Before you go out and look at apartments, you should first do your homework and get ready. If you have not done so, see these articles on how to get ready to find an apartment to rent.
You should also identify a list of apartments in your area that best fit your wants, needs and budget. For help in assembling this list, see:
Once you have done this preparation, you are ready to go out and look at apartment rentals and buildings.
Make an Appointment and Keep It
For each apartment you wish to look at, call ahead and be sure someone will be there to show it to you. If possible, make an appointment, and request that you see the actual units that are available (if possible, avoid looking at model units or similar units). Be sure to be there when you say you will – that is the first impression you will make on your prospective future landlord.
If you are sharing an apartment, look together so you can share your impressions. It is much harder to compare notes later, since you may each look at different things and see things different ways. It is much easier to discuss things when you are looking at them.
When you go looking at apartments, try to make a good first impression on the landlord. Dress reasonably well, and appear responsible and professional. Aside from discriminatory behavior based on race, gender, age, etc, landlords can choose who they wish to rent to. In a competitive market, you will need to make a good impression to get the apartment you want.
Get Ready For Your Visit
When you arrive to look at an apartment, make sure you have what you need to thoroughly check out the apartment building and unit.
Have your list of questions for the landlord ready, as well as your list of apartment wants and needs. When you look at an apartment in a competitive market, you may need to decide on the spot, so be prepared and have all decision makers present when you check out the rental.
Walking Through the Apartment
When you arrive at the apartment, you will need to assess many things in a short period of time. Be ready with what you want to look for, and take notes for future reference. You may also want to bring a camera to take pictures.
When you arrive to look at an apartment unit, ask to see the actual unit that is open for rent, rather than just a model or similar unit. If that unit is still occupied and you must see the similar unit and are interested in renting it, ask when you can return to see the actual unit. Even if it is occupied, the landlord should be able to schedule a viewing if you are serious in renting. Do not rent unless you have seen the actual unit.
Interior Inspection Checklist
When you look at the apartment unit, you will want to look at many things. The following checklist will help you determine if this is the right apartment for you.
- How many rooms are there of each type (bedrooms, bathrooms, office, living room, den, parlor, entertainment room, solarium, etc). Note the size of each room and the apartment overall, and whether it would be comfortable for you to live in.
- Look at the configuration of the rooms and hallways. Will it be easy to get around in the apartment, and is there enough space and privacy for your needs?
- If you have furniture, think about how your furniture would fit into this apartment, or if you would be willing to get new furniture to fit.
- Listen for noise. Be quite for 3-5 minutes and listen for traffic, neighbors, airplanes, sirens, etc. Look out the windows and around the area – are there buildings or facilities that might produce noise at other times (play fields, basket ball courts, parking lots, manufacturing, ware houses, etc).
- What is right outside each window? Is it a nice (or acceptable) view, or is it a security risk, noise issue or other potential problem?
- Check for sufficient power outlets in each room, especially the kitchen and a room you might use as an office and home theater. Also check for phone jacks, cable TV outlets, high speed Internet jacks, and other wiring needs.
- Check the blinds, curtains or other window coverings. Do they function correctly, and do they provide the privacy and or light blockage you need (especially in the bedroom)?
- Check that each window opens and closes easily and securely. Check that the outside access to each window and the porch area are secure from intrusion. In cold climates, you may want to have double pane glass or storm windows.
- Check each room for natural light. Does the apartment have enough light and airiness for your taste, or does it feel like a cave?
- Look at closet space in the bedrooms. Is there enough room for your clothing and other stuff? Do you need or prefer a walk in closet?
- Look around the kitchen for what you need or want for cooking and entertainment. Does it have enough storage for food, dishes, pots, pans and utensils? Does it have space for food storage? Is the refrigerator large enough? Do the appliances meet your needs and standards?
- Check the water pressure at each faucet to be sure it is sufficient. Check the hot water faucets to see if hot water comes quickly and is hot enough. Also check that the hot water is not dangerously hot (scalding), especially if you have children or infants. Look for leaky faucets and be sure the toilet does not run.
- Check that all appliances are working, including the refrigerator, garbage disposal, dishwasher, oven, microwave, furnace or heaters, and air conditioners.
