While services like PadMapper, Lovely and Craigslist have made searching for an apartment a lot easier than it has been in the past, one has to remember that these services are all about getting you to sign a lease without having to tell you some of the drawbacks about renting one of their rooms.
Since we work with a lot of property managers and property inspectors, we thought we’d share some of the important apartment hunting hacks that you should know before you sign.
Here they are:
1. Check Cell Reception.
Photo by Andy Arthur
If you’re like me, you probably don’t have a land line, meaning that the only way for people to reach you is through a cell phone. Be sure to take your phone out and see how many bars you have, especially in the rooms where you expect to spend the most time. If you’re at two bars or lower, it might be a good idea to move on.
2. Determine your Walk Score.
For city dwellers, chances are you probably won’t be driving much. This means you’ll be walking pretty much anywhere. Instead of going through a list of questions about the nearest restaurants, schools and parks, you can enter the address on Walk Score before even going there to see if you’ll like the neighborhood.
3. Check out the neighborhood at different times of day.
Photo by Alex Cheek
While it may seem like a quiet neighborhood during the day you probably wouldn’t notice that there were five nightclubs just across the street…until you hear all the drunk people howling outside your window just before you go to sleep on a Saturday night. A neighborhood can be very different at different times of day. It’s good to be aware of that fact.
4. Ask about bedbugs.
Apartment managers are legally obligated to mention whether or not an apartment has had a bedbug problem in the past. If there has been a problem, it’s probably best to steer clear. Even if there hasn’t been a reported case of bedbugs in the building, be sure to set a bedbug trap in the room before you move in. That way, you can get the room treated before the bugs find convenient hiding places in all the furniture you bring in.
5. Check apartment reviews.
Do a Google search with the name of the apartment building and the keyword “reviews.” Be sure to take these reviews with a grain of salt because a lot of people who leave negative reviews have an axe to grind. If there seems to be a trend towards negative reviews, however, you may want to look elsewhere.
6. Run the water, AC and heaters.
Photo by Geoffrey Fairchild
There’s nothing more unsatisfying than taking showers under a small trickling stream every day. Be sure to run the showers to ensure there’s sufficient heat and water pressure.
Along those same lines, be sure to check whether the air conditioner and heater are in good working order. It won’t be pleasant to find out they don’t work when you most need them!
7. Ask the apartment manager how long they’ve been in the business.
Photo by Elliot Brown
This is a a good way to find how experienced the property manager is. The more experienced they are the more likely they’ll be able to take care of emergencies. Also, they probably have already established relationships with plumbers, electricians and other service providers whose help may be needed.
8. Understand how utilities are billed.
Photo by redjar
Some apartment buildings will bill power usage individually while others will pay a set amount each month. If power usage goes over that set amount they will bill based on the number of tenants in a particular unit. In the former case, it’ll behoove you to conserve power while in the latter case it won’t matter as much.
9. Where are the electrical sockets?
Photo by Zawesome
Are there electrical sockets in the areas where you plan to put your lamp, your bed, your desk, etc? Make sure the layout is to your satisfaction so you don’t have to string an extension cord along your wall.
10. Take photos and make an inventory of the state of the apartment.
Photo by crayolarabbit
While the property managers who use Happy Inspector are the good guys, unfortunately there are a few unscrupulous managers out there that give everyone a bad name. These are the folks who will point out the cracks in the tiles that have always existed and use them as an excuse to withhold your deposit. Before moving in, be sure to take pictures of the state of the place. If you really want to go overboard, you may even want to print out the pictures and send them by registered mail to both yourself and the apartment manager. The photos that you send to yourself should stay unopened and be available should you need it.
11. Check for cockroaches.
Photo by Andreanna Moya
If there are cockroaches, chances are you won’t actually see one until days after you move in, so make sure you do some preliminary detective work. First of all, check apartment reviews for any mentions of infestations. Second, check drawers and cabinets for cockroach feces–they should look like small piles of coffee grounds. Finally, check above cabinets and under sinks for roach traps that may have been left by a previous occupant.
12. Was the apartment built on top of an Indian burial ground?
You really don’t want to find that your apartment is haunted by angry ancestral spirits before you move in. Also, exorcists are pretty expensive so make sure that you check historical records to so that you won’t be inconvenienced by surprise hauntings.
Any other apartment hunting hacks we didn’t mention? Add them in the comments below.