Checklist for Apartment Hunters
Apartment-Hunting Guide (Pt. 1)
Hunting for an apartment is sometimes like going on a Safari: You have may
to search far and wide, and travel great distances before you get to your
destination and find the prey you’ve been seeking. Every apartment you see
may just be missing one little thing that was on your wish-list, but don’t
be discouraged, you’ll eventually get what you want.
If this is the first apartment you'll be renting on your own, or if you’re
just haven’t had much luck in your previous places of abode, we have some
tips for you.
Apartment hunter's checklist
Start your search by listing your top priorities. What’s on your must-have
list and what can you live without and still be happy? Take copies of this
checklist with you as you go on the hunt.
• Location of building (safety, proximity to places you visit often)
• Location in building (bottom floors may be less safe; upper floors are
harder to move into)
• Emergency exits
• Smoke detectors/fire extinguisher
• Elevator or stairs (ease of moving or evacuation)
• Hallways (well-maintained, well-lit)
• Lead-based paint (important for the very young and those with weakened
• Number of bedrooms and bathrooms
• Furnished or unfurnished
• Room for a desk or home office
• Natural light
• Hardwood floors
• Separate dining room
• Kitchen space (meal area, counter space, storage for cookware and small
• Kitchen drawers and cupboards (storage and ease of opening)
• Appliances included (and condition of refrigerator, dishwasher, microwave,
washer and dryer)
• Gas or electric heat
• Gas or electric oven
• Air conditioning
• Closet space and other storage
• Garden, yard, balcony, patio or rooftop access
• Outlets in all rooms (plentiful, safe, well-located)
• Phone jacks for phones and modems
• Television reception (cable required or provided)
• Door locks (locks on all doors; deadbolt and security chain on entry door)
• Windows (ease of opening, locks, screens)
• Soundproofed walls (neighborhood and building noise)
• Privacy of unit and bedrooms
• Curtains or blinds
• Water heater (large enough to keep showers hot)
• Faucets and shower heads (condition and water flow)
• Tap water (odd color and taste might indicate a problem)
• Laundry facilities (hours of access, adequate lighting)
• Parking (paid building parking or off-street)
• Bike storage (security and lighting)
• Mailboxes (security and lighting)
• Swimming pool
• Common areas
• Workout facilities
• Wheelchair access
• Neighborhood flavor
• Onsite landlord
Apartment Hunting Guide (pt.2 )
So you’ve found an apartment you think you’d like to live in and now you
want to work out the details with the landlord. Here are a few questions to
ask before you sign that lease.
15 questions to ask potential landlords
Be sure that the answers to questions 1-12 are covered in or added to your
rental agreement. And don't leave without a copy of any amendments—it's
worth a detour to the local copy center.
1. When is the unit available? If the move-in date is impractical for you,
ask if it's negotiable so that you don't pay for unoccupied time. Is the
apartment currently occupied? Will the landlord arrange for you to talk with
the current occupant or other tenants?
2. Is the lease agreement month-to-month or year-to-year? Most leases are
the latter, but in college or military neighborhoods, or upon request, you
may be able to negotiate for a month-to-month lease.
3. How much are rent and deposit fees, and when is rent due? A typical
deposit includes "first, last and security": You pay the first and last
month's rent up front, as well as a security (damage) deposit that's
partially or fully refundable after you move out.
4. Is there a grace period after the monthly rental due date? When is a
payment considered late, and is there a penalty charge for late payment?
5. What are the terms for renewing the lease? Can you move into an apartment
you like better if one becomes vacant? What are the conditions if you have
to move before the lease expires?
6. Are pets allowed? If a landlord is skeptical about pets, offer to pay a
nonrefundable pet deposit or discuss other compromises to help him or her
feel comfortable. If a pet-deposit policy is in place, is it refundable if
there's no pet damage when you move out?
7. Are any utilities included in your agreement? What are typical bill
amounts in different seasons? Do you need to make your own arrangements for
hookups? It's preferable to have your own utility accounts rather than
making payments to your landlord—you'll avoid "trust issues," and on-time
payments will help your credit rating.
8. Are you allowed to have roommates? What is the policy on subletting?
9. Can you paint the walls or make other decorating changes?
10. Are you allowed to run a home business from your apartment?
11. Will you be responsible for any property maintenance? Is there an office
onsite or a 24-hour phone number in case of emergency? In the case of an
apartment in a private home, make sure you have the landlord’s number,
especially if he doesn’t live in the building.
12. How is garbage removal handled? Is recycling available?
13. Who are the other building residents, especially those who share your
walls or live above and below you?
14. How does the landlord handle noise violations? Does the building tend to
be quiet, or is it Party Central? How about the neighborhood traffic, noise
level and crime rate?
15. How close are the nearest public transportation, post office, grocery
stores, banks and restaurants?
5 Interview Tips
So you’re ready to rent a new apartment. If you’re a vet you’ll know what to
do. But if you’re a first-timer and you definitely want to get that condo in
that great building here are a few tips to help you get the landlord or
agent to choose you over all the other eager apartment hunters.
Be prepared. Save time—and stand out in a crowd of applicants—by bringing a
copy of your credit report and a completed rental application to your
interviews with landlords.
On time, every time. It's better to arrive early than to be late for a
viewing appointment. As with job interviews, first impressions are often
Let there be light. Visit prospective apartments in the daytime so you'll
know how much natural light to expect and any problems and defects will be
easier to see. Drive through the neighborhood at night to see outdoor
lighting and street culture.
Measure up. Record the sizes of your big-ticket furniture, and bring a tape
measure with you to measure apartment doors. If you find a great apartment
but it's too small for all of your stuff, decide in advance what you'd be
willing to sell, store or get rid of so you aren't held back by indecision.
Sell yourself. Apartment searches aren't really the best time for your
see-through club outfits. You'll be meeting prospective landlords, so
however you dress, you want to give the impression that you'll be on time
with your rent and you'll be a good caretaker of the apartment.