The Ultimate Guide to Asking the Crucial 25 Questions on Your Apartment Tours
We all know moving can be as stressful as trying to park your car in traffic on Congress Avenue in the middle of the afternoon on a Saturday during SXSW weekend! OMG, the Worst! But don’t worry, as local experts, we’ve got you covered. Let’s dive into apartment hunting, y’alls, Austin style!
- How much does this cost to rent an apartment in Austin? Looking for an apartment in Austin that won’t break the bank can be more difficult than anticipating the next trendy taco craze at Velvet Taco. Make sure you double-check the monthly rent and get it in writing while you tour apartment. Rates can change daily plus you also need to keep your eyes peeled for those sneaky rent hikes on your rent renewal. If you think you might be overpaying for your rent, feel free to check out our handy rental analysis tool to see what rents are in your neighborhood. Local Expert Tip: Don’t be afraid to work with an apartment locator. They’re like real estate rental geniuses with a twist of Texas sweet tea. They’ll be able to give you expert advice on neighborhoods and the best move-in specials so you can score a sweet deal!
- Income: Prove you can keep the lights on and the party going. Austin has a unique atmosphere and is known to Keep it Weird, but your property manager will want to see your financials as well no matter how weird you are or how much money you make. Most properties will ask for a minimum of 3x the rent for income that’s verifiable with W2 paystubs or bank statements. Sure, there are a few communities we work with that only accept 2x or 2.5x so just if that’s something you need just hit us up.
- Is it possible for me to include a roommate or add one later? If you’re going solo, ask if there’s room for a second person on your lease at a later date. Perhaps you’ll finally meet the love of your life and ask them to move in! If the property manager allows it, you’ll probably have to sign a new lease when your new partner moves in but at a minimum they’ll going to run a credit and background check. Read the fine print!
- Do you report my rent payments to the credit bureaus? Great quesion! You might already have stellare credit but why not bump it up some more. Most apartment communities don’t report rent payments on your trade lines that show up on your credit report. Local Expert Tip: For a few bucks a month you can use our favorite rent reporting tool BoomPay to increase your credit score up to 100 points.
- What’s the policy regarding guests like Uncle Eddy that comes to town for a visit? Make sure you know how long guests can stay and which parking areas they can park in. It’s important to make sure your guests are allowed to attend events such as housewarming parties when you move into your new apartment because they’ll need a place to park as well. Some apartment complexes are going to have restrictions on how long a guest can stay, or they have specific rules about guest parking.
- Lease length: Are you in it for a quick two-step or a Texas slow dance?
Less than 12 months or longer than 12 months – the lease game can be as strategic as figuring out whether to put hot sauce on your breakfast tacos. You should also know that many apartment communities now using automation tools to change rent on a daily basis so if you’re offered a “Look and Lease” opportunity whereby the leasing agent reduces the monthly rental price for 48 hours after you tour – you should strongly consider accepting it.
- Neighborhood Vibes: What’s the scene like outside your door?
Before you move in, you’ll want to check to see if the neighborhood is sketchy. You’ll want to check it out during the day, afternoon and night time to make sure you’re comfortable and safe in your new home. Is it closer to the best brunch joints to grab a bite with your besties on a Sunday morning or near the wild nightlife at The Domain or East and West 6th’s bustling bars and restaurants? Studying the neighborhood’s vibe can help you avoid post move-in regret while also ensuring you don’t miss out on your beauty rest.
- Community Events: Is there a community fiesta in your future? Austin is a party town, and many apartment communities now offer meet and greet socials at their club house or even yoga class in the gym. You should also ask about local events, farmers’ markets, and festivals that the onsite leasing agents may be able to point you towards.
- Utilities: Will your AC unit cost more than your Saturday morning at Franklin BBQ?
Don’t let utility costs creep up on you like mosquitoes in the summer. Ask what’s included, what’s not, and what those extra fees will be. Think pest control, internet, water, trash and even $15/month for package delivery to your door monthly add-ons. While seemingly small and insignificant, you don’t want to be taken advantage of by property managers that want to nickle and dime you.
- Fees, fees, and more fees: The less pleasant side of adulting. It doesn’t matter if it’s a deposit, an application fee, or an amenity fee, you need to know exactly how much you’re spending in addition to your rent. While you’ll likely see $40 in application fees and up to $250 in administrative fees from the apartment community, you may be able to eliminate some of these fees altogether if you’ve got a preferred employer discount at that particular community. Local Expert Tip: Your apartment locator may pick up the tab on your application fee – you just have to ask! Since they work on your behalf, think of them as your trusted sidekick to apartment hunting. They’ll be willing to share a portion of that referral fee they’ll receive by helping you find your idea home – it’s a win-win.
- Do you require renters insurance? Most apartment communities require renters insurance these days. They might ask taht you use a specific insurance provider or yo umay be able to use one you prefer for specific coverage needs. Local Expert Tip: It’s quick and easy to use Lemonade.com but if you like competitive bids and want to support local business reach out to Britton and Britton. Even if it’s not required, getting renter‘s insurance is a smart way to protect your stuff or your liability – especially if you have a dog with snarly teeth.
