General Question

hug_of_war's avatar

What are some good questions to ask about an apartment?

Asked by hug_of_war (10071 points ) May 6th, 2014 from iPhone

I’ll be moving into my first apartment for grad school in August. It’s a couple hours away and I’ll only have time to visit once before deciding (since I don’t drive).

So what are important things to ask about? I figured asking for average utilities would be one.

Both places are on the public and college bus line so that’s not a concern.

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15 Answers

johnpowell's avatar

I wish I had asked about noise in my current place. It is on campus and insanely loud on the weekends.

I also wish I had known that at my building six apartments share the same water heater. I can only get a warm shower at 4AM and 4PM.

seekingwolf's avatar

Maybe I can help out. (I moved into my first place in 2012, have since changed apartments too).

1.) Utilities. Are any utilities included? If so, which ones? Usually, water, trash, and sometimes heat are included. If you are lucky like me, you have an apartment which pays the electric too.

Ask about the oven/stove. Is it gas or electric? If it’s gas, ask if you have to pay for cooking gas. If it’s electric, it will either come out of your electric bill or, if your landlord pays the electric for you, then you don’t have to worry.

2.) How much are utilities every month? What is the average electric bill?

3.) What are the tenants like? Do you get a lot of students/families/working single professionals? I like to ask this because it gives you an idea of how much noise to expect. Families = loud (I try to avoid family-oriented apartments for this reason), Students may or may not be loud, depends if they attract partiers, and working single professionals are usually quiet because they are gone all day.

4.) Pets? If you are considering an animal, ask this before hand. Are pets allowed? Which ones? Is there an added security deposit or an added monthly fee because of a pet?

5.) Are appliances included? (ask about fridge and stove/oven). Most apartments will not include other appliances. Be prepared to bring your own microwave.

6.) Square footage? (If you haven’t seen it yet)

7.) Security features? Buzzer system? Locks?

8.) If you are looking to get yourself cable/internet or TV, ask if the apartment is cable ready.

9.) Laundry facilities? Is there laundry onsite? Where? What does it cost?

10.) Do you offer additional storage space (perhaps in the basement) for tenants?

11.) How do you pay rent? Is it via mailed check? Or do you offer an online payment system? Automatic withdrawal.

12.) Do you have income requirements/limits in order to live in this apartment?

13.) What is the parking situation? On street or off? Is there are a fee for off street parking?

seekingwolf's avatar

Noise is a great question to ask, but you need to learn to read cues. If a landlord wants to fill a place, he’s going to make it sound good. He’s not going to say “Oh, yeah, it can get a little loud around here at night, just telling you”. So don’t expect the landlord to be forth-coming.

Avoid apartments that seem to cater to families or have a lot of rugrats running around outside. Because I promise, you will hear them later and you won’t be happy.

Avoid places that house many many students and have a lot of students “hanging around” and socializing. Because you’ll have to hear them later too.

FlyingWolf's avatar

The best apartment/house hunting advice I ever got was to talk to people who live there. Ask if they are happy there, about the responsiveness of management to issues, the noise, the neighborhood, etc.

CWOTUS's avatar

Along with the excellent list of questions suggested by @seekingwolf, if you’re looking at an apartment in a “mixed use” neighborhood, then it will be up to you to check out what the other nearby uses are:
Bars and nightclubs? (Noisy closing times and occasional bar fights that spill out into the alley; early morning disposal of large quantities of bottles; tipping dumpsters into trucks – for recycling, of course, but it’s still noisy.)

Restaurants? (Depending on the management, and health code enforcement, watch out for decaying garbage in the alleyway in back of the restaurant, and potential vermin. Smells may be pleasing to you now, but some food odors will be more or less permanent; will you like that?)

Light manufacturing? (HOW light is light?)

Transportation hubs / rail lines and terminals? (You already mentioned that you’re on the bus line, and that’s good for you, but what else is in the vicinity?)

Crime in the area? (The landlord / manager may not even know specifics. It might be worthwhile to check at the local cop shop.)

seekingwolf's avatar

If you want to check out crime in an area and you’re in a city, Google if your friend. There are sites that can provide recent crime information right down to the street and even rough number on the street where it was reported. This can give you an idea of RECENT crimes.
I was also curious to see if anyone can been recently assaulted/shot so I even did searches with my street name and city and “shooting”, “assault”, “stabbing”, etc. Didn’t find any for my current apartment but my old apartment? Ugh…

I wish I had known that before I moved into my first apartment. I accidently moved into a crime-ridden area. Landlord did not live at the house so he wasn’t that aware.

