Apartment hunting tips

Young adults, especially college students, have both inexperience in the real estate market and limited funds working against them when they set out to rent that first apartment. Whether graduation is approaching or you are considering moving off campus next year, here are a few tips that can make apartment hunting more productive and less stressful:

Know where to look: With classes, internships, work and recreational activities, the average student doesn’t always have a lot of time to attend open houses or tours for potential rentals. That’s why Web sites such as The Washington Post Apartment Showcase and the Multiple Listing Service Rental Section offer a lot of resources and a short-term rental section, which might prove useful to students interested in leasing by the semester.

Know about hidden costs: A common mistake made by most first-time renters is to not inquire about additional fees, especially additional up-front costs that a lot of apartments require. These can include security deposits and move-in fees. Before signing a lease, ask to see a list of all charges or have the person helping you write down a list for you.

Know what questions to ask: Remembering to ask the landlord or real estate agent a few basic and essential questions could easily save a renter months of less-than-desirable living conditions. Ask questions about: rent stabilization, abnormal noise levels (due to nearby hospitals, fire stations, traffic circles, etc.), laundry facilities, maintenance services, security and storage space. Also, if you are signing a 12-month lease even though you are unsure of your summer plans, make sure to ask about any policies on subletting.

Know what you are talking about: You might be new at this, but you don’t have to seem like it. Do research on the Internet about the apartments you are looking at. You can also look at apartment review sites such as www.apartmentratings.com and www.apartmentreviews.com to find out what residents have said about the places. You shouldn’t necessarily look at these sites as providing deal makers or breakers, but the reviews could point you to specific questions to ask. Also, look up students who live in the buildings now and ask them what they like and dislike about living there. Thank goodness for facebook.com – it’s an apartment-hunting tool, too.
-Sarah Owens

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