How to Gain Apartment Hunting Superpowers and Land the Ultimate Fortress
BY JON PRUSIK // ART DIRECTION BY ANDY HUFF
So you're a mild-mannered office worker by day, masked vigilante by night (maybe you have laser vision, maybe you have driving superpowers; we won't ask). Everything is going great (you haven't even made the inevitable poor decision of revealing your secret identity to that cutie in your school/office/research lab yet), except for one problem: You need a place to live!
Apartment hunting can eat up a lot of your “free” time, especially if you don’t know what to expect. And just like planning the perfect ambush to take down a local crime syndicate, working with a landlord and getting a lease signed requires a lot of attention. But even crusaders of the night need a place to rest and let their healing factor power them back up. So if you want to spend your time chasing down criminals instead of Cragislist postings, you may want to consider the following:
Leave no lead unfollowed when searching for your next home base.
Assembling your toolkit: How to start your apartment search.
Start by listing out what you know you need (price range, commute distance, titanium walls, etc.) and what you want (dishwasher, pool, secret underground jail for housing criminals, etc.). The needs will disqualify a lot of locations and the wants will allow you to compromise—and if this is your first or second apartment, you're certainly going to compromise. (Don't worry; your current story arc hasn't progressed to the point where you need to house multiple super-suits…yet.) Know how much your commuting time is worth to you, as well; locations with more nearby commuting options will likely cost more.
If the housing market is competitive in your area, you might have a hard time finding a place before someone else snags it. But before you give into despair (the path of the weak and unfocused), don't forget to check your local newspaper, an oft-overlooked source of information by today's youth (with their independent folk music and wild hair styles), but not by older landlords.
Don't be afraid to take on a sidekick if you need to. Between fighting crime in the concrete battlefield of the city and trying not to stand out too much at your day job, you may not have a ton of free time. Realtors can help you track down rentals that might not make it into normal information streams (regardless of how many thugs you interrogate). Also bear in mind that utilizing multiple realtors will increase your chances of finding a place quickly. Just make sure you know what their fee structure looks like up front. (You shouldn't have to pay anything until you sign a lease.)
Read up on neighborhoods, amenities, and fatal flaws before you take action.
Gathering the evidence: Do your research.
They don't call you the World's "Greatest-ish" Detective for nothing. Once you have a place in your sights, you need to start hitting the pavement/internet/criminal element to find out what you're not being told. That means checking for noisy overhead flight paths and local train yards, nearby transit options (having some backup options are good for when your arch-nemesis gets around to blowing up your super-car), and even the neighborhood newsletter (look, Bingo Night at the community center on Thursdays!). Don't be afraid to ask the local citizenry (both online and IRL) what they think about living there (especially those who live in or adjacent to your building).
Know your local housing laws. Your lease might say that parking isn't included, but if the town laws mandate parking spaces for apartments of your size, be sure to bring it up. You’ll also learn what things are out of your landlord’s control; even if they agree that the Power Cosmic is the most efficient source of energy in the universe, zoning regulations may prevent you from installing a super-reactor in your basement.
Don't just hunt for a good apartment, hunt for a good landlord. A landlord who will get to know you and fix things regularly will also be more flexible if you have a bad month or need a special consideration on occasion. (Trapdoors to secret crawlspaces in your floor don't build themselves.)
Once things get really serious, try visiting at odd hours and commuting to/from the location during rush hour so you aren't surprised later. And check up on how the building handles different seasons, so you don’t find out the hard way that roof access is unavailable in the winter.
You might have to drop some accessories to look the part when meeting landlords.
Wearing a different kind of suit: Closing the deal.
For every Batman, there is a Bruce Wayne. Once your detective-ing is complete, you need to put on your suit and business face (the mask you wear for everyone else). When you meet the landlord or building manager, you want to look like a reliable, well-financed individual, and not a crazed crime-fighter fueled by dark vengeance, so dress the part.
Tony Stark doesn't sign contracts without reading them, and neither should you; read your entire lease carefully before putting ink to paper, particularly if the lease is a couple pages long or a template agreement. Ask for revisions to exclude sections you don't agree to (if your landlord says you can install that bike-rack-that-is-secretly-a-missile-launcher, but your lease says no, get it fixed.) Otherwise, you can end up on the hook for costs you never talked about.
It's okay to haggle. $50 off the monthly asking price adds up quickly. But to make this work, you have to gauge how much the landlord wants you as a tenant by objectively evaluating yourself. Consider the landlord’s unspoken questions (fair or not) like: how is your credit, how many visible battle scars do you have, what is your job security like, why do you look so much like the Superman but with glasses, how old are you, etc. Bear in mind, landlords typically like long-term tenants. If you know you're going to be around, you might offer to sign a multi-year lease in exchange for a rent reduction.
Leaky faucet? Squeaky door? A true hero comes to their own rescue.
Flying under the radar: Keeping the peace.
Having a good landlord isn't just about who they are—you need to be the hero your apartment both deserves and needs. Don't call your landlord for small, trivial things you know you can fix easily. If a light bulb goes out, replace it yourself. If it becomes expensive, save the receipts and ask the landlord to take the cost off your next rent check.
Speaking of rent checks, look into setting up auto-pay or “bill pay” with your bank to generate and mail a check directly to your landlord every month. This makes paying rent on time easy, and your landlord will like getting a professional, bank-generated check. (They won't even notice that you've spent the last six weeks in Antarctica retraining your body to fight a villain more powerful than anything you've faced before.) Let your landlord know you plan to do this, however, since the check won't always arrive in the mail on the 1st of the month if that day is a holiday or Sunday.
It doesn't always work out, but try to develop a rapport with your neighbors both in and around your building. It helps minimize issues that arise later and makes it easier for everyone to be more considerate. If you're really lucky, one of them might be trained in combat medicine and be able to keep a secret...
If you do develop the friendly ability to recognize your neighbor's faces, consider putting the phone number of a disposable/VoIP phone on your door (or exchange real numbers directly if they’re allies), so you can get in touch for emergencies or other building issues (like shifty costumes lurking about).
Ultimately, it’s worth the time to get the question of your living quarters figured out properly, so it doesn’t become a constant issue. After all, with housing resolved, you can return to the more pressing matter of figuring out where all those ninjas came from and why they keep trying to steal the ancient sword that was passed down to you by your old master…