One of the important things to know about a potential rental apartment is what are you getting for your money and is it worth it? The answer to this question will be different for everyone and ultimately, only you can make that decision, but what sort of things can you expect?
All apartments will, of course, have heating, electricity, water and sometimes gas. Depending on your rental agreement, some of these, typically heat and water are usually included in the rent, but not always, so you need to check. Electricity and gas are often the responsibility of the tenant, so if this is the case ask how much a typical bill will be, so you don’t get any nasty surprises.
There are lots of other amenities that can come with an apartment, you just have to decide which ones are important to you and how much you are prepared to pay for them. Some of the available amenities will be within the apartment itself, whilst others will be related to the building as a whole.
Amenities within the apartment
Air Conditioning: More and more apartments are being built with air conditioning these days, but older buildings are unlikely to have it. If air conditioning is important to you, you need to check if it is available and if it is included in the rent. If it’s not included in the rent you need to allow for this in your electricity bill. You should also check that you can control the temperature from inside your apartment and if the cooling/heating is turned on or off seasonally within the building.
Internet: In a big city like Calgary, it would be unusual to find an apartment that does not have internet connectivity. However, that being said, there are different types of service available in different parts of the city. If having super-fast fibre optics is important to you, check that it is available, who the providers are and the cost. Don’t rely on the landlord for this information, research it yourself.
Laundry: Older properties tend to have shared laundry facilities, whilst newer building quite often, but not always, have in-suite appliances. If the facilities are shared, check the quality of the appliances, how many are there, are they all working, is it card or cash payment and how much per load. It is also worth checking how big the machines are and if they and the laundry room are clean.
In-suite laundry is more straight forward, but you still need to check for quality, cleanliness and whether you are getting both a washer and dryer or a combination unit. If you have in-suite laundry, you will save on the cost of shared laundry, but you will have slightly more electricity usage, so allow for this in your bill.
Appliances: They type and quality of appliances varies greatly, not just from building to building, but from apartments within a building. You will find white, black and stainless-steel appliances. Not all apartments have dishwashers, so you need to check if this is something important to you. Microwaves are another appliance that is not always included but more easily solved by buying a countertop version.
There is a perception that stainless steel appliances are better, but although they may look aesthetically more pleasing to the eye, the quality can vary. Regardless of the colour of the appliances, check their quality, branding and cleanliness. Also, check they work and are not broken, cracked or damaged in any way.
Open fridge freezers, to check the interior space and that all shelves and compartments are available and working. If the appliance is turned on, make sure the cooling is working correctly. Turn ovens on to make sure they heat up, check the stovetop rings work okay. If there is a dishwasher, open it up to make sure it is in good condition and clean. It is much easier to have any issues fixed before you move in than after.
Balcony: The vast majority of apartments have a balcony, but the size, quality and usability of them will vary. If the apartment is on the ground floor, often you will have a small patio area instead. Understand how you will use a balcony, is there enough room for your needs? Some balconies are solid concrete and can restrict your views, whilst others may be metal railings, wood or in more modern units, glass.
It is worth checking out the things that the landlord does and does not allow on the balconies. It is common for landlords to not allow things such as bikes, car tire storage, laundry etc. on them.
If you want to have a BBQ on your balcony, check to make sure this is allowed and if there are restrictions on the type of BBQ used. It is often a requirement on high-rises that propane/gas BBQ’s are not allowed past a certain floor height, or that gas bottles be walked upstairs and not allowed in elevators. Just something to bear in mind when deciding on an apartment.
Storage: Apartment by nature tend to be small and don’t always offer great options for storage. If you know your possessions will not fit in the apartment, ask if additional storage space is available for rent. This might be a locker or cage type facility within the building, or the company might have an arrangement with a storage company nearby. Is the cost of additional storage included in the rent or not?
If you need bike storage, check that it is available and where. Check for security and how much you have to pay per month.
Square Footage: Price is not indicative of size when it comes to apartments. Modern apartments are often much more expensive than older properties but can be quite small. When viewing an apartment check the size of the spaces and make sure your furniture and belongings will fit in the spaces.
Is there space where you need it? If you never cook for yourself, do you need that modern gourmet kitchen? If you have a king-size bed, will it fit? Can you fit all your beauty products in the bathroom vanity? Is there somewhere to store coats and shoes as you enter?
Everyone will have different needs for their space, just make sure you chose an apartment that suits your lifestyle.
Amenities within the apartment building
Security: You will want to know what type of security is available in the building. Does the building have an on-site manager, security cameras or security staff? Is the lighting adequate when entering the building area or the parking area? Is there secure access into the building such as an intercom, or in more modern buildings video security to your TV?
