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#61793 - 04/06/03 06:16 PM Renting an apartment
sunflwrpdx
Ching Shih


Registered: 09/23/01
Posts: 330
Loc: Portland, OR

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My fiance and I have taken the plunge--we're going to move in together. We're both living with our parents right now, so this will be the first time renting an apartment for us and we have no clue how to do it. It is as easy as picking out a few places we're interested in, having a tour, and then renting it? What's the process like? I'm planning on bringing my cat with me; what kind of fees do places charge for having a pet?

Any help would be greatly appreciated. \:\)
_________________________
If you don't risk anything you risk even more. -- Erica Jong

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#61794 - 04/06/03 09:47 PM Re: Renting an apartment
Mara
Ching Shih


Registered: 07/31/02
Posts: 157
Loc: Canberra, ACT, Australia

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Sunflwrpdx, good luck! First of all, I'd find out the details of the authority that looks after renters in your area. Here, it's called the Residential Tenancy Authority so it might be called something similar? It always pays to familiarise yourself with what your rights are, so you don't get suckered into anything untoward.

From my sad and sorry experiences, the following are things to look out for...

* enough power points
* enough storage and cupboards
* adequate heating/cooling for all year round
* a big enough kitchen, if you like to cook
* adequate bench space for your microwave
* no water staining, or visible signs of insect infestation - look in all cupboards, nooks and crannies if you can.
* bedroom is big enough to take your bed and a bit of other furniture besides
* some space for the two of you to have 'own time', if you need it (and can afford to have it!)
* some natural light getting into the place - it costs extra $$ to have the lights on all the time, as well as being a bit depressing
* water pressure, if you like a decent shower
* security - are there adequate locks etc
* does the place take pets? In your situation, I don't think it will add to the cost, but it will limit your choices.

Edited because there was an awful lot of extraneous advice there!

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#61795 - 04/06/03 09:48 PM Re: Renting an apartment
sunflow
Ching Shih


Registered: 09/12/00
Posts: 1156
Loc: Brighton, UK

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Since I've lived in thirteen different apartments in the last ten years, I consider myself something of an expert in apartment hunting. However, I really don't think you need that much advice. It's a renter's market everywhere right now, especially in Portland. I think you'll find a lot of places available, and you'll be in a position to pick and choose.

How you look often depends upon what you want. If you want a new, modern building with a full kitchen, washer/dryer, etc., the best bet is a rental magazine or online. If you want an older building with "character," you probably want to drive around your favorite neighborhoods, looking for buildings you like. Contact the property management, who will often have several buildings with available apartments. In my neighborhood, almost every apartment building has a "For rent" sign up, and many companies are offering free rent or no deposit. If your credit is strong -- great. Even if it isn't, most companies will work with you in the current market. And, when I was looking at apartments in January, the standard deposit for cats was a non-refundable $200.

Questions to ask: What utilities do you pay? Do you go month to month at the end of the lease? Do you have your own water heater, or share? (I forgot to ask this one time, and had cold showers for a year.) What about high speed Internet access? Think about what's important to you, and write down the questions before you meet with the property manager so you don't forget anything. Some apartments are very strict about modifications such as painting, or they require area rugs over hard wood floor, so make sure the place you choose it one that you can comfortably make into a home. And, if you have the time to spare, don't rush into anything unless it feels perfect. There are lots of apartment available, and you will be astounded at the difference in price. Take your time. This is your first apartment. It should be a place you absolutely love.

Good luck.

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#61796 - 04/06/03 10:34 PM Re: Renting an apartment
PageTurner
Ching Shih


Registered: 11/23/02
Posts: 267
Loc: New York City

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Geez, I wish I'd had Mara and sunflow to give me advice years ago when I started to look for apartments. My few additions:

1. If you can, try to see the apartment at different times of the day. I lived for a few years in an spacious 2nd floor apartment that had a street lamp right outside the bedroom window. You either had to close the shades, or accept the fact that light was pouring into the bedroom at midnight.

2. Realtors can be really chatty and love to whisk you around an apartment and out again. This can be nice, but it pays to also take a look around the apartment without someone directing you away from the cracks in the paint, etc. It's worth it to politely say, "I'd like to wander around a bit on my own."

3. I'd like to echo what Mara said about light, but for psychological reasons. I lived for 2 years in an apartment that was close to other buildings and got very little light. It can really wear you down.

4. I've developed a habit of bringing along paper to jot down details of the apartment. It's amazing how hard it is to remember details after seeing the 4th apartment.

Good luck, sunflwrpdx. It sounds very exciting!

