Do you ever dream of living in a place with a “welcome mode,” where the lights switch on and music plays when you walk in the door? It could happen. And while “welcome mode” might not be essential when you’re searching apartments for rent in Boston, MA, or New York, NY, there are certain tech features every renter should consider before signing a new lease. Jump the gun, and you might find yourself staring at a screen with no Wi-Fi connection — and no cell service to call and complain about it.
Extras like smart smoke detectors and thermostats, built-in docking stations, or tech-savvy appliances might be fun to have, but if you can’t even get a cell signal, you might wish you’d spent time going through an apartment checklist and focusing more on the must-haves than the nice-to-haves.
1. Resident portals
Calling your landlord about a leaky faucet? That is so 2012. Companies like Propertyware and Buildium have created mobile-friendly online communities that tenants can use for paying rent, submitting maintenance requests, and more. Residents can communicate with property managers (and with each other) and receive real-time status updates on repairs without leaving a series of concerned voice mails and waiting ages for a callback. Plus, many of these services include an online bill-pay feature, making it easier to ensure you never miss rent. Resident portals streamline the tenant/landlord relationship so well, you might wonder what you ever did without one.
2. Cellphone reception
Let’s face it: It’s really just plain old phone reception (does anyone have a landline anymore?). Call a friend and walk around your new potential pad to hear if you get a clear connection in every room. Will you also hear clear as a bell in the garage and elevator? If you can’t dial out, or if people can’t dial in, this could be a deal breaker — or phone plan breaker, depending on how much you want that apartment. Check provider coverage maps as well, to see which areas of town are a safe bet for reception.
3. Electrical outlets
Note how many outlets are in each room. Are there enough, are they conveniently located, and will they work with your gadgets? Not only are outlets sparser in older apartments, but also if you spot those old-school two-prong outlets, you’d be right to be concerned about the safety of your electronics (and maybe wonder about other things that need to be updated). If you don’t want to fry your laptop during a lightning storm, it might be worth bringing an outlet tester to check that the outlets are grounded; three prongs don’t necessarily mean an outlet’s grounded. The good news? Many landlords are updating old outlets with grounded ones that even include USB ports. After all, if you aren’t literally plugged in, then forget being “plugged in.”
We rely on our Internet connection for our computers, but if you’ve eschewed cable TV in favor of streaming services like Hulu and Netflix, it’s become all the more imperative that you have a secure, strong, and fast connection. If you work from home? This should be a top priority.
Ask your new potential landlord about the building’s Wi-Fi situation. Do they have built-in high-speed Internet service? Is it cable or DSL? How do they handle complaints about connectivity issues or repair requests? If your landlord isn’t forthcoming, ask some current residents if they ever struggle with their wireless connections.
If everyone in your building has their own Wi-Fi network (as opposed to a built-in system provided by your building), you might have some trouble getting your own network up and running if it gets swamped by all the interference nearby. And those exposed brick walls in your new apartment might be charming, but they tend to absorb Wi-Fi signals, which is something to keep in mind before you sign a lease — and again when you’re pondering where to put your wireless router. (Hint: Try moving it to different locations in your apartment to see if you can find a sweet spot, and if that doesn’t work, you might need to upgrade to a router that automatically detects the least crowded Wi-Fi channel.)
5. Electric car charging station
Do you have an electric car or do you see one in your not-too-distant future? A charging station or a standard outlet where you can plug in your own onboard charger is key. If you don’t own a car, but use an electric or hybrid car-share service, like Car2Go or Zipcar, it’s also worth checking to see if there is dedicated car-share parking at or near your new apartment building.
What tech requirements do you have for a new place? Share your tips in the comments!