Talking to neighbors before moving into a new apartment is akin to calling references when hiring a candidate for a job. They provide a view of your prospective selection that you can’t gain from a one-time visit. When deciding what questions to ask those who already live in the neighborhood or building, explore what aspects of apartment living affect you the most. Read below for questions whose answers should bring you important insight on the place you are considering:
1. How is the landlord?
A bad landlord can make a great apartment a terrible place to live, so this is critical information. Mainly you’ll want to find out how responsive the landlord is to maintenance requests. Things like overflowing toilets, burst pipes or broken windows are elements that can make you miserable even in the most beautiful apartment if your landlord refuses to return your calls for weeks at a time. If heat is included in your rent price and controlled by the landlord, ask the neighbors how generous or stingy he is with turning it on. This is information you cannot gather by simply looking at the apartment or even talking to a realtor, so the neighbors’ perspective is essential.
2. What is the noise tolerance?
How willing neighbors are to put up with noise will paint a vivid picture of what the lifestyle in the apartment is like. If you’re a musician or planning on throwing a lot of parties, ask them how much noise they can handle and at what hours. If you’re planning on studying or doing work regularly in the apartment and they seem all aboard for ragers and frequent drum practices, this may not be the place for you.
3. How is transportation in the neighborhood?
This question is especially important if you are unfamiliar with the neighborhood you’re exploring. Ask them about parking, public transportation and accommodations for bikers. Find out whether you have a shot at actually getting a parking spot on the street or if the resident parking fills up rapidly and would leave you walking a mile to your car. Ask neighbors about the frequency and reliability of the bus and rail lines that service the area. An apartment could boast of being centrally located to myriad routes, but perhaps most of them only run once per hour. This is insider information the neighbors are best poised to divulge. If you’re planning on biking to work, find out how safe the streets are for two-wheelers and if cars in the area are willing to share the road.
4. Are you happy here?
The apartment could have several hidden gems that might make you willing to overlook certain blunders. Perhaps it gets great sunlight or is just around the corner from a small, relatively unknown park. The neighbors’ answer to this question should give you a sense of what your morale would be like if you lived there, and could help you choose the apartment in spite of higher rents, drafty windows or small closets. This is definitely the x-factor question, one that can’t quite be quantified but can make all the difference when deciding how happy you will be in a potential apartment.