Congratulations, you’ve decided the time is right to move out on your own and now you’re looking for an apartment!
Here are some tips on what to look for when you begin the sometimes-daunting task of viewing apartments. At the end of the article, you’ll find a link to a comprehensive apartment-hunting checklist you can print and take with you to each of your viewing appointments.
Viewing the Parking Lot
Your apartment viewing actually starts the minute you pull up to the building you’re considering calling home.
Be on the lookout for overflowing garbage dumpsters, broken glass on the pavement and shabby overgrown landscaping which might tell you a bit about how much effort the landlord puts into the maintenance of the building.
Viewing the Entrance and Common Areas
Note when you enter the apartment building whether or not the doors are locked. Locked exterior doors are an important security measure you’ll want to include on your apartment-hunting checklist.
In the hallways, observe whether they are kept clean and clear of debris, and make it a point to look for smoke detectors. If you’re viewing a laundry room, guest kitchen, mailroom, workout room or other common area, again note its cleanliness and whether or not the facilities seem to be in good working order.
Viewing an Apartment’s Living and Dining Rooms
Most apartments are set up so that you’ll enter into the living room. This is often the biggest room in an apartment, so pay attention to the floor space keeping in mind the size of your couch, entertainment center, coffee table and other furniture you’ll expect to furnish the living room with. Quickly scan the room, too, for the number and placement of electrical outlets and cable hook-ups. The last thing you want is a living room that locks you in to one and only one furniture configuration due to the placement of outlets.
If you’re viewing an apartment during the daytime, note the amount of natural sunlight flowing into the living and dining rooms, where you’ll want it most. This is particularly important to observe if these rooms only have windows on one wall, as many apartments do.
Look out the windows and survey the scene. Many tenants do not want to look out into a parking lot, but even worse is the view of someone’s balcony mere feet from your living room window. It’ll be important here to also survey the condition of the windows. Are they new? Are they double-paned to keep both heat and cold out? Are the screens in good condition or are there many rips and tears that bugs can get into? And, very importantly, are there functioning locks on the windows?
The living room and dining room can also give you a good indication of the general condition of the apartment, since these are high-traffic areas subject to a lot of abuse over years and years’ worth of tenants. Is the carpet in good shape? Do the walls look clean and are they relatively free of nail holes? Is the ceiling bright or dingy with stains?
Viewing an Apartment’s Kitchen
The two most important things to evaluate when looking at an apartment’s kitchen are its size — is the counter space adequate for food preparation and, if necessary, is there room for a table? — and the working order of its appliances.
Listen for the refrigerator to kick on. Is it noisy? Inside the fridge, do the drawers pull open and shut easily? Is the freezer free of frost?
Turn on the sink faucet to observe water pressure, how quickly the water gets hot and whether or not the faucet drips when it’s turned off. Note, too, whether the sink is a single- or double-bowl sink. Many renters prefer a double sink, particularly if there is no dishwasher in the kitchen, which itself may make or break a kitchen.
Don’t be shy about turning on all the stovetop’s burners. You’ll want to make sure that in fact all four work.
Fix your eyes to the cabinetry. Are there enough cabinets to accommodate your dishes, pots and pans, and dry food items?
Last, verify that there is at least one working smoke detector in the apartment. If there is only one, typically it should be in close proximity to the kitchen.
Viewing an Apartment’s Bathroom
Much of a bathroom’s suitability comes down to personal preference. For example, some apartment hunters may require a full-sized tub while others are satisfied with a simple shower stall. But there are a few items in the bathroom that all prospective tenants should observe.
First, as you did in the kitchen, run the faucets of both the sink and the shower to check for water pressure and the availability of hot water. Note, too, whether the sink and tub both have stoppers that actually hold water.
Flush the toilet to make sure you won’t have to “jiggle the handle” to get it to flush or stop running should you move into this particular apartment.
Eye the flooring of the bathroom; vinyl or tile in a bathroom are much better than carpet, which will retain moisture and could cause mildew problems. And speaking of moisture, make absolutely sure the bathroom has an exhaust fan for ventilation.
Open the medicine cabinet doors to make sure they slide easily and to determine if the cabinet is large enough to hold your personal belongings. And while you’re at it, do the same for under-the-sink cabinetry and linen closets.
Viewing an Apartment’s Bedrooms
Most apartment hunters are concerned with two things when viewing an apartment’s bedrooms: Are they large enough to accommodate your bedroom furniture and is there enough closet space?
If you have a queen-sized bed, for example, some apartment bedrooms right off the bat will not be large enough for you. Bring a measuring tape with you to your viewings if you have a large bed and floor space concerns you.
Regarding closets, check for shelving versus hanging space; you’ll want plenty of both. If the bedroom closets are sliding bifold doors, slide them open and closed several times to make sure they do so easily. It is common for bifold closet doors to jam and stick, making everyday access a nuisance.
Last, if you plan to keep a television and/or your computer desk in your bedroom, note the number and location of the room’s electrical outlets and cable hook-ups to make sure the bedroom can accommodate these items.
Want More Information About Viewing Apartments?
Orange Housing, an apartment search website for students of Syracuse University in Syracuse, NY, maintains an excellent apartment-hunting checklist here. It’s in actual checklist form and easily printable, so you can take it with you to each of your apartment viewings.
Author Experience in Rental Property Management
Orange Housing, “Apartment Hunting Checklist,” Orange Housing.com