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What to look for when renting an apartment

There are many factors to look at when renting an apartment. Different people have different priorities; here are the most common ones to think about.

Price

Consider the rent, of course. But don't make that your only consideration. You might find that a more expensive apartment saves you extra money in other ways. For example, if you choose an apartment out in the suburbs because it is cheaper, what about the costs of commuting into the city?

Also, is living in an iffy neighborhood a good idea if, in exchange for lower rent, you have to worry about break-ins and theft? Consider all the factors and add them up.

Location

Just as with buying a home, location matters. Consider the tradeoff of low rent for an iffy neighborhood, but if that's less of an issue, look at what each neighborhood offers. Is there a big grocery store nearby? A college? Recreation? Clean lawns? Think of how much these things mean to you and ask what you are willing to pay to have them.

Reputation

Some landlords' reputations are so bad that they are a standing joke in the community. The reasons can be many—some landlords look for unfair ways to deny you your security deposit when you move out. Consider this, and also consider their responsiveness to complaints and to maintenance issues.

In this June 20, 2019 image, Irene Scully, left, talks with real estate agent Fred Portillo Sr., as they tour an apartment for rent in Escondido, Calif. (Photo: AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
In this June 20, 2019 image, Irene Scully, left, talks with real estate agent Fred Portillo Sr., as they tour an apartment for rent in Escondido, Calif. (Photo: AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Amenities

Is a more expensive apartment a good deal because it has a nice gym or tennis court, or a party room, or copier service? Perhaps. You might even save money by using these over external ones.

Using a rental agent

Sometimes it pays to use a rental agent to find an apartment for you. It can be worth the time and hassle if you have special needs, or pets, or are new in town, or if you live far away and can't look for places in person.

Negotiating the rent

Most renters simply accept the going price on an apartment.

However, you may have room to negotiate. Is the rent too high compared to comparable units in the neighborhood?

Is there a surplus of apartments in the area? You could consider asking for a lease longer than 12 months in return for a lowered rent. This is an advantage to the landlord because it won't need to spend money on cleaning, repainting, advertising, and showing the unit after 12 months.

Also, if you offer to make some repairs or repaint the place yourself, your landlord may be willing to cut you a deal. And further, if you can spot a unit that has been vacant for a few months, the landlord will be especially eager to get it rented ASAP—this could be your chance to ask for a lower rent amount.

Bottom line: if the landlord can save some money on you, he or she might negotiate.

The apartment itself

Be sure to see the actual apartment and make sure that it is clean and maintained and in good surroundings. Believe it or not, some people rent a place based upon a model unit or pictures in an ad.

The lease

Read the fine print carefully to ensure that you know what you are and are not responsible for. Some landlords require you to pay for this or that when you move out.

Some leases state specific responsibilities that you will have to pay for, such as broken windows. If you want to run a business on the side, the lease may prohibit that.

Many leases also spell out who is responsible for what legal costs in the event of lawsuits.

Dive deeper: Renting an apartment: Everything you need to know

This content was created in partnership with the Financial Fitness Group, a leading e-learning provider of FINRA compliant financial wellness solutions that help improve financial literacy.

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