not many people have chosen to live there yet.
3. There Are No Parking Spots, and You Have Two Cars
When you’re making a monthly payment to live somewhere, having a parking spot should be a given. Some large cities, however, don’t include parking. Having to park down the street or pay for parking can be a concern if the rental does not include a parking space. You’ll have to decide if you want to make this sacrifice or if paying extra for parking spaces is more ideal.
4. The Lease Has Multiple Pages and Lots of Fine Print
As with any legal document, be sure to thoroughly read your lease—especially the fine print. Make sure the lease is reasonable and easy to understand. If it has page after page of terms and caveats, it’s likely the landlord is gunning for your security deposit from the get-go and you won’t see a dime of it when you move out. If you have questions and concerns, feel free to ask your landlord about the lease or even have a trusted friend or family member review it with you. Don’t sign until you’re confident you know what you’re getting yourself into! If you’re uneasy about the terms, keep hunting!
5. The Lease Has Excessive Demands
Sometimes, the lease is easy to understand, but may come with a handbook of terms and rules to follow. If the lease contains unrealistic expectations–like not allowing you to have overnight guests or hang pictures without permission–these are signs of an inflexible situation you’ll probably want to avoid. Remember, you are paying to live in this space—but can you feel at home?
6. Neighborhood and Accessibility Issues
While you may have found a place that fits your budget, does it fit your lifestyle? Be sure the apartment is near enough to all of the “essentials” to be convenient — grocery store, gas station, shopping, et cetera. You’ll want a reasonable commute to your workplace and other places you frequent so you aren’t spending your budget on gas or transportation. Also, make sure the neighborhood is safe and desirable. Check crime rates for the area and make sure you’ll be safe and comfortable living there, or drive through the complex during the evening to get an idea of what it will be like to live there. Find out who your neighbors would be prior to moving in to head off any problems you might have before it’s too late!
7. You Need Your Space
Some apartments will naturally be tiny, and there may not be much you can do about it. However, make sure you don’t have to practice yoga on the regular just to be able to use your kitchen. While you’re touring the potential apartment, it may be smart to carry measurements of your furniture with you. Will your couch fit in the living room while still providing you enough space to walk? Similarly, if you are burdened by a tiny closet and too many clothes, you may have to part with a few favorites or find a new place to store them. Consider other storage needs you may have: do you need a safe place to store your bicycle?
Space doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker: if you’re in love with the apartment but not necessarily the square footage and aren’t able to find anything else, get creative! A tiny closet may be remedied by investing in a small dresser, or even hanging shoe racks. Learning new space-saving folding techniques can give you twice the space in your hall closet and you may be surprised at how well you can decorate your space to feel homey without cluttered. If you have possessions that aren’t used regularly, consider renting a storage unit nearby. If these solutions seem unlikely, you may need to consider looking for a new apartment.
By now, you get the idea: creating a list of essentials you need in a living space prior to apartment hunting may help you put your real needs (not wants) in perspective. If the apartment you’re touring doesn’t have the critical features you need for your comfort, safety and enjoyment, it’s best to pass it by and keep looking—no matter how budget-friendly it was! Remember that you’ll be dealing with these people—the landlord and the neighbors—for as long as you live there, so don’t compromise! Especially for such a commitment, go with your gut–you’ll know the right place when you find it. In addition to your ideal features, your ideal apartment will just have that great “vibe” you’ve been looking for — keep searching until you find it!