2020 has seen a shift of demands and priorities when it comes to renting an apartment. Gone are the days of washer/dryers in units, wine tasting events, or community kitchens being at the top of everyone’s wish list. 

Prospective residents want the latest and greatest in technology, amenities, convenience, and peace of mind without having to buy a home or break the bank by opting for a pricey, luxury community. Smart technology is now deeply ingrained in our everyday lives, so why shouldn’t it be built into our homes as well? Why shouldn’t we all have access to smart apartments?

You’ve already read countless articles advising you of which questions to ask during your tour or where to look for hidden surprises, so you’re all set there. But what about technology-related considerations? 

Asking the right questions before you sign a lease is the best way to ensure your new home will live up to your expectations, and serve you well during this shift into the “new normal”.  We’ve gathered together a list of important questions to ask your leasing agent before, during and after your tour.

Some questions to ask when touring an apartment

Renting an apartment is an investment of sorts, so it only makes sense that renters will want to make sure they’re asking the right questions to gain insight into their home for the next 12 months or so.

Does the apartment offer a seamless living experience?

What smart tech devices are installed and available for immediate use? What kind of energy savings can they offer? 

Even if they don’t have smart thermostats or lights that you can control with your phone, it’s still helpful to know if your everyday appliances are optimized to use as little energy as necessary. Not only is this helpful for the environment, it’s helpful for your pocketbook come summer or winter. 

How about access control?  

Does the community provide a convenient, “lock and leave” lifestyle for busy residents?  What about visitors?  How easy is it to invite a friend, family member, dog walker, our housekeeper to gain access to the community? To your unit? Are there smart lock solutions?

If you’re moving into an older property, look into what they are offering moving forward and how they’re planning to deal with the inevitable issues that come with older buildings. Connectivity is more important than ever. 

Can you personalize your home with technology? 

Nothing makes an apartment feel like home than being able to make it your own through custom automations or personalized settings.  If the community is tech-forward, find out what the options are for you to customize your home digitally.

Does the building offer connectivity? 

These days, internet connectivity is more important to residents than ever. No longer are apartments simply where folks go after a day at the office to settle in for the evening and rest up for the day ahead, they’re now people’s workplaces, children’s home schools, and more.

So, how is the property approaching connectivity?  Is the unit pre-wired for resident opt-in service?  Is the unit “internet ready” at the flip of a switch? Or, even better, is connectivity a standard amenity – either included in rent or packaged in the form of a technology fee?

Which utilities are included?

Which utilities (if any) are included in your monthly rent, or in initial move in costs? This is especially important to ask if you’re looking into communities with premium amenities like smart devices, trash valet service and package management systems. 

If there are fees, ask what all is included under this umbrella and what their associated benefits might be. It’s also important to understand if there’s a one time fee or a recurring one (monthly or annual). 

In general, most complexes will include base amenities for free and only charge extra for the premium ones.  To be an informed consumer, however, it never hurts to ask. It also never hurts to ask whether or not you’ll need to purchase renters insurance.

Make sure you know what you’re going to be responsible for and what the owner or management company covers. If you’ll be on the hook for specific utility charges, find out how you’re going to pay for those. 

On a similar note, are there any pet fees if the apartment is pet friendly? While obviously not a utility, you want to know if you’ll be responsible for an extra pet deposit, security deposit, or monthly pet rent when it comes to your furry friends.

What changes can I make?

When you move into a new place, you want to make it feel more like home and reflect your personal style, so find out what’s allowed and what’s not. 

Can you paint the walls? Replace the window treatments?  Remove unwanted installations or fixtures?  Opt in or out of specific services, amenities, or other premiums?

Typically your apartment will need to be left in the same condition it was in when you moved in, and you won’t be able to do any major renovations. That doesn’t mean you can’t add your personal touch. 

Also, ask about what can be done outside of your apartment. Can you have a grill on your patio? Or plants next to your front door?

What “peace of mind” features exist?

How can you protect your belongings? Which types of detectors, alert systems, alarms, or security devices are provided?

