Angie's LIST Guide to
Apartments

Figuring out how to find an apartment can be overwhelming. Do yourself a favor and take the time to do your homework before searching for the right place at the right price.
 

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When searching for an apartment, make sure you find one that accommodates your needs and your budget. Monthly expenses include more than rent, so make sure you know whether or not utilities are included or will be an additional expense. (Photo by Joseph Martin)
When searching for an apartment, make sure you find one that accommodates your needs and your budget. Monthly expenses include more than rent, so make sure you know whether or not utilities are included or will be an additional expense. (Photo by Joseph Martin)
 
 
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What to know before looking for an apartment

Finding the right place to live is important. Take the time to consider what you need and want before you lock yourself in to a choice:

What's most important to you? Make a list of what matters most in an apartment. Include things like distance from work, friends, family and shopping. Do you want to be surrounded by hundreds of other units or would you rather live in a small apartment building? Does it matter in you're on an upper or lower floor?

What are your transportation needs? Will it be important to be near major roads, a bus route or bike path?

How much space do you need?  Do you plan to live alone or will you have one or more roommates? Do you expect to work from home? If you're sharing the apartment, consider that you may want more than one bathroom. Get a sense of the minimum square footage you will need.

What extras would be nice?  When you know your basic needs, consider what additional amenties would be good, such as a balcony or porch, fitness room, swimming pool, paid utilities and security.

Apartment costs beyond rent

Rent is only one consideration when planning the full cost of apartment living. Here are other costs to consider:

Utilities: Unless you're moving into an all-bills-paid unit, you'll need to consider utility costs in addition to monthly rent. Don't forget to factor in the possibility of utility deposits. Determine what each apartment complex requires you put in your name and have an estimate of what the utility deposits will be before you decide on an apartment.

Other deposits: Deposits can add up. Apartment complexes may ask for a straight security deposit or they may require  security plus the last month's rent. You should verify what the complex's policy is before deciding if you can afford to move in.

Maintenance and insurance: Ask questions so you are clear about your responsibility for maintenance, insurance and fees. The apartment agent should be able to provide a detailed list of what you must pay to keep a lease in good standing.

Other costs: If you aren't moving yourself, factor in the costs of hiring a moving company or renting a trailer or van.

Don't forget that Angie's List provides members with access to local consumer reviews on movers and storage facilities and service providers in more than 550 other categories. For consumer tips about moving, read the Angie's List Guide to Moving.

Before you sign a lease

A signed apartment lease becomes legally binding on you and the landlord. Therefore, it's important to carefully review a sample lease before you sign. As you examine a lease, keep these tips in mind:

Ask questions. As you review the lease, make note of anything that causes concern or confusion. Discuss each matter with the apartment management before signing. If something is decided, be sure it's added to the lease document. If what you're told can't be put into writing, reconsider signing.

Be clear about duties and deposits. The lease should outline your responsibilities for maintenance, repairs and damage. It should also include information about how deposits are handled.

Know the cost of breaking the lease. Check the lease for information about breaking the contract. Be sure to know how you're affected if you move out before the lease is up. For instance, if you pay less than the monthly market rent, you may find that breaking the lease makes you responsible for paying the difference between your rent and the market rate for each month you were in the apartment.

Should you consider renters insurance?

Some apartment complexes require renters to have insurance. But even if it's not mandatory, consider buying a policy for the length of your lease. Renters insurance typically covers loss due to theft and damages from various causes. Only 43 percent of renters have renter's insurance, though renters are 50 percent more likely than owners to be burglary victims, according to Insurance Information Institute of Manhattan.

Plans typically cost under $15 per month and can be paid in full for the length of your lease so you do not have to worry about making a monthly payment. Start your search for renters insurance with the agent connected to your auto insurance. You may get a price break, and it's possible the renters insurance may cover belongings in your vehicle.
   
Keep in mind that Angie's List provides members with local consumer review on insurance agencies and service providers in more than 550 other categories.

 

Comments

I am interested in finding an economical appartment in the Seattle area. Studio or one bedroom around $800 inclusive. Please advise on how this process can work and the fee for this kind of service.
Thank you.

Hi Vickie, Angie's List does not list local apartment listings, but we do rate Seattle real estate agents who may be able to help you find the best economical Seattle apartment for you. Thanks for your interest!

 

The information you shared above is very useful. I like it.

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