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The idea of moving to a new city can be both exhilarating and nerve-wracking. And while it may seem that renting an apartment instead of purchasing a home outright could ease some of that apprehension, you may still feel a few jitters about choosing the right living situation for your needs. It’s important that you not only select the best possible neighborhood location and apartment community, but also protect your interests as you move forward with your move. KNOWAtlanta recently sat down with Community Manager Leidalis Santana and leasing partner Savannah Gasaway of Atlanta-based multifamily real estate investment firm Cortland, who are posted at The Exchange at North Haven by Cortland, to find out the top five tips you need to know before signing a rental agreement in Atlanta. Here’s what they had to say.
Tip #1: Compare and Contrast
When you begin your apartment search, you’ll probably find a few apartment communities that you like. Narrow down your list and begin to compare and contrast the locations that seem to be the best fit. Two great resources are Google and apartments.com, where you can read reviews of the communities on your list. Just remember that there will always be some negative reviews; your goal is to find a community with more positive than negative critiques—and be sure that you’re reading reviews from residents who actually live at the communities.
Tip #2: Explore the Neighborhood
The right apartment will not only provide you with a fantastic living space, but also a great surrounding community. Take some time to explore the neighborhood, checking out features like shopping options, recreational and fitness centers, the local social scene, schools, traffic and more. Also consider your personal need for walkability. What’s more, it’s a good idea to visit the communities on your list both during the day and at night to identify any differences.
Tip #3: Research the Management Company
Once you sign a lease, you will be dealing with the management company for an extended period of time. Before you put pen to paper, research the company in charge of the property in which you want to live. Do they care about the resident experience? Does the company respond to resident reviews or complaints quickly and fully? Find out how long they’ve been in the metro Atlanta area, see if they are growing with new developments and check to see if they have communities you may be familiar with in the area from which you are relocating. Reviews are helpful in this area as well; Google the company and look for any rankings that may help you make your decision.
Tip #4: Get the Details
When you’ve narrowed down your choices to a particular community, the next step is to get the details about the specific apartment that will become your home. What kind of availability does the community have in terms of its units? Will you be able to get the exact apartment you want? What’s the reservation timeline? What is the average lease term for most of the residents in the community? How soon can you move in? The answers you receive will play into your final decision.
Tip #5: Look Before You Sign
You have your heart set on an apartment, but before you sign on the dotted line, read the lease closely for transparency. Look for two clauses: a satisfaction guarantee clause and a termination clause. With the first, you want to make sure that what you receive upon moving in is what you have been promised; Cortland offers a 45-day move-in satisfaction guarantee that gives residents the chance to change their mind after move-in without a penalty. They also offer the industry’s only 48-hour service completion guarantee that ensures that requests are taken care of within 48 hours, 24/7, or residents live rent-free until their problem is resolved. Also, know what your options are if you decide to terminate the agreement; Cortland’s termination clause includes a standard 60-day notice to vacate if you decide to move on (although a 30-day notice is available if you meet certain requirements). In any case, don’t be afraid to read the fine print to ensure that you’re getting the best deal possible.
Prepare Your Paperwork
To make sure that you are ready to move forward when you find the apartment of your dreams, have these items on hand for a seamless process:
- A driver's license or passport
- Proof of income at the time of your application (the general rule is that you need to make three times the cost of rent before taxes)
- If you are changing jobs, a letter from your new company
- Confirmation that the utilities will be turned on before you move in (just remember that some utility companies require down payments)