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#61797 - 04/06/03 10:55 PM Re: Renting an apartment
katydid
Ching Shih


Registered: 04/29/02
Posts: 100
Loc: DC USA

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Drive around the neighborhood at night. If it doesn't give you the creeps then, it won't during the day, either. Also, check the parking lot for glass- if there's a lot, it may mean that car windows are being broken often. Also, a lot of major newspapers have crime reports--take a look at what's going on in your neighborhood.
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#61798 - 04/07/03 07:50 AM Re: Renting an apartment
crumpet2
Ching Shih


Registered: 12/17/02
Posts: 719

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I have had a lot of experience apartment hunting, and I have pets. My experience is that many places will allow cats and birds, but no one wants dogs. The landlords often say that dogs smell, but really, that isn't a valid arguement because cats smell at least as much.

Anyway, just go out and see a few. You'll soon decide what you can live with. A few things to note, although I'm not sure if these things apply to where you are living:

Find out what your recourse is when your landlord fails to repair something. In Québec there is a special regulatory body, and you can't actually just withold rent. You have to lodge a complaint and the Régie des logements will make a judgement on the case. Anyway, find out what you would have to do, and have it in mind. Even if the landlord seems ok at first glance. Also, check and see if you claim the portion of your apartment building's taxes that correspond to your apartment against your income tax. Not all landlords offer up this info unless you ask fr the proper form at tax time.

Some obvious things:

Rooms of odd shapes (particularly trapezoidal) are difficult to place furniture in.

In old apartments with lousy insulation, try to get heat included.

Heavily sloped floors can be problematic.

If your apartment adjoins another with a door that always remains locked, install a deadbolt because you don't actually know how many keys are out there (I learned the hard way).

I once saw an apartment in which there was no outlet in the kitchen to plug in the fridge. The landlord's solution was to run an extension cord around into the living room. Not acceptable!

Also, get a tennant pack of insurance. Some people think that they don't need insurance in an apartment, but even if you have crappy post-student furniture and a student wardrobe, it would still set you back a pile to replace it!

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#61799 - 04/07/03 02:20 PM Re: Renting an apartment
FishDreamer Administrator
Ching Shih


Registered: 08/27/01
Posts: 2804
Loc: Windy City USA

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If either of you has a car, check into the parking situation. I don't know where you're looking or if Portland has the parking problems Seattle has, but reserved parking is always a bonus.

I also always checked for storage space, and looked in the closets to check for mold or funny smells. I once had damp closets, and some of my stuff got ruined in there.

Definitely check utilities, to see if you pay your own garbage, sewer, water, and electric bills. That's generally worth over $100 a month, so if you have to pay, calculate that amount into your rent. Also check where the garbage goes. No fun hauling a full bag to the extreme other end of the building.

Good luck!

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#61800 - 04/09/03 08:38 AM Re: Renting an apartment
alizarin
Ching Shih


Registered: 01/17/02
Posts: 425
Loc: Boston, MA

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Hurrah for this topic, I'm apartment hunting myself right now.

I'm keeping a notebook, the first page is all my "must have"s and "would prefer"s. Stuff like hardwood floors and laundry in building. (Laundry is a big one, there's no laundry in my current apt building, so I uh, buy more clothes instead of doing laundry. Bad me.)

The rest of the notebook is a page or two per apt I see, on which I take notes and sketch floor plans. I'm thinking of copying my lists from the beginning on to each page, to write "yes"s and "no"s according to each apt. Organization is your friend.

Basically other than that I'd ditto everything everyone else has said. Trust your instincts on a place, if it seems sketchy, it probably is.

I don't know about Portland's craigslist is, but Boston's often has good apt info listed. It might be something to check out.

Oh, and if anyone has a cute 1 bedroom apt in the North End of Boston they'd like to rent me, feel free to drop me an e-mail ;\)

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#61801 - 04/09/03 09:28 PM Re: Renting an apartment
sunflwrpdx
Ching Shih


Registered: 09/23/01
Posts: 330
Loc: Portland, OR

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Thanks for all the help, everyone. There's tons of good suggestions here. (Like checking out apts. at different times of the day, checking the parking lot for broken glass, etc.) So thanks. \:\)
_________________________
If you don't risk anything you risk even more. -- Erica Jong

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#61802 - 04/09/03 09:29 PM Re: Renting an apartment
voiceofreason
Ching Shih


Registered: 04/27/02
Posts: 1257
Loc: Brookline, MA, USA

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What everyone else said, and, just so you have a couple more things to think about:

If you're lucky enough to be getting a washer and dryer with the place, try to run them to see if they make a lot of noise (so says that girl who has now lived in THREE apartments with dryers that sounded like a thousand fingernails dragged across a thousand blackboards.)

Also: neighbors. They don't necessarily need to be the first thing you consider, but might end up being a deciding factor (do they have loud parties? will they get mad if you have loud parties? are they just plain creepy?).

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