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Renting

An Apartment Checklist: What to Look for in Your Next Spot

That apartment you’ll be viewing this afternoon may be in a perfect spot, look perfect inside and out. Here’s what to watch out for when you take the tour.

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Things to Watch Out for When You Tour That “Dream” Apartment

It can be easy to get caught up in the fancy amenities of a new place and working with a clean slate, especially if you’re trading up from where you were renting before. But before you sign a lease based on a view, a fireplace, or the claw foot tub you’ve always wanted, take the time to examine the details. Here’s a checklist to help you do just that.

Water Pressure, Clarity, and Temperature

Does the water run clean or is it rust colored when you first turn it on? Does the shower have enough water pressure to rinse shampoo out of a person’s hair? Does the unit have a dedicated hot water heater or will you be racing to beat your neighbors for a hot shower in the morning?

Electrical Outlets

Are there enough of them to suit your needs? Do they seem like they’ve been replaced in the last century? Where is the fuse box for your unit? Is it shared with other units? Is it in a common area? An unsecured area?

Appliances

Are they all in working order? How new are the appliances in your kitchen? Does the lease cover their repair or replacement if they stop working? Are laundry facilities available onsite or in the unit? Are they secure if they are not in your unit?

Cabinets and Drawers

Are they clean and free of debris? Is there any sign of rodent or insect invasion? Are they in good working order—do they open and close easily and stay shut when they are closed? Are there enough of them to suit your needs?

Doors and Windows

As with the cabinets and drawers, are all doors and windows in good working order? There’s nothing worse than renting a place in the winter only to find out that all the windows are painted shut once the temperature gets above seventy-five.

Amenities

What additional amenities are available on the property? Parking? Workout room? Pool? Outdoor kitchen area or barbecue? Are the use of any of them included in the monthly rent? If not, what are the monthly fees and guest fees?

Floors and Floor Coverings

How old is the carpet and/or vinyl? What about the condition of floor tiles in the kitchen and bath areas, or wood in the rest of the unit? When is the old flooring scheduled to be replaced due to regular wear and tear?

Decorating and Yard Maintenance

Are you allowed to paint the interior? Can you decorate exterior spaces such as balconies or patios in the manner of your choosing? Will you be responsible for any or all of the yard maintenance as a tenant?

Shared Utilities

Does the unit come with any shared utilities, such as water or garbage? How are they divided? When are they due?

Pets and Guests

What are the pet and guest policies for the building or unit? Are you allowed to have guests for longer than one or two nights? What if your out of town guests bring their pets along? What if you decide you want to get a pet in the future?

dog

Storage

Does the unit come with additional onsite storage? How secure are the storage areas?

History

How long has the building been owned by the current landlord? When have rent increases been implemented and at what rate?

Neighborhood and Location

What is neighborhood foot and vehicle traffic like during the day? At night? On weekends? Are there special neighborhood events that bring a significant crowd of people into the area? What shops, restaurants, parks, and other facilities are nearby? Where is the nearest emergency room or urgent care facility? How will moving into this unit affect your commute.

So Many Questions

This may seem like a long list of things to investigate in the few minutes that a standard unit viewing lasts, but they are all very important to your health, happiness, and potential for maintaining your sanity in a new apartment. And one more thing, try making a phone call while you’re in the space. Lack of cell service may be a deal breaker for you.

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Ben is a real estate agent and freelance writer. He's lived on the east coast his entire life and is just as "at home" on a snowboard as he is in the office. When not writing about local real estate markets and researching hot new tips for homeowners, he can be found working on his home renovation projects with help from his wife Melissa and their kids, Josh and Cheyenne.

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