How to Tell If an Apartment Listing Is Too Good to Be True Or a Hidden Gem

Written by Riley Swanson Posted On Monday, 11 May 2020 05:00

Let’s be honest - right now isn’t exactly an ideal time to be apartment hunting. 

The current pandemic and social distancing protocols make it difficult (if not impossible) to visit apartments in-person. Most people are doing virtual walkthroughs, talking to realtors/sellers on video calls, and relying predominantly on online information to make buying decisions. 

So, with these factors in mind, how can you really tell if an apartment is all it’s cracked up to be? 

How do you know when you’ve stumbled across a hidden gem - or when the shades are being pulled over your eyes due to strange social circumstances? 

We’ve got a few tips that will help you unearth the truth about the apartment you’re investigating. These tidbits of advice will reveal whether the apartment is truly great or just seems great. 

Be Diligent about Checking the Neighborhood’s Crime Rate

One of the first things you should find out is what the local crime rates are. If your apartment seems to be listed at a too-good-to-be-true price, it could be because the landlord severely cut the price due to its poor location. 

Pay close attention to crimes that could specifically affect you - including car thefts, break-ins, assaults, etc. You can find all of this information online, and what you discover might reveal just why the apartment is priced too low for its appearance. 

According to Travis Goodreau, a former burglary detective who now advises for as a Safety and Security Advisor, “Apartments tend to be at high risk of break-ins because they often don’t have a lot of security, especially in comparison to well-protected homes.”

Don’t just assume that the apartment is in an okay area just because you looked at it on Google Maps. Diligently research crime rates and break-in reports until you feel confident that it’s truly safe. 

Pay Close Attention to Structural Details 

Sometimes, apartments are bought for low prices despite a fancy appearance because the construction is poor. Maybe the construction team cut corners with shoddy workmanship, thin walls, cheap cabinetry, and other structural problems. 

Perhaps this isn’t a big deal to you because you only plan to rent the apartment for a short while. However, if you hope to buy this place and make it your home for a year or more, you might want to pay attention to the structural details listed about the building or complex. 

Research the HOA and Its Policies 

A great apartment can quickly be ruined by an annoying, hard-to-work-with homeowners association

Before you commit to any apartment, read up on the complex’s policies and see what people have to say about it. Is it likable? Annoying? Too strict or too loose? 

An HOA with overly restrictive rules or super-high fees can easily make an affordable apartment less than perfect. Don’t just consider how much you’ll pay for the apartment upfront. Question all of the fees in relation to the HOA and figure out what all of your requirements are. 

If you repeatedly hear complaints about the HOA, or if you feel like the fees are too high, you might be better off looking for a different apartment listing. 

Check Out the Development in the Area

What does the surrounding area look like? 

Does it have lots of plans for the future, or is it pretty stagnant?

If you think the location is up-and-coming, now might be a great opportunity to lock in a low price before things get more expensive. However, there are downsides that come with expansion: more traffic, lots of construction, busy stores. 

It’s up to you to determine if it’s worth it to lock in a great rate when the area is a work-in-progress. Resources like CrimeReports, FamilyWatchdog, and AreaVibes make this process super easy. 

Keep in mind that statistics have shown that rent growth has flattened amid the effects of COVID-19. This is a time in which many selling prices levels are leveling off due to uncertainty, so you have more of a chance of snagging a great apartment that would usually be rapidly appreciating in value. 

Ask Around 

One of the best ways to determine if an apartment listing is too good to be true is to speak to people who live next door or have lived there in the past. Question them about their experience in the area, including the pros and the cons. 

Chances are, a fellow apartment owner won’t sugarcoat things. They’ll give you the facts straight - the good, the bad, and the ugly. Use this information to make a smart buying decision. 

In Closing 

No one wants to wind up purchasing a bad egg of an apartment, especially during a pandemic and economic recession when switching homes can be a real challenge. 

Take your time as you examine apartment listings. Do quality research to see if they’re as good as they seem, and when you find a diamond in the rough, make sure you feel 100 percent confident in your decision. 

rileyswansonRiley is a lifestyle blogger, passionate about food, fashion, home improvement, and traveling. She is also an avid traveler and shares her traveling experiences in her blog Riley+Christian Travel. You can find her on LinkedIn.

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