Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Part One: So You're Moving - Tips & Tricks For Searching For An Apartment

Hello, hello, how are you today? I'm doing....decently well, I suppose. Recently, my landlord gave us (my sister and I) notice to quit the premises. We have until the end of June to be moved out. We didn't do anything wrong, which kind of makes it worse. See, his sister is moving back to the state and decided she didn't want to rent or buy somewhere else. Since she won't kick her niece out, we're the ones who have to go.** It sucks. But, it made me think of this series. I wanted to talk a little about how to find an apartment to rent. Let's jump into it!

The first and most important thing to do is find out where you want to live. Are you moving out of the town you're in now? Out of the county? State? Country? For us it was important to stay in a town that sends their kids to the high school my niece and nephew go to. My nephew will be a Senior next year and my niece will be a freshman. We don't want them to have to change schools. Because the school is a "private/public" school we have more options. It's a private school that accepts public funding from certain surrounding towns. Many of the towns in the area don't have their own high school, so they pay the tuition for their high school aged kids to go to this private school. Once you've decided where to live, you start looking.

Searching Online
There are several places to look online. My favorites are Craigslist, Facebook, and Zillow. You have to be careful though, and I have certain things I require in a post before I'll even reach out to the poster. My best tips are:

  • The listing MUST have pictures of the inside and outside. Even if it's just a few pictures, there must be some. I personally feel that if they can't even take pictures of the apartment/house then they might be scamming you. What other reason would there be?
  • Set price parameters. You can't do this easily with Facebook, but you can with Craigslist and Zillow. You want to make sure you can afford a place before you even call them. If it's slightly over your budget, you might be able to talk them down. But if it's more than $50 over your budget I wouldn't bother.
  • Make sure it has enough space. Right now, we have four people that all need their own bedroom. What we've done is looked for apartments with 4 bedrooms, or 3 bedrooms with an extra room that can be made into a bedroom. We're torn between two places (one is a much more convenient location) and both are listed as "3 bedrooms" but have a separate room on the main floor. You shouldn't count on that, though, and I tend to prefer listing that explicitly say they have four bedrooms.
  • Find out how much they want for a security deposit. In the state of Connecticut landlords can require first months rent and up to two months security deposit. Know your local laws. I've had people try to require first, last and two months security. Also, if one of the people on the lease is over the age of 65, the landlord can only charge one months security deposit. This should be written in the listing. You can ask, but it's better if they had the foresight to list it.
  • When looking online, it's best to see if they have a phone number listed. Some people won't list their phone number, so you'll have to email them. But I've found that some people will use that as a scam. If they're unwilling to give their phone number, it's pretty sketchy.
  • Never give anyone money until you've physically walked through the building. Again with avoiding scams, always be sure to have done a walk-through before giving anyone any money. Also, never send cash through the mail. If you need to mail your payment, use a check, cashier's check, or money order.
Searching In Person
Another way we like to look for apartments is by driving around. This isn't as great of an option as looking online because it uses up a lot of gas and time. However, there are a lot of people who won't advertise their properties online. The way we found our current place is by driving around, it was actually the last apartment we saw for rent on the way home from a trip around the area. For this one, just get the phone number from the "for rent" sign and call the person. You can pull over and call from in front of the house, or you can take the number and call later. We've done both, neither is better than the other. Set up a date and time to look at the apartment and ask for the monthly rent and how many bedrooms it is. All the other information can be obtained on the walk-through. 

Searching In The Paper
If you can believe it, people still buy newspapers. People are also still posting classified ads in them. I haven't done this in a while, and we didn't do it this time, but this is an option. Usually people who post classified ads will say the address, or at least the town, the number of bedrooms, and the rent. Sometimes they'll add things like "heat/hot water included" or mention if there's a dishwasher or laundry hookups. If not, you should find that out on your walk-through. This is the most straight forward way, and probably the second oldest after searching in person.

Asking Friends/Family
This is also a good way to find rentals. In fact, one of the apartments we're looking at was recommended by Amanda's friend. This is a really good way to get a jump on an apartment that may not have been listed yet. Just don't feel pressured to take an apartment that doesn't suit your needs simply because your friend recommended it. If it won't work, politely let them know.

Additional Tips
A few more tips I would like to pass along are about the actual apartments. When you're searching for a place to live, it can be hard to remember certain things to look for or ask. You should always make sure to find out if heat and/or hot water will be included in the rent. If not, ask if it's electric or oil. If it's oil, remember to factor that into your budgeting. Oil can get pretty pricey, especially if it also heats your water and/or stove. Another important thing to ask is their policy on animals. I have a cat, so I always have to make sure that they accept pets. Some places will accept a cat or a small dog, but will refuse a large dog. Some will also require an additional deposit for the pet.

Also, while on your tour of the apartment take out your cell phone. Preferably in each room, and check the signal. Where we live right now, the signal isn't the best, and both of the places we're looking at aren't great either. If having a strong cell signal is important to you, make sure to check it inside and outside the house. 

Be sure to open cupboards, the fridge and stove, any and all closets, and turn on the taps. You don't want to find out on move-in day that your water is rusty or that your closets are gross. If you find anything on your tour don't be afraid to point it out. If it needs to be fixed, the landlord may not have known about it. And if it's minor, you still want it noted in your lease so it doesn't affect you getting your deposit back when/if you move out. Checking the water is also good to see the pressure. You'll want to test the shower as well, not just the taps. Ask about painting. If the walls look grungy, ask if they have plans to repaint before you move in. If you think you want to paint, ask up front before you even sign the lease.

Find out if they plan to increase rents over time. Also, find out how long their leases tend to be. Most places will do a one year lease, and after that year you'll be a month-to-month. That means after the first year, you will have to give 30-days notice before moving. It also means if they want/need you to vacate, they have to give you 30-days notice as well. Usually if they tell you at the end of one month, they'll give you until the end of the next month. Ours told us at the end of May and provided until the end of June.

Before you leave the tour, you can usually ask for a basic copy of their typical lease. You'll want to read this very carefully and bring up any objections prior to signing or giving any money. If there were any issues with the home that you saw on the tour, make sure you get the agreement to repair them in writing. 

Another thing to remember is that you technically have until the 10th of each month to pay your rent. It's preferable to have it paid on or by the first, but not required by law. If your landlord tries to evict you before the 10th, you can fight it. Also, if you have paid a partial amount of your rent, they cannot evict you if the remainder isn't paid by the 10th. They will have to wait until the 11th of the following month, provided they do not accept another partial payment. ALWAYS GET A RECEIPT. This is crucial.

I think that's all the tips I have! I hope it's informative, and I wish you the best of luck in your search! Some of these tips will also work if you're looking to buy a house, but many strictly apply to renting. I've never bought a house or been involved in that process, so I don't have any expertise there. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them here.

The rest of this series can be found here.

**This was clearly written in June, we have moved already. We also found out the landlord was being a shady POS and his sister isn't involved at all. That's kind of part of the reason for the delay of this post. But keep an eye out for the rest of the series!

1 comment:

  1. Nice adviсe about online seaкching and avoiding scam. If you already have found the place where you will live it would be easier for you to estimate your relocating by using an online moving calculator.