Getting your first “couples” apartment is a huge step toward independence and young adult living. Gone are the days of roommate-shared bathrooms, food stolen from your fridge and arguments about who cleans what. Now you can have those same debates with your significant other! Getting an apartment together represents a lot of “firsts,” so tread cautiously as you search for the perfect starter nest.
Set a budget for rent. There’s no sense in finding the apartment of your dreams only to figure out it’s totally out of your price range. Crunch the numbers first, visit apartments second.
Make a list of amenities that are important to you. For example, your wish list might include an exercise room, clubhouse, laundry room, pet privileges, walking trails or pool.
Visit different neighborhoods you both like and that provide convenient access to both of your jobs. Make sure you like the surrounding neighborhood retail outlets, too.
Look through apartment guides, ask friends and family for location recommendations, and consider hiring a broker if you having a hard time finding a place you like.
Narrow your search to a handful of specific neighborhoods that meet your criteria. Contact the apartment manager at the locations that appeal to you to check vacancy and arrange tours.
Take notes at every location and make sure an apartment has enough space to meet your living requirements. Consider your need for storage, parking, guest space or a home office.
Pay attention to ambient noise. For example, check whether the apartment backs up to a busy street or highway, a playground or a retail center, which can have continuous activity.
Inquire about security features, on-site maintenance and the average profile of local residents. If you’re looking for a neighborhood comprised of young professionals, you probably won’t be happy in a location that caters to senior citizens or families with young children.
Ask about rental terms, including your options for the length of the lease. You might be able to negotiate a six-, 12- or 24-month lease with different lease-end renewable options. It’s customary to expect to pay a security deposit, cleaning deposit and first and last month’s rent. You may also pay a pet deposit, if applicable, and deposits for mailbox keys or appliance rental, if it’s offered.
Ask about the policy for terminating a lease early. Some rental agreements assess hefty fines if you decide to move out and buy a house or relocate.
Inquire about move-in specials. If it’s a slow rental market, some apartment managers will offer free rent or other perks to attract renters.
Read through every word of the rental contract and don’t sign until you’re comfortable with all terms. If there’s something you don’t understand or have questions about, hire a lawyer to do a brief contract review and explain the terms in layman’s language.
Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.