The Ultimate Apartment Hunting Checklist
The day you decide it’s time to move out on your own is the day you declare your independence. Finding an apartment to suit your needs and budget shouldn’t hamper the excitement of the day. In fact, you should make the most of your apartment hunt and have fun exploring what’s out there.
To make the process easier, we’ve prepared the ultimate apartment hunting checklist, so you don’t miss a thing and find the first apartment of your dreams.
Set a Budget
You can’t really start your apartment hunt until you know your budget. This can be tricky for first apartments, as you’ve never had to contend with a housing budget before. The easiest way to approach it is to first look at your net total earnings. Then, consider all of your current costs such as your phone, your car and/or public transit, your auto insurance, etc.
Last but not least, consider any debt you might be paying off such as credit cards and how much you pay towards debt repayment each month. Add all of these numbers up, then add them to your monthly expenses and subtract them from your income. This will give you an idea of how much you’ll have left to put towards rent. A good budget rule of thumb is as follows:
- 50% on needs such as rent, utilities, groceries, debt repayment
- 30% on wants such as dining out, shopping for clothes, or your hobbies
- 20% on long-term financial goals such as your savings for a trip or your retirement savings
This helps you see where your money should be spent in priority order.
Choose an Area
Most cities have neighbourhoods each with their pros and cons. Consider the areas you would prefer to live in, and search available apartments to get a feel for price. If the prices are too high, look at your next preferred area, check those prices, and continue this process to find the best location for your budget. You don’t necessarily have to completely write off your favourite area based on price, but it can be more discouraging if you keep encountering price challenges.
Start a Spreadsheet
Use a spreadsheet to list all your wants and needs. This allows you to keep track of the apartments you plan to see or have already seen. Consider all of the important things that make your apartment suitable, including:
- Utilities (included or not)
- Parking, including guest and your own spot
- Amenities such as a pool, barbecues, outdoor space, gym
- Close to parks
- Laundry in your apartment (shared or no facilities at all)
- Number of rooms
- Area safety
Whatever else you can think of that is important to you can also be added to the list.
Start Your Web Search
Now that you have various areas in mind, you can start your online search for apartments. Most apartments today will have virtual tours that you can check out before calling to see them in person. Make your way through the apartments and take note of the ones you like. You can then narrow down your favourites once your research is complete.
If you feel you aren’t having much luck, check sites that offer phone notices when something new comes up. This allows you to be one of the first people to see it, and opens up your options. Also, try walking the areas you love just in case you see an apartment with a “for rent” sign that’s not online. Newspapers and friends might be helpful as well. Finally, don’t forget to fill out your spreadsheet as you make your list.
Don’t wait around when it comes to your apartment search. Arrange viewings as soon as possible or someone else might get your dream apartment.
Set Up Viewings
When you set up viewings, make sure you are prepared with this checklist to discuss with the landlord:
- What are the lease terms?
- What is the rent?
- What happens if I break my lease early?
- Do you have minimum income requirements?
- Can a guarantor co-sign?
- Are any utilities included?
- Do they know the average monthly cost of utilities if they aren’t included?
- Is there extra storage available and is it included?
- Is there laundry in the unit or onsite?
- What type of deposit do you need, for example, first and last months’ rent?
- Do you take pets?
- Do you have a guest policy?
- Do you require tenant insurance?
- What is your move in policy?
- Do you have to book a freight elevator to move in?
- What types of changes can I make, such as paint, wallpaper, new cabinets, light fixtures, etc.?
- What payment do you require, for example, cheque, cash, e-transfer, credit card?
- Do you have 24/7 maintenance for emergencies?
- Do you have a superintendent or an onsite property manager?
- What are the response times for issues?
- What type of security do you have?
- How often does rent increase and by how much?
It’s a lot of questions, but this isn’t a process you want to rush through.
Take Your Time
Don’t rush through viewings unless you know instantly that you aren’t interested. Open kitchen cupboards, run taps, check doors, flip light switches, look behind the shower curtain, and look under the sinks for signs of pests.
Be prepared to make a deposit and apply for the apartment on the spot. You don’t want to make emotional decisions, but also you don’t want to hide your interest in an apartment that checks all your boxes. The landlord will be more likely to trust you if you are willing and able to get the application process issues out of the way. You’ll need the following to rent an apartment:
- Proof of employment and financial health including pay stubs, letter of employment, or a dated bank statement
- 2 pieces of government-issued photo ID
- Letter of recommendation or a professional reference
- Social Insurance Number
- A check or cash, in case they charge a fee to fill out an application
Make sure you voice interest so if they like you and you have everything ready to go, you might just end up getting the apartment because of your preparedness. Be sure you take your time and consider the pros and cons of the apartment before you commit.
Do a Blitz
If possible, try to choose a single day to see all the apartments. This allows you to narrow down your choices quickly and find a place.
Leverage Your Research
If you notice that an apartment was listed a while ago, this could be a warning sign something is wrong. Keep this in mind if you decide to visit. Also, it could provide an opportunity to negotiate the price. You could mention to the landlord that you noticed it’s been listed for a while and ask if they know why. This can put them on the spot, but it could also make them feel open to negotiation to get a good tenant moved in.
Get Tenant Insurance
Last but not least, get tenant insurance. It offers coverage for your personal property in the event of perils such as fire, theft, or flood.
If you would like more information about renters insurance in Ottawa, please speak to our team at Oegema, Nicholson & Associates today.