- Breaking up is hard to do: What’s the cost of a lease breakup? Reading an apartment lease is about as boring as watching paint dry but it’s important to know the nitty gritty in case shit hits the fan. The last thing you want on your record is a broken lease or oustanding property debt. Learn how to break your lease, get out of it or sublet it. And remember, it’s not about them. It’s about protecting your credit score and background record.
- What is the minimum notice period I need to give before I move out? When it comes to moving out of an apartment, it’s important to review the terms of your lease in your application. You may need to file a notice in writing at least 30 days ahead of time, and there may be additional fees or penalties involved if you miss that deadline. Even if you’re only renting the apartment for a short period of time, such as on a monthly basis, you may need a few weeks’ notice – it will all be in the lease before you sign.
- Rent payment: Paper checks or online magic? Ask how you’ll pay your rent: online, via carrier pigeon, or maybe a singing telegram. Your new apartment in Austin won’t be using the post office boxe anymore. Make sure you’re tech-savvy enough to setup monthly direct debit and if you’re one step above snappy, checkout the credit card by Bilt Rewards since they allow you to pay rent with a credit card and no transaction fees.
- Maintenance: Because toilets clog, and light bulbs burn out. Let’s face it, maintenance isn’t the most glamorous part of living in an apartment. When is the maintainence crew available if you have an emergency? Most landlords will pay for wear and tear, such as damaged locks, but they won’t cover damage caused by you or your tenants. If they can get the job done before you can say “I like queso”? Find out what’s going on and address any issues before you move in so you’re not dinged for damages on your way out.
- Do you mind if I take a shower real quick? I can’t think of one apartment that’s going to let you take a shower before moving in BUT, it is a good idea to test the water pressure to make sure you’re getting enough water and there aren’t any leaks or issues preventing you from enjoying that hot shower! While you’re at it check the fridge, burners on the stove, lights, bathroom and kitchen faucets, and flush the toilet.
- Amenities: Are you living the high life or just paying high rent? Your apartment listing might have all the bells and whistles you could want, but are those bells and whistles really what you’re looking for? How often are you going to use the pool and bask in 105 degree heat during the Summer months? Ask about the things you’ll be using on a daily basis like appliances, washers, dryers, dishwashers, the elevators, covered or designated parking, the pool access hours, the building’s recycling, and more. Don’t let your new apartment amenities make you FOMO (fear of missing out). Local Expert Tip: Take advantage of using a free Austin apartment locator that can find a place that ticks every amenity box you could ever want.
- Local Groceries: Can you get your avocado fix nearby? Avocado toast enthusiasts, rejoice! H-E-B is just about everywhere but let’s not forget you’ve got pleny of other options including Whole Foods, Sprouts, Wheatsville, Randalls, Fiesta, Target Grocery and Walmart Grocery to name a few. Find out where the nearest grocery stores are to ensure you have enough food to entertain your friends or need a last minute item for that perfect Lasagna.
- Security: Keep your castle safe from bandits and porch pirates. Austin’s pretty chill, but safety first! Check what security measures are in place such as gated access or security cameras on site. Inquire as to whether you can add a Ring camera to your front door. If your Amazon Prime addiction is real, ask about the package-receiving process too since many communities are now using Fetch at $15/month to deliver packages directly to your front door.
- Public Transportation: Is the bus your new best friend? Check out the CAP Metro public transportation options. Austin’s traffic can be a beast – especially during morning and afternoon rush hour. Kowing your transit options can save you from road rage or getting into an accident.
- Communication: When life throws lemons, can you squeeze your landlord? Noisy neighbors or overflowing trash cans? You’ll want a property manager you can hit up easily to resolve an issue might be having. Ask about communication channels – resident portal, call, text, or email. Don’t let your concerns fall on deaf ears since you’re the one paying them!
- Decorating freedom: Can you unleash your inner Chip and Joanna? It’s important to feel at home in your new place, but most apartments don’t allow you to make major changes like painting walls, which can end up costing you money in the long run after you move-out since they’ll take the funds out of your damage deposit and likely ask for more. Be sure to inquire about the limits on your alternations so you don’t have to worry about losing your security deposit when it’s time to move out.
- Pets and guests: Furry friends and party pals—what’s the policy? Austin is an extremely pet friendly city, but guidelines are guidelines. Learn about breed restrictions, pet fees, pet deposits, monthly pet rent and guest restrictions. No one wants to be surprised with an eviction notice after Sparky bit the neighbor.
- Is there a smoking policy here? If you smoke, you’ll want ot know if it’s okay to smoke cigarettes or a vape pen on your balcony, in the dog park or in the courtyard by the pool. This is an important question to ask, especially if you’re a smoker or someone who’s sensitive to smoke. Some apartments have smoke-free policies or ask you to smoke at least 10-30 feet away.
- Updates: Is your new pad getting a facelift or a downgrade? Apartments, like ACL lineups, are always changing. Ask about planned updates in the works so you’re not kept up and turn into an extra on the caste of the “Walking Dead”. You don’t want to sign a lease only to have construction noises as your new roommates – trust me!
Now that you’ve got 25 Austin apartment touring tips for the brave renter in your life, let’s hope your search is fast, your tacos are delicious, and your transition is as seamless as the Texas 2-step. Good luck apartment hunting and please reach out if we can be of any service at all!