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What to Look for When Renting an Apartment

11 Things to Check Out in an Apartment Before You Sign a Lease

Visiting an apartment lets you experience the space and get a better idea of whether you want to live there. Whether you check out an apartment in person or via a virtual tour, it can be easy to focus on shiny new appliances, gorgeous views, and resort-style amenities.

To avoid overlooking other essential features, use this checklist when you’re looking at rentals.

A Renter’s Checklist

Taking the time to evaluate these key elements of a unit can help you:

  • Identify potential problems before sign or lease or you move in
  • Figure out whether anything needs to be fixed or addressed now
  • Determine whether you need to keep looking or you’re ready to lease a rental

6 Features to Look at Inside the Apartment

Consider taking pictures and/or bringing a friend with you to help you evaluate these things when it’s time to check out a rental:

  1. Security features: Check the front door lock and the locations of interior smoke detectors (they should be in or by every bedroom, the kitchen, and the front door area). Test the locks on all doors in the apartment and test the smoke detectors. Also, figure out where any fire extinguishers are kept, and make sure they work. While locks, smoke detectors, and fire extinguishers can be repaired or replaced if broken, it’s also important to consider whether you’ll feel safe in that spot even with those security features working.
  2. Signs of pests: Look for droppings, bug skins, and other signs of pests in and around cabinets, closets, and other dark spaces. Be sure to check these areas in kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms, and hallways. You may also want to specifically ask the leasing agent whether the unit or complex has had any pest infestations.
  3. Water pressure & temperature: You don’t want to be blindsided by any possible plumbing problems. So, turn on the faucets to make sure the water pressure is not too weak or strong. Test the hot water taps to see how long it takes the water to heat up and how hot it gets. And flush the toilets to make sure they work properly. It’s also a good idea to check the drainage in any bathtubs and/or showers in the unit. Just run some water in tubs or showers and make sure the water drains properly.
  4. Electrical work & appliances: Like the plumbing, the electrical features are essential. When it’s time to check these out, take note of how many outlets there are and where they are located. It’s also a good idea to test at least a couple of outlets (with, for example, a phone charger). Also, figure out where the breaker box is located, and turn on some of the major appliances to make sure they work.
  5. Cell phone reception & Wi-Fi access: These days, most people depend on their cellphones and the internet for everything from work and communication to entertainment and shopping. So, test your reception throughout the unit and ask about internet access and reliability. It can even be a good idea to bring a laptop and test the Wi-Fi to ensure it meets your needs.
  6. Any damage: Are there dings on the walls, stains on floors, or other damaged features? Be alert to any signs of damage. You don’t want to make the mistake of moving into a unit with damage and then being blamed for it later when you move out.

5 Features to Look at Outside the Apartment

When checking out rentals, it’s smart to visit them at least twice. In addition to getting more clarity about the above features, a second visit can give you the opportunity to check out important elements outside (and associated with) the apartment, like:

  1. Security features: Look for security gates, surveillance cameras, security guards, and/or other features protecting the apartment community. If possible, try to visit the community at night so you can get a better sense of nighttime security lighting and whether you feel safe there.
  2. The neighborhood: Does the neighborhood have the atmosphere and/or location you’re looking for? How far away is the nearest grocery store? What are the local shops, restaurants, and/or bars like? Again, you’ll probably want to visit the area during the day and at night to get a real sense of these things—and to see how they may change when the sun goes down.
  3. The neighbors: Try to get a sense of who your neighbors are and/or what their lifestyle is generally like. If you can’t directly meet the neighbors to find out more about them, ask the leasing agent. Whether or not you share a wall (or ceiling/flooring) with your neighbors, it can be helpful to know if their habits or situation may present any problems for you in the future.
  4. Parking: Is there designated and/or covered parking? Are there electrical vehicle charging stations (if you need them)? What about guest parking? If you’re going to struggle with parking on a daily basis—or if there’s some other parking or vehicle hassle you’ll have to deal with—make sure you don’t discover that after you’re already living there.
  5. The commute: Try it out, ideally during the times you would be commuting (if possible). Also, check out access to public transit and/or local rail systems. You’ll want to make sure you’re able to easily commute to school, work, and/or wherever you go regularly before agreeing to move in anywhere.

If you can invest a little time in checking out these key features in and around the apartments you’re looking at, you can save a lot of time, money, and stress down the line.

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