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10 things to consider before you rent an apartment

Apartment hunting often starts with two key factors: cost and location. Sure, you want to find an affordable apartment in a neighborhood you love, but that's just the beginning.

Many other details, such as the appliances and policies of the property, can impact your experience as a renter. Knowing what to look for can help you find the perfect apartment for you.

Consider these 10 things when looking for an apartment.

1. Are utilities included?

Apartment leases that include the cost of utilities, like electricity and water, can help you avoid juggling multiple bills every month. If the lease doesn't include utilities, you may want to ask the landlord to give an estimate what you should expect to spend.

2. Is there a washer and dryer?

Schlepping a bag full of dirty clothes to the laundromat every week might not be something you're willing to put up with. Consider prioritizing apartments that offer a washer and dryer in the building—or better yet, in the unit itself.

3. Who controls the heating and cooling?

An apartment with a thermostat that you control can help you keep the place comfortable in every season. Buildings with centralized temperature control might not get as warm as you'd like in the winter or cool enough in the summer. Some apartments have no cooling whatsoever, so you may need to bring your own air conditioner.

4. How's the plumbing?

A shower that barely trickles water and takes forever to get hot is a recipe for daily frustration. As you tour apartments, turn on the sink and shower to check the plumbing. Giving the toilet a flush can also help you catch plumbing issues before signing the lease.

5. Are there plenty of power outlets?

An apartment with lots of outlets in every room can make it convenient to plug in your devices without ugly extension cords or power strips. When you look at an apartment, bring something you can plug in (like a phone charger) to test the outlets and make sure they work.

6. How are the appliances?

Outdated appliances are not only more likely to need repairs, but they can also drive up your electricity bill. You might consider negotiating for upgrades to the stove, refrigerator, or other appliances as a condition for putting your signature on the lease.

7. Where can you park?

If you own a car, you'll need somewhere to park it close to home. Street parking can fill up quickly in crowded neighborhoods, so you may want to look for an apartment that includes a designated parking space at an on-site lot or garage.

8. Are pets allowed?

If you have a dog or cat (or are seriously considering adopting a furry friend), make sure any lease you sign allows you to have a pet in the apartment. (Some apartments also restrict the breed of dog you have) The lease may require you to pay an extra fee or deposit to cover potential damage from your pet.

9. Are there overhead lights in every room?

Unless you have a collection of lamps, you probably want to find an apartment with overhead lights in every room. Check to make sure the fixtures and light switches work, as well.

10. Will you have to pay more for amenities?

Some apartment buildings try to stand out from the competition with swanky amenities like gyms, roof decks, and bike storage rooms. These bonus features might come with an extra cost, though, so it's worth asking about.

Choosing the right apartment for you

There's a lot to consider when it comes to choosing an apartment. You might start your search by looking for units in a specific price range and location. But as you narrow down your options, prioritize spaces that have the features you're looking for, such as in-unit laundry or designated parking. Asking questions will help ensure it's a good fit before you sign on the dotted line.

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