Top Tips for Apartment HuntersPosted: September 28, 2012
Editors note: A big thank you to Jordann! I’m extremely greatful for the chance to take a break from blogging! Plus, this post relates really closely to my current life as even though I’m not actively looking, I will be soon enough!
Apartment hunting is a pain in the ass. Checking the classifieds daily, weeding out the undesirables, and when I finally find a place that’s in my target neighbourhood at my target price – the place turns out to be a dump. As fun as it is searching for an apartment, the inevitable let down upon viewing ruins everything.
Apartment hunting doesn’t have to be that bad. I’ve learned over the past few years that the main reason I was having a hard time apartment hunting is because I wasn’t going about it in the right way. I was making key mistakes that not only made the whole project more difficult, it made it take longer to execute.
Here are my top tips for apartment hunting:
Check the Season
If you’re a young person living in a university town, looking for a one or two bedroom place, a lot of one year leases are going to end in May or September. This protects the landlords, who don’t want to get caught with an empty apartment for the summer. While the leases may end in May or September, they will be advertised as available long before that. In one particular city that I lived in, May leases started to be advertised in January. To make the best of your options, start looking early.
Make a Short Wish List
Another mistake I was making was that my wish list was way too long and specific. I needed good lighting, an open kitchen, laundry that wasn’t too far away, good sized bedrooms, my own thermostat, etc, etc. How could I possibly expect an apartment to hold up to that? These days, with two pets, my wish list is pretty simple: Good location, access to green space, pet friendly, good landlord, quiet neighbours This is a pretty basic list, because these are things I can’t live without. Everything else is pretty much doable, at least for a short period of time.
Figure Out the Landlord
Probably the single most important thing that will define your renting experience is your landlord. I’ve had bad ones (entering the apartment without notice, without even knocking) and awesome ones (actively helped me hide the fact that I had a cat from the building owners for two years) and I’ve gotta say, I’m a lot more willing to put up with the weird quirks a place has, if the landlord is good. The easiest way to get the truth about a landlord (because he/she will seem awesome while showing the place, the true personality not emerging until the lease is signed) is to interview the tenants.
Interview the Current Tenants
I’m not saying you need to sit down and have an hour long conversation with them, but if they happen to be in the apartment, ask for their email or phone number so that you can start up a dialogue without the land lord present. If they say no, oh well. But if they say yes, they’ll be able to give you the little known facts that may make or break your renting experience. Plus, since they’re leaving, they’ll probably be candid. Are the neighbours super scary or loud in the middle of the night? Does the garbage truck come at six in the morning on Sundays? Is the land lord really evil incarnate? The current tenants will know.
Know Your Rights
Every province has a Tenants Act or some equivalent, detailing the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants. Read yours. Knowledge is power after all, and by knowing the ins and outs of your rights as a tenant will help you make sure that you get what you want with minimal fuss. Think the place needs some repairs or a fresh coat of paint before you move in? Your Tenant’s Act will probably stipulate that things like that need to be included in writing, on the lease, before it’s signed.
Following tips like these has allowed me to vastly improve my renting experience over the past few years, to the point where I have no interest in buying a house for awhile. Renting can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience, if you go about it properly.
Everyone has their renting horror stories. I want to hear yours!
Jordann is a part time runner, yogi, local foodie and personal finance aficionado, and a full time marketing professional living and working in Atlantic Canada. She writes about her life at her blog, My Alternate Life.