Apartment Hunting Checklist

Looking for an apartment can be a long and grueling process. You want to be sure that the apartment, community and surrounding area is safe and the right fit for you, and sometimes it can be hard to tell the true nature of a place until after you sign the lease. Use this apartment-hunting checklist to make sure the apartment you choose is a good fit for you.

1. Research your state’s tenants’ rights laws

Familiarize yourself with the tenants’ rights laws in your state. If a potential apartment or lease seems inconsistent with the laws in your area, it might be a struggle getting the landlord to comply.

2. Research your landlord

An experienced landlord is usually better to deal with than an inexperienced one. A good landlord will be familiar with the landlord-tenant laws and will know how to deal with residents’ needs and requests.

Look up your potential new landlord and research online property records in your county. If the landlord has had legal action against them or has multiple foreclosures, you’re better off looking elsewhere.

If your landlord or property manager is not local, make sure they have a qualified representative nearby.

3. Look at crime rates in the area  

Look at crime rates in the neighborhood you are thinking about moving to using websites like Trulia as well as local city websites.  Inquire with the police about how often they have been called to the area and complex in the last six months.

4. Read reviews

If you’re considering an apartment complex, look at reviews on several different sites, and make sure they are genuine.

Many apartment complexes may have a lower rating because people tend to review only when there is a problem, but if several people are citing the same issues, that’s a bad sign.

On the other hand, look out for an excess of positive reviews in a short period of time. It could mean the complex is offering incentives to their residents for leaving positive reviews.

5. Research pest history

Check the bed bug registry and ask if the building has a history of any pest problems. Call your local information hotline for local laws about tenant notification of pest infestations.

6. Visit the neighborhood

  • Check out nearby amenities. Look around the neighborhood and check out what's in close walking distance. Are there a lot of restaurants, bars or convenience stores nearby? The types of places around can be a good indicator of the people living in the area. Walk score is a useful resource for neighborhood information.
  • Look for sources of noise. While it may be convenient to have fun places close by, it can also be a nuisance. Living near bars can be great, but the tradeoff is that people will park on your street and cause late-night ruckus on a regular basis. Check for any nearby hospitals, trains or construction as they could cause disruptive noise as well.
  • Tour the area. Drive through the area at different times of the night to see what kind of activity is occurring, especially on weekends. Walk through the complex or surrounding area in the evening. Visit local grocery stores and convenience stores to get a good sense of who lives in the neighborhood.
  • Pay attention to the residents in the complex or neighborhood. What age are they? Are there families, young adults or retirement-age residents?
  • Take note of what kinds of cars are parked in the complex and surrounding area.
  • Look at the parking situation. Visit the complex or neighborhood in the evening or on the weekend and look at where residents park. Are there designated areas for residents, or do they park in the street? Does finding space seem to be a challenge?

7. Check out the commute

Visit the building one morning and try driving to and from work at the times you would normally leave and come home. How is the traffic? How long does it take you to get to work compared to other potential homes? Is there nearby public transportation or a bike route?

8. Tour a unit

If you’re considering an apartment complex or large building, request to see the exact unit you will be moving into, not a showcase apartment. If they won’t show you the unit, that’s a bad sign.

If you look at multiple units, take pictures of each for later comparison. Take notes about what you like and dislike about each one and mark any repairs or issues you want fixed before you move in. You’ll need to get written agreement to these repairs on the lease.  

9. Consider the level

First floor apartments are most convenient for thieves, and the most frequently broken into.

If you live below someone, there is a chance that you might have noisy upstairs neighbors. If you live on the top floor, you may have to watch your step and climb more stairs.

Consider the apartment features on each floor. A more secure complex or building is likely to have fewer break-ins, and concrete floors are better for muffling sound.

Some apartment complexes have different prices for different levels based on the demand and unit features. An apartment building with hardwood floors on the first floor and vaulted ceilings on the top floor may have cheaper rent on the middle floors.

10. Check the cell reception

You don’t want to move into your brand new apartment and realize the only way you can talk on the phone is to stand on a chair in your kitchen. Check your reception when you visit the apartment. Try restarting your phone and see if the reception stays the same everywhere in the apartment.

11. Check the storage space

Assure the unit has adequate storage space in the right locations for your needs. An apartment with ample storage space will usually be a better choice than one with a bigger living room or bedroom.

12. Check the water

Run the water in all fixtures, including the shower. Does it look clear? How is the water pressure? Do you have your own water heater? If the water heater is currently turned on, does the water take a long time to get hot?

Notice how well the drains work and flush the toilet to see how strong the flow is.

13. Check the outlets

Make sure you have enough outlets in convenient locations, and enough three-prong outlets for all your electronics. Bring a phone charger or an outlet tester to test the outlets. Check if cable and internet jacks are where you would want them. 

14. Check the windows

Look at the windows see if they are double or triple-paned. If the windows have multiple panes, you’ll be able to see the panes with a divider in between, especially if the outer pane is dirty. Windows with multiple panes are more energy-efficient than single-paned, helping your apartment stay cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter This can help you save some money on your energy bills – something you’ll appreciate if your utilities aren’t included in the rent.

Make sure you can easily open and close the windows.

15. Check appliances

Check to see that the appliances work. Inspect for any frayed wires.

Does your apartment have a washer and dryer or hookups in-unit, or laundry facilities onsite? If you need to go offsite to do laundry, check the prices of the local laundromats. Laundromats may cost you more than an in-unit or onsite facility.

16. Look for evidence of mold

Inspect walls and ceilings for water marks or mold. Musty smells could indicate water damage. Excessive use of air fresheners may be an attempt to hide the smell of water damage.

Open and close the refrigerator doors and pull out the drawers to check for mold or musty smells. Make sure the refrigerator is chilly and the freezer is cold.

Check floors and countertops for discolorations and signs of water damage.

17. Look for the circuit breaker

Is the circuit breaker easily accessible in case of an emergency? Are the switches clearly marked?

18. Check for safety equipment

Make sure proper safety equipment and fire plans are present per your state’s laws. Check to see that smoke detectors are working. If your unit uses gas, is there a carbon monoxide detector?

Look for window locks and a deadbolt on the front door. Is the community gated? Does the building have security doors?

19. Ask the landlord questions

Ask your landlord any questions you have about the unit. Use our checklist for what to ask a potential landlord.

20. Get an idea for the going rate

Look at several options in the area and compare the prices for the size and type of unit you are looking for. If one complex or building is offering a much lower rent than the others, it might be a red flag.

21. Get changes in writing

If the leasing agent or landlord promises to do something before you move in, it needs to be written into the lease or it may not happen.

Choosing an apartment can be intimidating, but if you use this apartment-hunting checklist, you can feel more comfortable and confident of your choice.


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