When you’re searching for a new apartment, it can be tempting to just jump right in and sign up for the first place you find. But it’s important that you take your time, do your homework and make sure that the rental you’re going for is the right choice for you—especially because you might be locked in for a year if you sign a lease.
Create a shortlist, schedule a day of apartment tours, and, then, during your initial walkthrough, keep an eye out for these seven key items:
What’s the parking situation like? If the apartment complex has its own parking structure, make sure to check if residents have assigned spots. Check to see what the structure’s security is like (Do you need a passcode or key fob to access the structure? Are there cameras?). Also, if you’re planning on having guests stop by on a regular basis, ask about guest parking and assess the street-parking situation as well.
How does the complex look overall? What’s the landscaping like? The immediate appearance of the complex should offer you an idea of what you can expect in terms of upkeep and maintenance. If you’re moving with pets, what are the pet-designated areas like? In addition, does the apartment have the amenities that you’re looking for (e.g., gym, BBQ, pool, etc.)?
Ask the office staff about the procedure for handling maintenance issues. Is it relatively simple? Do you have to fill out a form or just make a quick phone call? Of course, there’s only so much you can learn from the staff. It’s also important to see what previous residents have to say about the complex, and that’s why apartment reviews and ratings can be so valuable.
This might require a bit more attention. When you’re going through a potential apartment, check out the quality of the interiors, appliances and construction materials. Are the doors built from cheap wood? Is the carpeting a bit shoddy? What’s the décor like? Are the appliances that come with the apartment (i.e., refrigerator, oven and microwave) in good condition? If the materials are subpar, you can guess that the complex probably isn’t going to be properly maintained further down the line. Keep this in mind when you put down your security deposit, as well.
Can you hear noise from the neighbors? Furthermore, what’s street noise like? If the apartment complex is in an urban area, keep in mind that noise from street traffic and busy public areas will carry. Try to sit quietly for a few minutes with the windows open (and closed) to judge the noise. In addition, if the apartment allows pets, be aware that you might have to deal with barking dogs.
This really ties in with the location you choose, but regardless, the complex needs to maintain a certain standard of apartment security. For instance, is there a guard on duty? Do you need a key or code to enter the complex? Are the stairways and elevators locked? These might not seem like overly pertinent issues, but it’s something to consider for the future, especially if you plan to reside in the apartment for an extended period of time.
Is the staff helpful? Did they answer all of your questions about the apartment complex appropriately? Remember, office staff have a tendency to be helpful when you’re in the process of signing a lease, but their professionalism might hit the road once you’ve actually signed up. Try talking to a resident while you’re on the property to get their opinion about the staff and maintenance.
If you keep these seven things in mind, and don’t rush through your walkthroughs, you’re more likely to search out and find the right apartment for you.
Stefan Slater is an editor for ApartmentRatings.com. ApartmentRatings.com has thousands of reviews based on the seven categories above for apartments across the country—supplemented, of course, by helpful comments from current and former residents. Follow ApartmentRatings on Twitter and Facebook.