Finding an apartment that’s affordable and matches everything on your wish list can be tough, particularly if you live in a city with a competitive and expensive housing market. Getting the apartment once you’ve found it can also be a formidable proposition. Here are some important things to bear in mind about how to get the apartment that you want.
Get Your Move-In Costs in Order
The cost of moving into a new apartment can be considerable. Apart from the cost of moving with a rented truck or a professional moving service, you have to consider that there may be other expenses for moving in. You may have to pay a fee to simply apply for an apartment, which is typically put towards the cost of a credit or background check. If your application is accepted, you will need to pay your first month’s rent to secure the apartment.
In addition to paying your first month’s rent, you may also have to pay a security deposit that could be as much as one month’s rent. Furthermore, a landlord may require you to pay your last month’s rate as well. Lastly, you may be responsible for a realtor’s fee if you found the apartment listing through a real estate agent. How fees are handled tends to vary regionally; each city’s real estate market has adopted its own approach. Sometimes landlords will pay this fee and sometimes the cost is split with the tenant.
Oftentimes, however, the responsibility lies solely with the tenant. A fee may be a percentage of the total year’s rental payments or it may be equivalent to one month’s rent. Alternatively, a fee may be a flat amount. Sometimes, management companies who lease directly without the use of realtors will charge a flat amount as a rental fee. Be aware that some states do not permit fees to rent apartments that are not charged by realtors, including application fees.
Find Out About Your Credit Score
When you’re applying for an apartment in a building that’s professionally managed, it’s probable if not definite that the management company is going to run a credit check on you. A poor credit score can dissuade a company from accepting your application, or they may opt for an applicant with a better score.
Even if you have a great income and can easily afford to pay for an apartment, a credit score that reflects prior defaults on financial obligations or irresponsible financial management may make you seem like a high-risk tenant. If you haven’t checked your credit score in a while, you should find out its current status before you start applying for apartments. Contrary to popular belief, checking your own credit score won’t lower it at all.
Go online and find an easy way to “check my free credit score” so you can know where you stand. Ideally, you should try to use a credit service that will give your score from more than one credit reporting bureau. You may think that your scores are the same from every credit bureau, but you may be surprised to find discrepancies. One bureau may have an error that another does not. In addition, some bureaus weigh different types of activity more heavily than others, such as overutilization of your credit cards.
If your score turns out to be less than good, you should take immediate steps to start raising it. Correct any mistakes that it may have, cure collections activity, and start using less of your available credit on each of your credit cards. You can’t repair your credit overnight, but you can definitely start taking fast steps in the right direction so that it won’t present an obstacle to you in the future.
Get a Cosigner
If your credit or your income isn’t particularly good, you may not be seen as a qualified applicant for a particular apartment. You can enhance your application’s appeal by getting a cosigner to sign on your lease with you. A cosigner isn’t somebody who shares the apartment with you but rather shares the financial obligation for lease payments in the event that you fail to pay. A landlord could pursue the cosigner to collect any unpaid balance. It provides an extra level of security to landlords by giving them more than one person who they can pursue for a remedy.
Of course, do not try to get a cosigner if you’re uncertain about your ability to pay because that would put the person who you ask in a tight spot. Ideally, a cosigner should be someone with whom you have a close relationship and feels comfortable taking on the responsibility to help you get an apartment. He or she should have a good annual income and an excellent credit score in order to be someone who can offer substantive reassurance to a landlord about your tenancy.
Line Up Great References
Your references from your prior landlords could be a determinative factor in whether or not your application is accepted. You should touch base to know they should expect a call and let them know how much you’ll appreciate a positive reference. It may be particularly important to give a landlord a heads up if he or she has been difficult to reach in your previous experiences communicating.
If your landlord waits too long to respond to a reference request, then you may lose out on the apartment. Your landlord may be asked questions about whether you left as a tenant in good standing, your rental payment history, and the condition in which you left your unit. Your references should include only landlords who can answer those questions positively.
Successfully getting the apartment that you want will take some planning and preparation. Be sure that you understand all of the costs of moving into an apartment that you’re looking at and be ready to present the strongest application possible. Ultimately, being prepared can take some of the stress out of your search and make you much more likely to land the perfect apartment.