So, you think you've found the perfect apartment.
Did you remember to ask about the parking situation? If not, stop! Don't sign that lease until you have at least considered how you and your guests can park hassle-free. Because no matter how fabulous the view or the living space, if you rely on a car and parking isn't convenient, it'll likely put a damper on your living experience.
If you're planning to live downtown in a city with excellent public transportation and bike accommodations, including bike-sharing programs, you need to consider if you even need a car. Many people don't want the hassle and are happy to rent a vehicle on the occasions when they want to get out of the city.
But if you plan to have a car or are considering having a car, we've compiled a list of 10 questions you need to ask about parking before you sign the lease.
1. What kind of parking does the building offer?
Depending on an apartment's location, parking will vary. Perhaps there's an indoor parking garage under the building (most likely in a downtown high-rise or mid-rise building).
If you're looking at a garden-style apartment, parking may be right outside your front door. If it's outdoors, and you live in a cold climate, you need to think about inclement weather. Come winter, will you be shoveling four inches of snow off your vehicle before you can head off to work?
And speaking of snow, do you need to observe special parking rules to accommodate the snowplow (such as moving your car from certain parking areas)? Know what's expected of you.
2. Is parking on-site or is it all street parking?
For some of you, street parking will be a deal-breaker. Others will accept that as a necessary evil that goes with keeping a car in the city.
If there's street parking, find out if you need a permit from the city or local government to park on the street. Keep in mind that it may be difficult to find a spot when you return if there's only street parking.
3. How is parking managed?
Once you know that the building supports a parking plan, you need to inquire about the details. For example, are you able to self-park? In many city high-rises, you can't self park and may have to rely on a parking valet.
Is the parking valet reliable? Are there designated spaces for compact and full-size vehicles? If you have special needs and would like to park closer to the elevator or front door, can you make this request?
4. Reserved or unreserved — that is the question!
If there's plenty of parking, you may not need reserved space(s). But it can be nice to know that you have a dedicated spot to come home to, regardless of your schedule. Ask about this policy.
If there's on-site parking, find out if the lot is usually full at peak times or if there are usually empty spaces. If spaces are reserved, can you get parking near your unit?
5. How many spaces are you allowed?
If you have a roommate or if you and your significant other have vehicles, will there be designated parking spots for both of you?
6. How much will parking cost?
This is an important question because if your space(s) is not part of your monthly payment, you have to factor parking costs into your budget. It becomes a line item just like internet service, cable and utilities.
If your building doesn't have parking but has a formal arrangement with a parking garage nearby, ask about the cost. Perhaps your parking will be comped or discounted. Similarly, if parking is included in the rent, and you decide to forego having a car, do you receive a discount?
Be sure to inquire about cost differences for covered spots (also known as garage parking) vs. uncovered spaces (also known as surface parking).
7. Where do my guests park?
If parking in and around your building is challenging and there are no spaces reserved for guests, it may put a damper on social activities. Not all rentals have the luxury of extra space for visitors, so you need to decide just how important that is or come up with creative alternatives, such as carpooling.
If your building can accommodate guest parking, do you need to reserve in advance? And how easy will it be for your visitors to come and go?
8. Is the parking lot well lit at night?
If the parking lot is indoors, is the garage only accessible via fob access or in a controlled manner. While there's never a guarantee of safety, and much of it is based on the specific neighborhood, consider visiting the parking lot yourself to make your own determination.
9. How is designated parking enforced and disputes resolved?
It happens. Sometimes it's a neighbor who decides to flout the rules and do as he or she wants. Most times, however, it's a misunderstanding. In either case, situations do arise, and you need to know there is a system in place.
Remember, you also have to be a good neighbor and respect apartment parking etiquette.
10. Can you sublet your parking space?
This question is more important than you might think as it could offer a source for a little extra income each month. If your lease includes a parking space, and you don't have a car, but your neighbor has two vehicles and only one designated spot, you may be able to make a deal. But check your lease first to determine that you have the legal right to sublet.
Avoid parking problems
Go ahead and look for that perfect apartment with the view, amenities and conveniences you desire. But don't overlook the parking accommodations or you could be driving into a headache that never goes away.