9 Essential Questions Everyone Needs to Ask at an Apartment Viewing
Touring new apartments can be an exciting time. You may walk into an ideal apartment that feels like home and has all the amenities you're searching for. In all the excitement, it's easy to jump into a rental agreement right after an apartment viewing, and before considering the community, financial details, guest policies and much more.
To help you in your quest, we're sharing the top nine questions to ask when touring an apartment. Remember, property managers should be happy to answer your questions. After all, it benefits them to ensure a good match as much as it benefits you.
Questions to ask during an apartment viewing
Go to your next apartment tour with these questions in hand to ensure you're happy once you move in and don't face any unexpected surprises. Knowing the right questions to ask on an apartment tour is key to making an informed decision.
How much is the rent, and how do I pay it?
While you may have already looked up the rent on their online apartment listing, it's a good idea to get a verbal confirmation. They may have forgotten to update their listing, or things may have changed since the posting.
Today, most apartment communities offer online payments. Some also give you the option of mailing in a check or paying the person in the management office. Make sure you know what they expect so that you can plan accordingly.
While you're on the topic, check to see if there's any grace period. While you may never need to use it, knowing you have an extra three to five days before incurring a late fee can put you at ease.
How much is the security deposit?
Most properties require a security deposit. This money ensures they have a recourse should the property be damaged or a resident is unable to pay the rent. Security deposits typically come out to about one month's rent.
In addition to the security deposit, some apartments also require first and last month's rent. Knowing the total due upon move-in lets you budget accordingly. If you find it's too costly, some property managers or owners will work with you, letting you pay over time. Remember, if you don't ask, you'll never know.
Are utilities included, and if not, how much do they average out to?
Ask if the rent includes gas, electricity, water and trash while you're at the apartment viewing. Many apartment buildings cover water and trash. Some include all the utilities. If you'll be paying some or all of them, ask how much, on average, they run so you can factor that into your budget.
You may find that a $1,700 apartment with the utilities included is less expensive than a $1,500 unit that requires you to pay all the utilities.
What are your pet policies?
If you have a furry or reptilian friend, the answer to this question can save you a significant amount of time. Every apartment community has different pet rules. While many allow cats or dogs, some have breed restrictions or limit the size of your pet. For instance, some apartments only accept dogs up to 30 pounds.
If they do allow pets, be sure to ask if there is an added pet fee. These may come as a pet deposit, a one-time fee or a monthly add-on.
What are the guest and roommate policies?
If you enjoy having friends over, whether for a quiet dinner, holiday party or swim in the pool, it's important to find out the apartment's guest policy. Some properties limit the number of guests you can have over and whether they can use the amenities, such as the pool and hot tub.
Others have parking restrictions and do not allow guests to sleep over. Many have "quiet hours" when they expect noise to be kept to a minimum.
And, while you may not plan to have a roommate now, it's a good idea to see if it's even a possibility. Then, should life throw a curve ball, you'll know if getting a roommate to help you cover the costs is an option. Sometimes, getting a roommate means an increase in rent or signing an updated lease agreement.
What amenities are included?
One of the best things about living in an apartment is the amenities they offer. This may include pools, saunas, gyms, a community clubhouse, on-site laundry facilities and a dog park. Some offer extra storage spaces, secured garages and barbeque areas.
Find out if there are any additional fees to use the amenities and their hours of operation during the apartment viewing. Typically, apartment communities include amenities in the rent with no added costs. Many property managers also allow residents to reserve specific areas, such as the clubhouse, for special occasions. Find out if this is an option and if there is a fee.
Are there limitations on painting and decorating?
Some apartment communities let you paint your walls as long as you agree to return them to the original color before leaving. Others have very strict decorating policies.
In addition to painting, ask about hanging artwork, window treatments and patio furniture. Fortunately, there are alternatives, such as peel-and-stick removable wallpaper and Command strips.
What are the lease terms?
To ensure there are no surprises, ask about the terms of the lease during the apartment viewing and not after. Clarify the move-in date and the length of the lease. While many terms are 12 months, this may be negotiable.
Some property managers offer flexible month-to-month leases. The downside of a month-to-month lease is that your rent is not locked in for a year, and they have the option of terminating it, giving you a 30-day notice to move.
How are repairs handled?
Everything may be in perfect working order when you move in (which you should confirm), then Saturday night arrives, and your sink backs up. It's good to know if someone is available for maintenance during off-hours or only during certain times of the day and week.
Do they have maintenance personnel on-site, or is it contracted out? Ask how they handle urgent repairs or emergencies, how you request services and if there's a typical response time.
Making your move with confidence
There are seemingly endless questions to ask during an apartment viewing. Start with the ones that are the most important to you, the ones that can make or break a potential apartment. In the end, you can save yourself a significant amount of time and a possible headache down the road.