When markets are tight, apartment-hunters often feel pressure to quickly sign a lease, to sign now before a unit is gone and the search must begin again.

One result is that renter’s regret may set in within a matter of days, concerns which go far beyond that small carpet stain or the dishwasher leak.

As experienced renters know, the best strategy to avoid renter’s remorse is time. Prospective renters need time to shop around, ask questions, look, test and contemplate before they sign a lease.

One reason why time is so critical is that lifestyle issues play a key role in determining a tenant’s satisfaction. Prospective tenants must consider how the apartment’s location and layout will affect them. The answers to those questions often require not only time, but research that comes from asking the landlord about his/her policies, then asking tenants about their own experiences — and the answers you get may be very different.

The landlord may tout that the apartment community reserves a spot for each tenant. But it’s possible that tenants routinely invite guests who take those parking spaces for themselves. Are any spaces allocated for guests? And what are the penalties for parking in another tenant’s space?

If penalties aren’t enforced and tenants are forced to park in fire lanes, towing will most likely follow — and the tenant will be held financially responsible for reclaiming his/her vehicle.

Laundry facilities
Prospective tenants must ask whether each apartment unit is equipped with connections for a washer and dryer; or if not, if on-site laundry facilities are available. Accessible laundry facilities can have a significant impact on a tenant’s quality of life.

In an effort to make themselves marketable to young professionals seeking to reduce their daily commuting time, many multi-family properties are located along major highways and other well-traveled thoroughfares.

The result is noise, sleep disruption, and pollution. The amount of traffic, too, can add significant time onto a tenant’s commute, even if the apartment is located within relatively close distance to his/her workplace. And, speaking of traffic, if a car breaks down or public transport is preferred, how close is the property to reliable mass transit?

A prospective tenant should ask current tenants about noise — whether it comes from other neighbors, a neighbor’s dog, the resident swimming pool, nearby construction or an airport in close proximity.

Tenants should obtain in writing the landlord’s terms for giving notice, being late with the rent, or breaking the lease.

Hot water
You need it and you want it, so ask current tenants if hot water is really hot and always available.

You want to view the apartment during the day, and you want to test all appliances before signing a lease. You say this is time consuming and picky? Better to check before signing the lease than later.

In addition, ask other tenants what happens in the event an appliance breaks down. Was maintenance fast? Effective? Did workers clean up when they were finished? What if something breaks on a week-end?

A lack of closet space can force you to rent storage space — a real cash cost in addition to rent.

Hey that third-floor unit has a great view — but what about dragging groceries upstairs? Or, the basement unit is sure convenient — but what happens when it rains?

There are lots of questions, so before choosing that next rental look around, let owners compete for your business, talk to current tenants, and most of all — take your time.