- Check that the paint fresh, or at least that the walls and ceilings are clean and not stained or peeling.
- Check that the carpets are clean and not ripped, stained or torn, and that other floor coverings are clean and in good condition.
- Check for signs of moisture issues or mold on the ceilings, walls and floors. If you smell mold or the apartment just smells stuffy, ask the landlord about it.
- Check that the apartment is clean and well maintained, especially in the kitchen and baths.
- Check that smoke detectors are provided in each hallway in and in the bedrooms.
- Is there a fireplace, or do you want a fireplace? If so, ask if it is functioning, and what can be burned in the fireplace (many apartments now have electric- or gas-only fireplaces).
- If you will be living in a hot climate, or where summers are hot, ask if air conditioning is provided.
- Check the emergency exits, including doorways, hallways and windows. In each room of the apartment and in the building common areas, could you get out if there was a fire? If one exit is blocked, is there an alternative?
- If possible, talk to other tenants in the building and ask about the apartments, building and landlord. Be polite and allow them to not answer, but feel free to ask questions.
Exterior Inspection Checklist
Before or after looking at an apartment unit, check around the building hallways, entry areas, garage and other common areas, as well as around the exterior of the apartment building. Look at for the following:
- Check the garage and/or parking areas. Are they safe and secure? Can you safely get to or from your car and apartment after dark? Is there parking for guests? Is thee a potential flooding problem?
- Check the common spaces in the building. Are they clean, well-maintained and secure?
- Check the laundry facilities. Are they clean and functioning? Is the area safe and secure?
- Look at outdoor spaces such a porch, patio, yard or other space. If shared, are they large enough and secure?
- Check the storage area and storage lockers. Is it safe and secure? Is the area dry and safe from flooding? Are there any signs of water issues or break-ins?
- Check the trash disposal areas. Is access to and from your apartment safe and secure? Is the area where trash is stored clean and free of vermin?
- If you live in a cold climate, think about the impact of a snow storm. Are there steep driveways that would make it difficult to reach if covered with snow or ice?
- Check the surrounding neighborhood. Is it an area where you feel safe and comfortable, and does it have the amenities you want and need?
Potential Issues and Problems
As you look at apartment buildings and units, keep an eye out for potential problems and issues. Thinking about these things up front will help you avoid costly mistakes.
The following is a list of things to consider. Note that you may still want to rent a place that may have some of these issues, but at least you will know what they are before you rent so you are prepared to deal with them.
- Check for possible noise issues. As you look at an apartment, check both inside and outside. Listen with the windows open and closed, and consider the time of day. Look and listen for airplanes, traffic, dogs in building or area, noisy neighbors, bars or music clubs nearby, manufacturing or warehouses in the area, etc. Some places such as inner cities or downtown areas are inherently noisy, but be sure the building and your apartment are sufficiently insulated for noise that you will be comfortable.
- Check for signs of rodents and insects. Look in corners, behind radiators and baseboard heaters, in the back of cupboards, behind the refrigerator, in areas around garbage bins, and in back of the building.
- If the apartment is on the first floor, basement or if plants and trees provide a hiding place for intruders near the porch or access areas, be sure you will be safe and secure. You may want window bars and added security.
- Look for mold, dust and moisture problems, especially in storage areas, ceilings, kitchens and bathrooms. Mold or dust can be a health issue for many people.
- Look for signs of bad neighbors (noisy, abusive, etc). If possible, talk to tenants in the building to see if they have issues with neighbors, of if they themselves act like they might be a problem.
- Be wary of apartment buildings that are in disrepair or have unfinished repairs. If there is any work in progress or repairs that should be done, ask how long work has been in progress or the issue has been there, and get written commitment for completion prior to signing the lease or moving in.
- Check safety issues such as grounded outlets, cracked or broken glass, emergency escape routes that are blocked or have doors/windows that won't open, lack of smoke detectors, etc.
- Check the local police blotter to see if there a record of crimes in the area and in this apartment building in particular. Frequent police calls to the building is a bad sign.
Next Step - Search For Apartments!
Now that you have read our apartment guide and have prepared your inspection checklist, you are ready to go apartment hunting.
A good place to start your apartment search is at www.mynewplace.com.