You should be particularly conscious of security if your unit is on the ground floor or just above as obviously there can be easier access to it from outside. Check window and door locks are adequate for your needs. Do your research on the building and the area to check for crime statistics. You can find a link to Calgary crime statistics provided by the police here.
Gym/Yoga: Many apartment buildings, both old and new have a gym or fitness room. However, the quality and type of equipment will vary greatly. If you know you will make use of a gym, check that it has the type of equipment you need and is available during the times you are likely to use it. Having the right equipment available when you need it can save you gym membership elsewhere. Some buildings will also have a separate yoga or exercise room too.
Swimming pool: In Calgary, there are only a few apartment buildings that have swimming pools with some being indoor and others outside. Obviously, outdoor pools are going to be seasonal and weather restrictive, but indoor pools will be useable all year.
Check that the pool is clean and has its inspection certificates and check opening hours if applicable. If you plan to have guests over, check that the pool can be used by them too.
Concierge: Most likely you will only find concierge services in newer properties and even then, they are rare. A concierge will be able to suggest places to eat and visit and can help with booking arrangements. They can arrange hotels and flights, cabs, pick up deliveries, prescriptions or dry cleaning. Some offer personal shopping or will be able to offer services such as watering plants whilst you are away. If you are lucky enough to have the services of a concierge, find out exactly what they can and cannot offer.
Outdoor areas: In a big city like Calgary, outdoor space in an apartment building is a bonus. Does the building have any outdoor communal space such as a garden or patio area? Is there a BBQ area that tenants can use and if so, how many appliances are available and how clean are they kept?
If there is outdoor space are pets allowed there? This will be a bonus if you have a pet yourself, but equally could be a deterrent if you are not an animal lover.
Games Rooms: These vary greatly by building with some offering just a pool table and others having a whole range of different games and options. If there are particular activities that you want, make sure they are available to you.
Library: Many apartment buildings also have access to a library area. This can be for books, DVD’s, games etc. Some simply consist of a small area set aside for tenants to leave and borrow items, or it can be a whole room dedicated to sitting and reading and reminiscent of an actual library.
Party Room: These are becoming more popular in newer properties and offer tenants the option of renting a larger space for gatherings and parties. They will often have kitchen facilities, seating, TV’s, outdoor areas and other amenities. Check the notice required to book, the number of people allowed, the times available etc. if this is something you will use.
Sauna/Hot Tubs: Some buildings offer this type of facility. Check for cleanliness and hygiene and of course hours of availability.
Guest Suites: Some buildings have guest suites available for rent. These are apartments that are set aside for tenants to rent for their own guests to stay in. They are like a hotel room and have all the furnishings, bedding, kitchen equipment etc. included in the rental.
If you have friends or family visiting it might be easier to have them stay in their own apartment rather than in yours. Of course, there are costs involved with this, so check the rates and also the notice required to book and the duration you can book. Also, take a look for yourself to make sure the quality is as you want it.
Parking: If you have a vehicle, you will want to be sure that you have somewhere to park it. Make sure that the building has adequate parking available. If you have a larger vehicle, is the space adequate and is there enough headroom to accommodate your vehicle? It is no use having a large truck if the parking garage height is only 5’8″ as you will not be able to use it. Is the parking space allocated, or on a first-come-first-served basis?
If the parking area is outside, is the area cleared of snow in the winter? Is there a security gate restricting access? If it is underground, it is heated? Is the parking cost included in the rent or not?
Also, check the security of the parking area. Are there working cameras, is the lighting adequate? Do you feel safe there?
Media Lounge: Some buildings have media lounges for tenants and their guests to use. These generally have large screen TV’s, theatre seating etc. Some are open for general use, others need to be booked and sometimes paid for.
Make sure you ask about the availability of these rooms and what is and isn’t allowed in them, such as alcohol, food and the number of people.
Resident Events: Larger buildings or management companies with several buildings often arrange events for their tenants. These can be anything from flower arranging classes to days at local breweries. Some events will be free to tenants and others paid. Some allow you to bring guests, others not.
In a building that is owned by a larger management company with many buildings, you will usually be able to attend events held at any of their locations, but you will need to check with your building manager to be sure.
When looking at renting an apartment don’t be tempted by amenities you will never use, as you can be sure you will be paying for them. Yes, the pool might look great, but will you use it regularly. You might be wowed by the party room or the gym, but if you are not making regular use of them, are they worth having?
First and foremost, you must choose the apartment that suits the way you live. If you like to chill out in from of the TV in the evening, then the living area will be important to you. If you love cooking and entertaining, then kitchen space will be the deciding factor. Don’t be swayed by the “pretty things” in the building that you will never use in reality.
It is very easy to get carried away with all the luxuries on offer when first viewing and apartment and the building but try not to be. Put your practical head on and only rent what you need.