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Ask Will: How Do I Find an Apartment For Rent?

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A  column is written by Will Wiard, Arlington-based real estate broker, voted one of Washington’s Best Realtors of 2015 by Washingtonian. Please submit your questions via email.

Q: I’m in the market for an apartment in the Arlington area and have never rented before. I’ve talked with leasing associates at a few apartment buildings. Almost every building has different terms from move-in fees to standardized rent increases. What’s the easiest way to find the perfect place for the right price (and without all these extra fees)?

A: When looking for an apartment you will want to look closely at a few variables that can make it easier for you to make a decision.

Decide on a Lease Term

How long you plan on staying in the apartment? Most property managers will ask you to sign a lease for a minimum of one year, but other options are available. If you are looking to stay for 6 months or less, plan to pay more. If you’re willing to agree to a two-year lease, it’s possible to negotiate a lower rent.

Understand the Leasing Agreement

Do not overlook this step! Leasing representatives often do not represent the best interest of a renter, as they are working for the rental company. Their goal is to fill the empty units. When reviewing the lease be on the lookout for:

  • Early termination fees
  • Move-out fees
  • Rent increase (usually a percentage/year)
  • Other fees you are (or could be) responsible for
  • Method for return of your security deposit
  • Sublease terms (if available)

Negotiate & Ask About Incentives 

Don’t let the process intimidate you. Many of the contract terms are negotiable, specifically those outlined above. Often there are additional incentives available, but you have to ask. For example, free parking for a few months, $200 off the first month’s rent, or other options. Just ask!

I’m hoping some readers can share any additional advice they have in comments.

Thank you for this week’s question. Please keep them coming to [email protected]. This is also a great place to reach me for anyone looking to buy or sell a home in the Arlington area.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

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