Also, I like to look up sex offenders before I move somewhere. Find out if any live in a prospective building. Finding sex offenders (particularly child molesters and rapists) in a complex has been enough to make me NOT apply there. I really, really don’t want to be around that sort of smut.

dappled_leaves's avatar

Rely a bit more on your own senses than on what the landlord will tell you. Listen for noise. Can you hear anyone moving around in the adjacent apartments? From the noises you hear, you should be able to tell how good the walls will be at muffling speech or television or others walking around. Is that going to drive you nuts? See how much light there is during the day. Run the taps and see what the water pressure is like, and how long it takes for the hot water to get hot. Flush the toilet. Are there enough electrical outlets in rooms where you’ll need them? Is there a fan in the bathroom, or at least a window that opens? Do you have enough storage space? Look in the backs of the kitchen cabinets for any signs of insects. Does the building look run down or unkempt? Does it have a functional fire escape? Do the neighbours seem friendly?

Direct costs… what exactly is included with the rent?

As to questions… if the place is currently rented, ask if any blinds/curtains come with the place. Ask if the fridge/stove are included – and see if they are clean and work properly. How often is garbage picked up if you have to take it outside? What do you do with recycling? Does the place need painting? Will the landlord have that done or pay for you to do it? Is snow removal an issue where you live? Who is responsible for that?

johnpowell's avatar

To go along with this. “11.) How do you pay rent? Is it via mailed check? Or do you offer an online payment system? Automatic withdrawal.”

My management company uses these http://www.appfolio.com/ assholes for online payment. 35 bucks to pay online a month.

Edit :: I should add that isn’t a one time fee. It is per month. Dicks. <—Them, not you

Judi's avatar

If there is a lease, ask what the buyout would be if there was an emergency.
As a property manager, one of my favorite questions on the secret shops is “What kind of people live here?” It tells you more about the manager than the actual neighbors. Listen for discrimination clues. The PC and legal right answer is, “we rent to everyone who qualifies.” That’s probably a good time to show you their fair housing poster and explain their qualifying criteria.
Which is another good question to ask. “What is your qualifying criteria?”
It would be awful to find the perfect place, give them a credit check fee and then find out that you didn’t make enough money to qualify, or you didn’t have a high enough credit score. Especially since you are making your decision in one day!
Do as much pre shopping on sites like apartments.com before you go as you can. Some markets are so tight that you need a realtor to find availabilities.

Judi's avatar

Oh crap @johnpowell! I didn’t know that Apfolio charged residents for online rent payments! I almost went with them!

johnpowell's avatar

@Judi :: I paid online once since I was out of town and that was my only option. But the 35 bucks really stung. They have managed to be bigger dicks than BofA.

seekingwolf's avatar

@johnpowell

Ick, that’s awful! Not a surprise here that most of the places don’t offer online payment. My last apartment, it was a private house owned by a landlady. I had my bank account set up so I could send out the rent check from my bank account online a few days prior and the bank would cut her a check and plop it in the mail.

At my current place, it’s automatic ETF from a credit or debit card.

Judi's avatar

I wish that my management company would get their act together and do the auto draft!

wildpotato's avatar

In addition to the above:

“Which extermination company do you use, and how often do you have them in to spray? If I have pets, am I allowed to opt out of this service and use my own methods for pest control?” Also look under the sinks for roach traps and such – I personally do not find their presence to be a dealbreaker, but if they are not at least cleaned or empty I take that as a warning sign.

Also, knock on a few neighbor doors to ask about noise. Don’t just ask if there’s noise – be specific with your questions. Are there barking dogs? Where, and usually what times of day/night? Which neighbor plays loud music sometimes, and when? Is that fire escape out the rear courtyard there under construction? How long have they been working at it? Etc.

One more thing: If it’s an older building I like to stand over the toilet and twist my legs back and forth to check its mounting. The person showing the place will give you an odd look and say Oh, that’ll be tightened up – but it always seems fishy to me. Why is the toilet loose and untightened now? Warped bathroom floors, often enough. Which can be an indication of a leaky tub or other stuff. Crappy plumbing and construction are a pain to deal with.

weeveeship's avatar

1. Amount of rent per month
2. Terms of rent contract – what you are expected to do, what the landlord is expected to do
3. Duration of rent contract and whether there is a penalty for either side backing out early

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