I learned a lot from this ordeal, so I am going to share with you a few tips on how to make an informed decision about renting an apartment.
1. Do not make rush decisions
The property managers in leasing offices are sales people of some sort. They don’t sell you a product, but they sell you a lease.
They know how to play on your emotions and how to get you to make a quick decision. Here are some of the tactics they use:
- They are very friendly at first when you enter the leasing office. Don’t fall for their friendliness. It is their job to do what they have to do to win a client.
- They become very unfriendly when you leave the leasing office without signing a lease term:
- This happened to me twice over two years with “The Gates of Redmond” and “Trails of Redmond“. The property manager never returned my phone calls after I tried to call them again later to ask more questions. Never say “never”, but I guess I will never do business with those properties any more or refer people to them.
- They try to lure you by waiving fees for certain services. Make sure you ask the right questions: “How much is the usual cost of such and such services if they were not offered for free for one year”. Let me give you some examples:
- “We give you free storage for the first year” – Don’t fall for that. Next year they bump the price so high that it becomes inconvenient to forgo the storage unit
- “We give you free parking for the first year” – Again, next year the parking fee becomes 150$ or more and there’s nothing you can do about it.
- “We waive the application fee and also give you free rent for the 2 weeks” – Next year, the rent is increase by more than 8% and you practically are forced to renew if you don’t want to relocate again.
- They tell you something like: “If you sign the lease today, then we will give you such and such discount. This offer is valid for 24 hours, after that you will pay much much more.”
In short they will try to play on your emotions. Do not make a rushed decision. Take all the information, flyers and what not, then go home and compare with other apartments then make a decision.
2. Be a scientist
Be a scientist and write down all the facts. If needed be, use an Excel spreadsheet (or Google Online spreadsheet editor) and write down the prices and all other details, so you can better compare at the end of the day.
Here are the important factors I took into consideration:
- The base rent amount
- Parking fee
- Storage unit fee (optional)
- Square footage price
- Distance to work (in miles)
- Time to arrive to work. Bear in mind that “Time to arrive to work” is not proportional to “Distance to work”. Take into consideration how much time it takes during the rush hours especially if you cannot tolerate the stress of driving in traffic.
I created a spreadsheet for that purpose. Use spreadsheet formulas to automatically calculate the sums and what not. This is an example screenshot from the spreadsheet, you can make something similar to it:
After you write down various apartments prices, make a summary table. This will help you make a side-by-side comparison and make a better decision:
3. Location, Location, Location
Where you decide to rent is very important for many reasons:
- How close are you to work?
- If you want to drive during rush hours (8AM-9:30AM and 5PM-6PM), how much does it take you to go to work then get back home?
- Do you need to drive to do things or you live at walking distance from grocery stores, supermarkets or malls?
- How far are you from major cities?
- Are you in the middle of nowhere?
- Use WalkScore.com if needed be.
And by the way, if you decide to move out and rent in a new place, make sure you factor-in the price of moving into the equation!
- Fitness center: I love to have a gym in the same building where I live. Most apartments offer that amenity.
- Do they have the machines you like to use?
- Do they have enough of those machines or you have to wait in line before you exercise?
- Package reception: Can they receive packages and store them securely for you?
- Common areas or lounges. These are very convenient places to hang out, relax and get to meet your neighbors or host private parties
- Common BBQ facilities
- Free internet in the common areas and the gym. This is really handy if you like to watch a documentary or a movie of your choice while relaxing in the lounge or while exercising.
I did spend a lot of time researching and comparing, but this research paid of. I hope you find this article useful. Please leave your comments or any suggestions or questions you have .
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