Whoa! Slow Your Roll Before You Sign that Lease
I know! I know! You found that super awesome pad you want to call home! Before you get too enthusiastic, breathe and try to look at the apartment objectively. As an aside, I want to wish you good luck with that, because most real estate decisions are emotional. You will most likely be thinking with your heart rather than your brain, and that makes you normal!
Let’s start with what we know: you found the place of your dreams. Got it. Your heart goes pitter patter at the thought of you living in this space with your stuff. Your heart beat quickens, your breathing gets shallow and, well, it’s love. It’s all you want to talk about or think about, but…it’s time for a reality check.
Let me take on the role of your no-nonsense bestie: you need to sit down and think this through before you sign the lease! It may indeed be the best place on the planet, but it is also entirely possible that you may be about to unleash a nightmare into your life. A clear, calm head and rational thinking are necessary in this moment. Trust me; I have made impetuous housing decisions that have haunted me for years. Please let me save you from yourself on this one. Here are my tips for getting your housing situation right, for you.
10 TIPS TO ENSURE YOU HAVE INDEED FOUND THE RIGHT PLACE FOR YOUR UNIQUE SITUATION:
- Don’t be pressured into signing the lease on the spot. Just because the perky leasing agent is pressuring you to sign the lease (or apply to be approved to sign the lease) and telling you that the apartment will go fast, don’t make a snap decision.
- When you do see the lease, read it before you sign it. Be sure you understand exactly what the terms of the lease are and whether or not you can comfortably honor those terms. If you are not completely okay with all of the terms of the lease, it’s best to walk away (or negotiate, before you sign the lease).
- Ask current residents how well they like living on the property. Ask them about noise, parking, ease of working with the property managers, etc. Anything you think would be important to know in advance.
- Visit the property in the evening and on the weekend. Do some research and just hang out. This will help you to see the type of residents that live there, the amount of traffic in and out of the complex and anything that could possibly be a red flag for you.
- Notice the proximity to railroad tracks, airports, freeways and busy surface streets. Be honest with yourself about how much extraneous noise you can tolerate. If having a busy railroad line next to the apartment building will be a deal breaker, better to find out during the discovery phase, rather than after you have moved in and you are stuck.
- Notice the distance to the nearest fire or police station. Will your new home be anywhere near the path of the emergency response vehicles’ every siren-enhanced run? Living close to a substation can get very old in the middle of the night (after night, after night). I know this from first-hand experience: hearing sirens on and off all night never really gets better.
- Is the commute to your work acceptable? Seriously, when you are starry-eyed, anything seems possible. But in reality, if the location of this unit will make your commute longer or more stressful, tread very carefully. You don’t want to end up resenting your new home just because of the location.
- Get any concessions from the landlord in writing before you agree to rent the unit. If the leasing agent tells you they are going to re-carpet and paint the interior and put in new kitchen countertops before you move in, get it in writing. If you sign the lease and move in and the work is not done you are simply out of luck. Buyer beware: sometimes a landlord will tell you whatever they think you want to hear just to get you to sign the lease. Don’t make the mistake of believing it without getting it in writing.
- Notice how well the property is maintained. If the building exteriors, sidewalks, parking lot, hallways, etc. appear to be in good condition, it is good sign that your unit will be well cared for if/when you need assistance with a running toilet or your stove stops working. Things break or stop working in rental units, like they do anywhere else, but if the maintenance team is efficient and responsive you know they will take care of your needs as soon as possible.
- Make sure you can afford the unit. Understand what is included in the rent. What, if any, utilities are included? Is parking included or is it extra? How about storage, if a storage unit comes with the unit is it included in the rent or is it ala carte?
The better you understand exactly what you are buying, the fewer surprises you will encounter when you move in. After doing some snooping around, you may decide that it would be best to pass on the unit and look for another unit that better suits your needs. Understand that there is no perfect situation out there: there will always be something that is less than ideal, but with some research, you will be able to find that amazing home that meets the majority of your needs.