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Moving into your first apartment is an exciting time! Once you’ve found your dream spot, it’s time for all the paperwork to begin. However, you should take a few steps before signing the lease. Here are seven things to keep in mind as you prepare to move.
1. Do a Walkthrough of the Property for Any Damages
Before you sign anything, walk through your apartment and inspect it for any signs of damage. Make sure to record detailed notes of any issues, such as broken cabinet knobs or scratched walls. Examine the inside and outside of the apartment.
If there is a balcony outside, inspect the structure for any dents. Check for other concerns, like problems with the lighting, electrical wiring or water pressure. Then take photos of these areas and notify your landlord. This ensures you won’t be charged fees when you move out.
2. Understand What’s Included in Your Rent
Some places include utilities for rent and others don’t. So, inquire about what is part of your rent before signing the lease. This will allow you to budget accordingly and stay on top of your monthly expenses. Standard utilities include electric, water, gas, trash, internet and cable. Research prices in your area or see if your landlord can provide cost estimates. In 2019, the average electricity bill was $115 per month.
Suppose you have a roommate. Figure out how you will split costs ahead of time. Account for other hidden charges, such as parking, maintenance or laundry. Also, understand what repairs you’re responsible for.
3. Know If You Can Make Any Customizations
One of the fun parts of renting a home is decorating. It allows you to add personality to your space and makes you feel at home. Maybe you want to repaint the walls or add new shower doors. However, some places may have rules about customizations.
For example, some spaces may not allow you to add wallpaper or limit the number of decorations on walls. So, check with your landlord before making any changes. You can also see if anything is mentioned specifically in the lease agreement.
4. Make Sure You’re Comfortable with the Rent
A high-end building in a good location can make you forget about the price. However, you want something you can afford, so you’re not stressed over finances. Before signing the lease, review your credit score and bank account. Then look at places within your budget. Also, consider having a roommate to split costs with.
Just interview them first, so you ensure they’ll be a good fit. Suppose it’s your first apartment after college; you may need a cosigner. If you don’t pay rent, this person is responsible for it but isn’t living with you. Consider asking a parent or a trusted friend.
5. Read Your Lease Carefully
Take time to read through each section and jot down notes. The document should cover what happens if you break your lease and how to pay rent. Without reading it through, you could unintentionally violate your contract.
As you’re going through, write out any questions you have for your landlord. For example, are there any fees you don’t understand? Also, this is an excellent chance to see if rent is negotiable. You can even try to negotiate other factors like the duration of the lease or the pet policy.
6. Get Renter Insurance
Renters’ insurance prevents you from paying costly fees if your belongings are damaged. It can cover expenses for unexpected events, such as theft or fires. Some plans even cover costs for personal liberty. Keep in mind the property insurance only covers the structure of the building. Plus, some landlords require proof of renters insurance before you move in.
Browse insurance company websites, such as USAA, or speak with a licensed agent. Make sure you get multiple quotes to compare pricing. Also, determine what you want to be covered. Many policies insure personal possessions, liability and additional living expenses. However, if you live in a coastal area, invest in flood insurance.
7. Figure Out the Best Time to Move
Suppose you’re changing jobs or going through a significant life event. Then this may not be the best time to move. Also, relocating around the holidays can be tricky. So, choose a date where there’s not alot of personal stuff going on.
Winter or fall move-ins offer a few perks if you can be more flexible. For example, there are move-in deal specials and discounts for rental trucks. The cooler weather also protects your belongings from sun damage. You’ll even have more room to negotiate since the landlord has vacancies in the winter.
What to Know Before Signing the Lease
The lease agreement is an important document when you move into an apartment. It creates a legal contract between you and the landlord. Before signing the lease, get your finances in order and know what is expected of you.