Living and working in the apartment field, I realized there are essential apartment checklist items you need to ask when you tour. The first time I rented an apartment, I toured 15 places that fit in my price range. I realized quickly that some places are nothing like their pictures and there are important things, like laundry, that I need to have included.
Before you rent your next apartment, ask the leasing consultant these 20 apartment checklist items:
1. What amenities are included?
Some apartments may cost more than others but they also offer more. The first place I rented was $100 more than the competition, but it had a gym, theater room, and pool to use and had newer finishes inside the apartment. You need to consider the overall value of the place you’re potentially renting.
Common amenities include fitness center, pool, free Wifi, community grills, clubhouse, etc. These are all things that you don’t have to pay for in addition, which can be considered a savings when you’re comparing to a competition.
2. What is the office management like?
First impressions are important. Since the management is trying to sell you on why to live here, this will be them at their nicest. I have had rude property management people, people that show up late, and people that are too pushy trying to make you to apply.
When you first meet them, notice if their smile is genuine and if they’re being authentic. Ask what hours they’re on site and the best way to contact them if needed. You will want a responsive, helpful management, especially in times of an emergency.
3. What is the maintenance like?
This one is a big one that you sometimes forget to think about until you have an emergency. Check to see if they have on-site maintenance and what types of things they require you to fix on your own. Changing light bulbs and smoke detector batteries are common things renters do on their own. Otherwise, the maintenance staff should fix everything else. It’s the benefit of renting over buying.
4. How clean is the property?
When you’re on your tour, look around the common areas and the apartment building. If there’s trash all over or if plants are overgrown, it could be a red-flag that this management doesn’t do well with upkeep. This could mean potential pest-control and maintenance issues inside your apartment after you’ve moved in.
5. Where is the apartment located?
Location is important on so many levels and matters differently to certain people. If you go out downtown and are always venturing to the bars there, it may be a better choice to live there rather than closer to work. However, if a short commute is important to you, then you should look at places within close driving or walking distance to your job. In all areas, I recommend making sure it’s a safe neighborhood.
6. How is the cell/internet service?
When you walk into the apartment, check your cell phone. You don’t want to live anywhere you won’t get reception. Also, ask what type of internet and cabling are available. After they tell you the providers, call to make sure you can get the speed you need. Some older buildings haven’t been re-wired and can’t handle the higher speeds you may require.
7. What is the noise level on your tour?
Ask about their sound proofing when you’re touring. Some places incorporate a quiet wall technology that helps muffle interior and exterior noises. Notice if you can hear traffic or bar noise when you’re inside the apartment. When the air turns on, notice if the duct work is audible. Also, take note of noises coming from other apartments in the halls. If the quietest place is important to you, ask to see a top floor option.
8. If you own a car, what are your parking options?
A lot of apartments include free parking with your rent, but once you get into the city or downtown space, parking can be costly or non-existent. If parking is extra, you will need to add that into your budget to make sure you can afford it or if it’s worth paying the fee. Also, ask for alternatives to a paid parking lot in case there’s a wait list for parking and to know where guests can park.
For those of you without a car, look into the public transport. Consider how far it is from any bus stops or subway systems. Also look into other public options, like if the bike rentals are close or if Uber/Lyft comes by often.
9. How much storage is included in the apartment?
I like to make sure the apartment I rent has a coat closet, lots of kitchen storage, and bathroom storage. If there isn’t storage, I have to consider creative alternatives or the cost of buying storage containers. Then I make sure there’s enough closet space for my clothes, even without having a walk-in, if necessary.
When you’re touring, be thinking of where all of your things can go. Sometimes there are storage closets in addition to rent that can be helpful for seasonal and bike storage.
10. What appliances are included?
Microwaves, dishwashers, and in-unit laundry are extras in a lot of places and aren’t normally found in less expensive housing. For me, laundry is a big deal. I rarely have coins on me and find it hard to schedule time to do wash.
If you have to go somewhere else in the building or off-site, consider the time you will need to set aside to do laundry and how much it costs. Microwaves aren’t expensive to furnish yourself, so you can always bring one if there’s counter space. You will need to consider the added savings for the convenience of having the appliances included.
11. How’s the water?
This one can sometimes be an after-thought, but it matters a lot when you’re living there. Turn on the faucets to see how quickly the water heats up and what kind of water pressure you will have. Sometimes having colder water or low pressure can be fixed by a maintenance tech, but in other cases, what you see is what you can expect.
12. How’s the lighting/electric in the apartment?
Notice where there are lights and where there are not. Common places you will need to buy lamps are the bedroom and living room. The direction the windows face and what they look like will determine how much natural light you will have inside the apartment. South and west facing windows are great for well-lit apartments in the afternoon. However, direct sun from the west can cause higher energy bills in the summer from the intensity.
Also count the outlets and make sure there’s plenty in the kitchen and bathroom for everything you will need. Consider if you’re going to need surge protectors in the bedroom and living room for more outlets and if any run off a switch.
13. What type of heat/air are included?
We have hot, humid summers where I live so I need air conditioning. I also like when the apartment has a ceiling fan to circulate the air, but I’ve bought fans when that’s not an option. Having central air and heat are great perks, but older properties may run off box types. For small spaces, this is ok but you may struggle to stay cool or warm in larger square footage.
14. What is the pet/guest policy?
Even if you don’t have a pet, you should ask in case you’d want to add one. Most of the time, you can add or remove a pet at anytime during your lease. But the fees may be non-refundable.
The guest policy may not be something you consider, but some apartments have strict rules. There could be a limit per resident and could mean you can’t invite lot of people over. I lived in a place where I could only have 1 guest and I had to let the management know 24hrs in advance that they were visiting. It was a hassle.
15. What is the price?
Price is very important, because you should only rent what you can afford. However, I put it lower on the list so that you can consider the added values that could go into the price, like a paid gym membership. Do determine a budget and do your research before touring. Don’t tour places that aren’t in your budget as it will only set you up for disappointment.
16. What fees are required when you move-in?
A lot of the time you have to pay more than rent. Ask what the application fee is and the deposit, but also check if there are other fees. Administrative fees are common, as well as, pet fees. Some places also charge amenity fees and utility fees per month. These have to be factored when you’re budgeting for your move, as well as, any specials they may offer.
17. Do you need renters insurance?
Although it’s a good thing to have renter’s insurance, some places require that you do. This can be an added $15 per month, which isn’t a lot but can be a factor in your budget. Shop all of the insurance options to make sure you’re getting the best deal.
18. What is the lease break policy?
Things happen and you may not be able to fulfill your 12 month lease. It’s good practice to ask before you sign the papers what their policy is. Most of the time they will require a 30 day notice plus 2 full months in rent as a penalty. However, some places let you find your own renter instead of paying any fees. Don’t worry about asking this question, it’s common and they won’t be offended if you ask.
19. What renewal options do they offer?
Every place is a little different when they offer renewals, and most won’t know how much the rate will change. However, it’s good to find out what length of lease options they offer and what the price difference is, including month to month options. A good rule of thumb for price increases is about 5% of your rent. Know what your notice policy is too, so you don’t miss your renewal or have to pay penalties for moving out without notice.
20. Be sure to take pictures.
Most likely you will visit a lot of places all at once. For those that you like, be sure to take photos to reference later. It can be overwhelming and the places will start to blend together, so the pictures will be a big help when you try to make a final decision. Just ask before you start snapping away.
Renting an apartment is an exciting time, especially when it’s your first. Don’t let the stress of finding the perfect one overwhelm you. Print out this checklist here before you go on your next tour.