People are finding more and more creative uses for tablet computers these days. Whether you’re searching for a new gadget from your favorite online retailer using its iPad app or checking the news for the latest on that story you’ve been following, the iPad is arguably one of the most versatile portable computing solutions on the market today.
So what do you do when it comes time to start looking for a new apartment? Sure, owning a home is a great solution if you have the down payment and credit score to make it happen, but many of us are still living in a world of renting where the landlord assumes some of the more costly and bothersome maintenance issues that might spring up.
Here are some tips to help you make the most of your iPad during your apartment search.
Locating Apartments Available for Rent
Finding available apartments and houses for rent can be a real hassle, especially if you’re driving around town in an attempt to get as many viewings in as possible in a short amount of time. Sure, you can check sites at home such as Craigslist or your local classifieds, but this means spending time off the road figuring out where and when to get to specific locations in order to maximize travel efficiency. This is especially difficult because these online sites tend to be a little scattered and difficult to work with.
Enter these apps for the iPad. Each one accesses a robust database of apartments that are visually accessible through a map interface so you know exactly where the nearest available property is located. While you’re on the road, it’s easy to stop off at a coffee shop and add nearby locations to your mapping application so you can be ready for the next leg of the trip.
PadMapper: PadMapper is a great application if you want the most information possible at a glance. A quick look at the map will reveal listings all around you along with price, photos, sublet status, and more. You can even refine your search to specific prices, number of bathrooms, and other important variables.
Mapskrieg: If you still love Craigslist, but need some extra functionality, you may want to try Mapskrieg. This app summarizes and sorts active listings for you in a way that makes it easy to quickly locate, save, and view properties quickly and efficiently. This is especially great for house rentals which may not be listed anywhere but Craigslist.
Apartments For Rent: AFR is the official app of ForRent.com, which is a great place to find listings all over the US. The app itself is very well made and offers full screen virtual tours of some of the listings, giving you a sense of what you might discover when you actually visit the property first-hand. This could potentially save you the trip if it turns out the available apartments just aren’t a good fit for you.
Apartments: Apartment Guide is one of the leading apartment locator sites out there. This app has pretty much everything and anything you might expect including floor plans, advanced sorting, and even a built-in way to make appointments with various properties so you know someone will be available to show you around once you arrive.
Determining if the Apartment is in a Good Area
Sure, the property might look nice and the price is well within your range, but are you signing yourself up for a year or more of seclusion, far from any of your favorite spots? It might not seem like a big deal to be a couple miles away from the nearest coffee shop or your favorite hangout, but traffic can be a nightmare in some areas, turning that two-mile drive into an epic trek through fifteen feet of snow, uphill both ways.
Another thing to take into account is whether or not your neighborhood is particularly safe. Sure, the lawns might be trimmed and everything may look great, but would you want to move in to a place knowing that the house right next door is a halfway house of repeat offenders?
Here are some apps that can help you determine whether or not the location is right for you.
Walk Score: Just how close to your favorite hangouts is this new apartment or rental home you’re considering? Are you within walking distance of the bus? Would you like to live a more active lifestyle? Walk Score has a great way to find out exactly how good a certain location is for your particular lifestyle.
Offender Locator: Offender Locator is a useful app if you have kids. Knowledge is the most important tool to prevent potential issues. Offender Locator gives you a report of any registered sex offenders who may be living right next door to the rental property you’re looking at. After all, nothing is more important than your family’s safety and well-being. Knowledge is a great way to make sure that you know what situation you may be getting yourself into before signing the lease.
Red Flags to Avoid
You may not need an iPad to follow these tips, but they can help you avoid a potentially regretful living situation down the road.
Take a moment during your tour to look at the grass. Is there an abundance of dog droppings, dead patches, and man-made paths through it? This could be a sign of poor maintenance and possibly even a general lack of caring on the part of the community. It’s a good sign that you may not be a good fit with your neighbors.
Take note of where the available apartment is in relation to the dumpster. Walking halfway across the complex to throw away your garbage is a pain, and one that will only increase any other aggravations with the property.
Look at the paint around the buildings. If there is any indication that you’re moving into a dump, it can be found on just how well-maintained the exteriors are. The office is always the best-kept area of the property, so ask (or look for yourself) to see the back-most building. This is where things tend to get overlooked.
Questions to Ask
It’s important to ask the right questions when considering signing a lease at a particular property. Sometimes, the answers you get are a great indicator as to just how close of an eye management keeps on the property as a whole, and how much each manager cares about what goes on.
Here are some questions you might want to ask:
Have there ever been issues with the water main and/or supply leading to the complex? I mention this because I moved into one place that had a main break every three to six months, resulting in water being shut off throughout the complex multiple times.
What do your tenants complain about most, and what’s being done to correct the issue? This is a hard-hitting question, and one that can throw off a manager’s sales pitch. Still, an honest answer will admit to a problem while giving a reasonable expectation of resolution. I like to ask this one because a good manager will demonstrate honesty. Lie to me during the initial pitch, and I’m not signing a lease.
Ask about pet policies in detail. Just how pet-friendly is the complex? What’s the penalty for leaving droppings on the grass? Are there plans in the works for a dedicated pet area or private dog park? In a pet-friendly city, almost every complex will boast about an upcoming dog park project in the works, but they rarely actually happen.
Are there any security cameras on the property, and where are they? Is there an on-site security service doing regular patrols throughout the night? Having had my car window smashed before, this is an amenity that is rarely advertised but extremely useful.
What is the average electric bill for a tenant? This is very important, and most properties should have this information. Many properties have agreements with utility providers that offer discounts to tenants. Many of them also have access to general information about accounts in order to determine if a tenant has been cut for non-payment — a violation of the lease. Paying $200/month for electricity in a 500 sq/ft. apartment is too much, but some older units with poor AC maintenance can run that high.
Helpful Tips After the Lease is Signed
Once the lease is signed, there are plenty of great things you can do to make sure that your life at the apartment is a little easier to manage. Taking inventory, noting pre-existing issues, and even managing your bills are important components of success that can be accomplished on an iPad.
Itemizer: Itemizer isn’t free, but at $0.99, it’s one of the best personal inventory management databases for the iPad. It allows you to take a full inventory of everything you own so rental insurance will have something solid to go by should the unfortunate happen.
Camera App: This one is simple, but you should use the camera app to take photos of pre-existing conditions such as dings on the doorways, nail holes in the walls, and problems with the carpet. Take photos and email them to the management along with text listing out these issues. This will serve as a record that you’ve noted the conditions so they can’t come back later and say you caused X, Y, and Z damages.
Mint.com: Mint is a great way to keep track of your rent, water, electric, and other bills in a comprehensive and manageable budget.
Pageonce: Pageonce is a lot like Mint, but with some social networking features that allow you to manage pretty much everything from your personal finances to Flickr updates all in one place. Think of it as a personal digital assistant that doesn’t talk back like Siri.