Before you sign that rental agreement..

You may think I am being a bit ‘dramatic’ with this list, but the stories I could tell you……

Instead, I’ll offer you sound advice.

Here we go:

What the surrounding area is like during all hours

You may be laser focused on finding the new address but try and let your eye wander as you go check out a new place. Was it very difficult to drive there or take public transportation? Are there lots of bars and fast food joints? Is the apartment next to an intersection or bus stop? If possible, visit this new place at different times of the day, but at the very least during a rush hour to see just how loud and wild the place gets. The big question to ask yourself at this point is, do I feel safe and comfortable right now? And once you get to your potentially new apartment, don’t forget to check what’s next door!

Check out the common areas

As you walk toward your potentially new apartment, pay attention to how well-kept the common areas are, from hallways to stoops to stairwells and more. Not only can it give a hint as to what sort of neighbors you’ll be sharing the place with, it could give an indication of how well the management keeps up the property. You might also check out where the garbage is maintained to also see how well-kept that area is.

Look for signs of infestation

Some folks in big cities have resigned themselves to having to live with a certain level of vermin. For others, the thought of having to share your new space with something like mice or roaches is completely vile. So get really thorough when you search your potential new place. Bring a flashlight (or just use the one on your cell phone) to not only search corners, cabinets and crevices for the bugs themselves, but also look for signs they’ve been there, like excrement and shedding and more.

Check to see how the doors and windows work

Check all doors and windows to see that they open and close and latch and lock. But then take it a step further and investigate how energy efficient they might be. Do exterior doors need door sweeps replaced? Are old windows painted shut (more common than you may think) or very drafty? None of these things are necessarily deal breakers, but they could cost you a lot of money in the future when it comes to heating and cooling your place!

Check the plumbing

Few people think to run the faucets and flush the toilets, but both of these can give you indications about the state of the plumbing. If the toilet doesn’t flush well or runs very long, you could be spending extra money on your water bill. And check that toilet shut off valve — does it work or is it rusted shut? (This is not something you want to discover while your toilet is overflowing)! Sinks that don’t drain could indicate clogs in the pipes that haven’t been fixed. Check that shower — how’s the pressure? How long does it take for the hot water to heat up, and how’s the temperature? If you’re able to check the water heater, does it look okay, or does it look old and damaged?

FUN FACT: Showers and water bills can be greatly affected by an old water heater.

Check the electrical sockets

Check to see if they work, if there are any loose sockets or other indications of faulty wiring. But also check to make sure there are enough in the rooms that you’ll be using a lot of electronics. If you use a curling iron or hair dryer lets say, make sure you’ve got outlets where you need them in the bathroom. Maybe even check to see if they have GFCI outlets in the bathroom and kitchen. And don’t get me started on laptops/cellphone/ipad/etc that need to be plugged in.  BE SURE TO CHECK!

 Listen to the noise level

This sounds crazy but its necessary. Sit in the middle of your potential new bedroom (or if you’ll be working from home, the place where you might keep your office). Sit quietly and just listen. Is the traffic noise pretty loud or can you deal? Do you hear kids screaming or dogs barking? Are neighbors playing really loud music or stomping? Is a nearby traffic signal beeping loudly? Is a fire truck roaring out of a fire station a block away? None of these things are necessarily deal breakers (ear plugs and noise-cancelling headphones can do wonders), but it’s about not being surprised by loud noises after you sign the lease. Of course, you might not be able to hear everything in a short amount of time, but it should give you a slight idea of the noise levels of the place.

Look up and down

Look for ceiling stains that might indicate leaks that haven’t been fixed, look for giant cracks in the ceiling that may indicate major foundation trouble. Look for signs of moisture or mold. Check the flooring to see if it’s relatively clean and whether or not there’s damage (think cracks & chips), loose boards or tripping hazards (uneven flooring).

*Be sure to note it all in your lease as ‘existing’.  You’ll thank me for that one.

Make a call

Grab your cell phone and make a call to check on the reception while you’re in your potential new place. Perhaps even consider doing a quick search for what internet providers work in that area and see if it’ll be enough for your digital needs.

**Yes, you will thank me for that one too!

 If you see a future neighbor, ask them two important questions

Don’t feel like you have to go knocking on everyone’s doors, but if you see any potential new neighbors out and about, say hello, introduce yourself, and ask them how they like living there and how they like the landlord. Don’t let their words be the final say of whether or not you choose to rent but take them in account like everything else you’ve checked off from this list.

Congratulations – if your potential new home meets the above requirements you can now turn to the


How much is the rent? $ per month $

How much is the security deposit? $

Other up-front payments? 1st month Last month?

How long is the lease for?

What were the typical rent increases over the last 1-3 years?

What is the turnover rate in the building?

What are the building’s quiet hours (times when you’re expected to be quiet)?

What are the conditions in which breaking my lease is acceptable (think job transfer)?

What are the late rent fees, returned check charges, and other penalties (not that you will but life does happen so it is best to know upfront so you can plan accordingly)?

Will the unit be painted and cleaned prior to move-in?

What appliances are included with the unit? (CIRCLE): Refrigerator Oven/Stove Microwave In-Unit Washer and Dryer or Laundry facility on the property Dishwasher

To whom do I direct complaints? (your guest thought you had a garbage disposal and now the sink is clogged – it happens don’t judge). Is this person available on-site?

What am I responsible for? (circle all) Electricity Water Heat Trash

Who is responsible for changing the filters in the air conditioning unit?

How are maintenance requests handled (call/text/email/first come first served)?

What is the typical response time for maintenance requests?

What notice is the landlord required to give before entering your new apartment? Are there exceptions?


CONGRATULATIONS, you have mastered the Apartment Hunting Checklist and are now well prepared! Best of luck on your search which starts here:

I look forward to helping you find your new home 🙂