As summer draws to a close, many people make changes with the season. It's a big time for moving as college students return to town and as many families scramble to get settled in new homes before school begins. If you'll be making a move, here are some smart questions to keep in mind.
Are utilities included in the rent?
Gas, electricity, water - someone has to pay for them, and depending where you rent, it could be you. Older properties typically include some form of utility with the rent (think heat and hot water) while newer properties may have the residents responsible for their own gas, electricity, and water. Eco-friendly properties are popping up everywhere and are designed to keep energy costs low by providing energy efficient light fixtures, shower heads, programmable thermostats and "low-e windows" (they maintain interior heat in the winter while blocking out hot, ultraviolet rays in the summer).
How much money is needed up front to rent the apartment?
It could potentially include first month, last month, security deposit, and the broker's fee. Up front move in costs can be confusing. It is important to know the amount of the security deposit required for the apartment as well as any additional payments that will be needed before signing the lease. Every property and landlord are different: some may require first and last month's rent in addition to a security deposit while others may only ask for a security deposit equal to half month's rent.
Where is the nearest form of public transportation?
Just because you may have moved outside of Boston doesn't mean there is no way back in. A lot of newer properties are being built within walking distance of commuter rail and T stations while others provide private shuttle services to the local commuter rail station. In fact, there's even a name to this trend: Transit-oriented developments. So be sure to ask how far the closet stops are and test them out yourself before you sign on the dotted line.
I have a medium-size dog. Do you allow pets in your apartment? What are your pet policies?
It is important to remember that just because a property is pet-friendly it doesn't mean that all breeds are welcome. Make sure to ask if your dog's specific breed is allowed on the property before putting down a deposit. You will want to ask how much the property charges for pet rent and if an additional pet deposit is required. If you have more than one pet, make sure to mention this as most properties have a two pet maximum.
When you are renting an apartment it is important to remember you are renting everything that comes with it--the washer, dryer, stove, refrigerator and even the light bulbs. Find out if maintenance services are included with the rent and what windows of time they are provided. Usually, the landlord - or somebody in their stead, maybe a property manager - takes care of everything that comes with your lease. This information should be displayed on the bottom of the first page of your lease under the "Other Remarks" section.
I'm moving without any of my furniture. Do you offer furnished apartments?
If you're moving on a whim, have to quickly relocate for work, or just sold all your furniture and want to start fresh, a furnished apartment is the way to go. Many properties have contracts with furnishing companies and can offer beautifully furnished apartments which include everything from king size beds to kitchen utensils.
I'm going to be living in an apartment for a couple of months. Do you offer short-term leases?
A majority of first time renters assume all leases are a standard 12 months and must begin on the first of the month. That's not true. Many properties offer short term leasing options, some as short as one month. Although there are usually premiums added onto the monthly rent, they are great options for people who are in a bind. Short term leases are a great way to know you have a somewhere to stay while not feeling locked into a long commitment.
I haven't written a check in years. Can I pay my rent online?
Inquire about all possible payment options, specifically if the property offers online payment. Signing up for autopay is a great way to avoid late payments and leave you with one less thing to worry about. Bank of America offers this service for free. Dubbed BillPay, they will auto debit your account and send the check to your landlord at a recurring frequency that you'll set. Another option if you don't have a BofA account is to enroll with WilliamPaid, a free site that does exactly the same as BillPay, but with any other bank accounts.
Parking is an important question most people forget to ask. Never assume parking is included and always ask if parking (specifically how many parking spots) comes with the apartment. If parking is limited, you may be charged additional rent for a second car or maybe even both cars depending on the property. Also, do not assume everywhere offers guest parking and inquire as to where guests can park and if off street parking is an option.
Last but not least (and this only applies if you're just in the inquiry stage), ask about what floor the apartment is on. Specifically, ask whether it's a walk-up and if there's an elevator. We've seen our fair share of clients getting surprised that they have to trek up to that dream apartment they saw online.