Top 10 Apartment Shopping Mistakes to Avoid

by Ben on April 26, 2011

Apartment shopping can be so exhilarating, can’t it?

The thrill of breaking free from home as a first-time renter or looking for that long-awaited upgrade in square foot for your growing family—whether you are in Omaha or New York City—who can resist?

Unfortunately, that excitement can turn cold if you’re not careful. Worse, your dream apartment could become a year-long nightmare.

So what can you do to avoid losing that happy streak of apartment hunting fun and move into a place that you love for years to come? Start by avoiding these top 10 common apartment shopping blunders.

1. Thinking You Can Have It All.

Most rookie apartment shoppers want—and believe—they can find an apartment that has everything. Think tradeoffs when looking for apartments. It will make your life—and those around you—easier.

2. Confusing Wants for Needs.

A pool is not a need. It’s a want. Three bedrooms…now that’s a need. Once you can distinguish between the two, you’ll make easier and smarter trade-offs.

3. Paying Too Much.

Granted, you might be able to find a place that has everything you want. The marble counters, high ceilings and pool. The only problem? It will take most—if not all—of your income. Here’s a rule of thumb: Don’t spend more than 30% of your income. And remember, unless you’re planning on renting a furnished apartment, you’ll likely have additional expenses once you move in as well.

4. Visiting the Complex Only Once.

True, the complex is safe during daylight hours. But what happens at night? During the weekends? Visit the complex multiple times at different times of the day and week.

5. Overlooking the Bad Location.

Okay. So it’s a sweet apartment in a sweet complex. Gated and guarded. Well lit. But it’s next to two liquor stores, a pawn shop and a row of abandoned brownstones. No wonder it’s a well-lit, guarded and gated community.

6. Ignoring the Distance to Your Job.

Another location trap you need to avoid when apartment shopping is finding a good apartment that’s a long, long way from where you work. Why? The obvious: average gas prices are hovering around 4 dollars a gallon.

7. Failing to Read Entire Leasing Contract.

I don’t care if you don’t like to read. If you want to protect yourself and the bliss you hope to enjoy for years to come in your new apartment, you need to sit down and read every line of your contract before you sign it. And by no means allow anyone to rush you. Demand time to read it.

8. Foregoing the Walk-Through.

Your walk through is your opportunity to make sure your landlord is giving you what he promised. If it’s not done when you move in—forget about it ever happening.

9. Confusion about the Security Deposit.

Your security deposit is NOT your first month’s rent. It’s to cover damages—assuming there are any—when you move out of the apartment. Ask your landlord to explain the security deposit policy.

10. Mistaken Assumptions about Parking.

Are you assigned parking? Is it legal to park on the street? Knowing this can help you avoid being towed or getting into a heated debates with your new neighbors. Definitely not the best way to start off your wonderful new apartment life.

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