Alright, this is the best part: understanding all the rental application fees on top of your base rent payment. It’s crucial before signing a lease with an apartment to understand what are all the costs associated with living there as it might ruin your budget. Most importantly, every apartment does things individually, and every city/area of living prices things differently too (for example, electricity rates may be more expensive in a downtown area vs. a suburban area).
The best advice I can give is to prep yourself before visiting each leasing office. During this prep, create a spreadsheet so you can quickly enter the rates for each category. This way when you are making your decision, you have a finance comparison sheet ready to go. Also, the flow of the conversation is different every time you visit. And after seeing a few places, you get exhausted, and you need something to reference when you are asking your questions.
Each apartment will have a “special promotion” to lure new residents to their apartment complexes. Special promotions offers can range from having your administration fees or pet fees waived, application deposits waived, one week rent-free, to even getting one month rent-free. Here’s a glance of all the categories to consider:
Before Moving In Admin Fees
Here are the admin fees for my apartment. Note that your apartment may be different for what is refundable.
- Special Promotion (pay first and then they will credit it back to you once the application is approved)
- Administration Fee per apartment (non-refundable)
- Application Fee per person/guarantor (non-refundable)
- Gate Fob Fee (non-refundable)
- Pet Fee per animal (non-refundable)
- Security Deposit (refundable)
- Pet Deposit (refundable)
Pro tip: Keep a ledger (online or offline) of all your monthly payments. Your utilities will fluctuate every month, depending on the season. When you are looking for your next apartment in the future, it will give you a more accurate understanding of how much things cost in that city.
- Pet Policy per animal
- Trash Fee
- Pest Control Fee
- Water/waste-water Fee
- Amenity Fee (gym/pool)
Pro tip: Pet fees may seem minor in comparison to when looking at all the other stuff you have to pay. But it adds up. A pet policy could look like for example $15 per pet per month. The industry standard is to have two pets max per apartment home. If you try sneaking in another pet, it will cost you from the day you have brought in the third pet. Read your contract carefully – or just have a max of two pets!
Extra Options Available
- Reserved parking spot
- Reserved covered parking
- Detached garages
- Garage attached to the building
- Storage Unit
Pro tip: Ask where your visitors should be parking and if there are multiple areas where your visitor can park. It can be quite a hassle if the apartment complex itself has minimum space for residents, let alone spaces for your guests. Even having a simple dinner party of 4 people can be tough. Make sure to ask, so your guests also don’t have to pay a fee to see you.
External Payments (not to leasing offices)
- External Utilities
- Renter’s Insurance
- Cable (but don’t do this – just get Netflix, Hulu, Prime, etc)
Pro tip: Get fiber internet if you can… you’ll never able to go back to 100 Mbps!
I hope this checklist is helpful for you! If you think I should provide a free spreadsheet template, let me know in the comments below!