Moving can be an expensive process. Being aware of hidden costs and knowing what landlords may be willing to work with you on can help ease this burden. Just because two apartments advertise for $800 per month, does not mean each one costs the same! The following are a few areas to consider that will help you make a more knowledgeably and financially sound decision when making your move.
Utilities can make up a large portion of your monthly living expenses. Larger apartment complexes tend to pick up more of these than individual landlords, but there are always exceptions. Standard utilities that are often paid for are: water, sewage, and garbage. Some will also pay for electricity. Also, high-speed Internet and cable are sometimes included in the larger complexes and can be quite a savings if these are things you would pay for on your own.
These can add up to quite a savings. Often larger complexes will run specials, advertising the first month free with a certain lease term. When they break the price up over the term of the lease, it brings your monthly payment down considerably. They might give it to you up front, instead, which helps off-set the deposit. It’s a good idea to ask about move-in specials, because some apartment managers have the authority to offer these to get tenants in, even if they aren’t advertised. In a renter’s market, you may be able to get yourself a good deal this way. One thing to watch for is a move-in special on a particular unit. They may have problems keeping tenants in that unit and you will want to know why before signing a lease. Is there a bad smell? Not enough light?
Deposits vary widely. Be sure to find out not only how much the deposit is, but how much of it is refundable. Some property owners will ask for an additional deposit depending on your credit rating. It’s a good idea to find out if this is their policy before filling out the application, if you know that your credit may be less than ideal.
In addition to the regular deposit, there is often a pet deposit required if you have animals. You will want to find out how much this is, if it is assessed per pet, and if it is refundable. All of the deposits together can make a big difference to your move-in costs.
[FIRST AND LAST MONTH’S RENT]
What is required to move-in? It can range from nothing, when the first month is offered free, to around three times the rent cost when first, last and deposit are asked for. If you paid this for the apartment that you are currently in, then if you get your deposit back and don’t have to pay your last month, you can roll the money into your new apartment. But often this isn’t the case and it can be a barrier to moving. Some apartment owners will work with you on this, especially if you have good credit and a good rental history. They may work out a payment plan and let you pay the last month’s rent and the deposit over a period of time, or with negotiation, may be convinced to drop the last month all together. If it is a renter’s market in your area, meaning vacancies are high and apartment managers are trying to entice tenants, they will be more conducive to dropping this fee, especially if you have a good credit rating.
Most units charge between $25 and $45 for this. If you are moving with a roommate, they may assess a fee for each of you, but generally will only charge one for married couples.
The rent is not really $800 per month if you have a car and they charge $100 per month to park it. This is especially important in the downtown areas of large cities where parking is at a premium. Even in suburbia, some complexes will use this method to increase rent, or will offer uncovered parking for free, then charge for covered parking and garages.
Another thing to consider is street parking. If you are planning to park your car on the street in a city setting, you will often have to buy a permit from the city. These are usually relatively inexpensive, generally $30 or less per year for the first vehicle less for the second, but still an expense to consider. Be sure to ask about a guest permit, usually free for the asking, so that your visitors don’t have to move their cars every two hours!
Larger communities will sometimes assess a community fee for the privilege of using the common features, such as the pool and weight room. This is rare among rental units, and more often charged when purchasing a townhome or condominium, but something to watch for.
[LENGTH OF LEASE]
Do they require you to sign a lease and if so for how long? This can be both good and bad. If you sign a 12-month lease, you are locked into this particular rental for that period of time unless you break your lease, which generally comes with a monetary penalty. Some apartment complexes actually make you pay the remainder of your lease to leave, so that you are essentially paying rent at your old home, and your new home at the same time. On the other hand, if you know you want to stay somewhere for a certain period of time, a lease is helpful because the landlord cannot raise the rent during the length of the lease. Consider which is best for you before committing. Another benefit of a long-term lease is that sometimes a discount is given with signing, such as one month free rent, which can usually be given either up front, or broken up over the length of the lease.
With higher energy prices, this can make a big difference. Things like double-pane windows keep the heat in and the prices down. This is often found more in older construction. An additional perk is that construction that protects heat, also insulates against noise, so you won’t notice your neighbor’s saxophone lesson nearly as much!
Are you paying over or under market value for your location and square footage? There are several factors that will determine how much your apartment is actually worth. It’s a good idea to be aware of what apartments are renting for in your area so that you know if you are getting a good deal. If you want the most space for your money, look for an older, smaller, well maintained building. If a building has been around for a long time with little turnover, the landlord may not be paying attention to neighboring rents and offer the apartment at a lower rate. There are trade-offs to looking for this kind of building. You will most likely give up many of the community perks offered at larger complexes, such as a pool, clubhouse, or fitness facilities. Also, older buildings may not be wired for high-speed Internet services, and may have more issues with outdated wiring and plumbing. But, you may just find that gem in the middle of the city that has been beautifully kept up by a conscientious landlord who is charging rent as though it were still 1970 when he bought the property.
· Ask grocery stores for extra boxes instead of buying them from a moving supply store. Though some have started charging for these, many will still give them away free of charge.
· Be sure to let the post office know in advance of your new address and when to start forwarding mail so that you don’t receive late bills or miss important pieces of mail.
· Be aware of which utilities that you are responsible for at your current dwelling and your new one and get them stopped and started appropriately. You don’t want to end up without electricity, or to be paying for it at two places.
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