Although it’s still rather new to the space, several apartment communities are adopting  a variety of sensor solutions designed to provide residents and staff with an added layer of peace of mind via automated alerts and notifications. 

Once a leak, humidity problem, or other issues begins, these systems allow action to be taken before an issue detected becomes a more costly problem.

Some properties also offer security systems, video monitoring platforms, intrusion alarms, and a host of other in-unit and/or community-level security solutions.  If security is at the top of your list for peace of mind, be sure to ask about what’s in place. 

If monitoring systems are a part of the community’s offerings, also be sure to ask what measures are taken to protect your privacy – and that of others in the community.  With sensitive information like this, it’s critical to know how it’s stored and utilized.

What does the resident portal look like?

Resident portals are a great way to communicate with property staff and vice versa. 

Most apartment communities have a resident portal of some sort through which you can pay your rent, communicate with property staff, and submit maintenance requests. 

You need to know when, where, and how your rent payment will be made. You’ll want to find out if there’s an online payment system where you can pay your rent, or if there’s a physical address where you’ll need to drop off your check.

Questions about the complex and amenities

What are the access hours?

It’s important to know when things are opened and closed. Find out when the leasing office is open, when the amenities are open, and if there are quiet hours. 

Find out when visitors are allowed and the process—do they need a parking pass? Or a code to get in the building?

You should also know who to contact if there’s a problem after hours. What happens if you get locked out after hours?

What are the amenities like?

Your unit’s features and quality are important, but the amenities can make living there much more enjoyable. Find out what the amenities are, when they’re open, if and how you can reserve them for personal use, and how well they’re maintained. 

It’s good to know if you can bring visitors to them and if you can reserve them for a private event. Are there busier times or days? Is there WiFi or a space you can go to work?

Health and safety systems

Like your health, your safety needs to be a priority. Is there security on site 24/7 or during specific hours? If there are security cameras, how often are they checked or monitored?
Does your front door have a traditional deadbolt or has it been updated with a smart lock. If it’s a traditional deadbolt: have the locks been changed since the last tenants left? 

If it’s a smart lock, there’s a whole other set of questions to ask: starting with is the code been changed since the last resident left. 

Other questions include, who has access to your code? What happens if you forget your code, are you locked out of your house or can management let you in somehow and is there a physical key that you can use if you’re not comfortable with using a code?

Is the property secure?

How does the company handle entry to the building? Is there a call box, keys, a fob system? 

How do they ensure the tenant’s health? 

Your health is a top priority, and where you live can have a big impact on it. You should get an idea of the cleanliness during the tour, but make sure to ask how often the building is checked for mold. 

How often are common areas wiped down and sterilized? High traffic areas with lots of touch points should be disinfected often to avoid the spread of illnesses. Find out what the community is doing to combat COVID and the upcoming flu season. 

You shouldn’t feel unsafe in your home, and it’s the management staff’s responsibility to answer your questions, address your concerns and provide a safe living space.

Things to check for if you’re doing a self-guided or virtual tour

Internet connectivity and providers

Some complexes have a deal with internet providers and give you a discount or free WiFi in their common areas. Others work directly with telecommunications to offer their residents internet packages that are rolled into the cost of rent or added on as a premium. 

Either way, see what your options are and ask to test it out if possible. If you currently have an internet provider that you’re happy with check with them  to ensure they provide services at your new address. 

Some apartment complexes are dead zones for cell reception. And you don’t want to find out about this after you move in. 

Be sure to bring your phone and check cell reception for things like browsing the internet, and video calls. If you can’t do that in person, you should ask if there are any known carriers that don’t work well for the area.

With the world shifting to a more work from home friendly environment one of the most important things to be on the lookout for is internet connectivity.

Final thoughts

You might feel a bit overwhelmed with all of these questions. We suggest bringing a checklist so you don’t forget to ask about something. 

Most experienced apartment managers will answer most of your questions before you need to ask. This list will help ensure that all of your expectations are met, and there won’t be unpleasant surprises after you’ve signed a lease agreement and move in.