- Real Estate
New Apartment Checklist - 10 Tips for Your First Apartment
Make a Plan for your First Moving Experience
So you have decided to move into your first new apartment but you’re not quite sure on what you should be looking for. In this article we will examine 10 areas of importance to help you make the best selection for your first apartment.
Moving, in its self, can be a nerve racking experience. Whether it is a move to a new city or away to college, the key point is its away; away from what you know to be familiar, and that can cause all sorts of anxiety.
However, if you go into your new move with a plan of attack, you can reduce that anxiety as well as turn the experience into a pleasant one. So, let’s get started.
The very first thing to consider is the location of your new digs. Is it close to work? Is it close to school? Is there shopping or restaurants within walking distance? Is there a lot of foot traffic and does the area seem safe? If you’re not sure about the area’s safety record you should to do some more research. Check the crime blotter for your selected neighborhood and talk to some shop keepers. The primary goal is to find an apartment in a safe area which is also close to the places you will frequent the most.
Have you ever been apartment hunting?
When it comes to apartment living, size matters. Apartments are found in many varieties, from 2, 3, and 4 flat buildings in small towns to skyscraper buildings in large cities, and other types of buildings that can accommodate hundreds or even thousands of tenants.
You will want to choose a living space that fits your needs, but also a building or complex that fits your needs. Many first time renters choose a studio apartment only to soon find that the space is too small for the lifestyle they most desire. If you don’t know, a studio apartment is a very small living space which is usually no more than 400 square feet. It has a kitchenette, a bathroom, and a living room which also doubles as a bedroom. As you can imagine, a studio apartment is not suitable for someone that likes to entertain several guests.
Apartments normally accommodate up to 3 bedrooms and the more bedrooms the higher the cost. A single person that would like to entertain on occasion would do well with a one bedroom unit as these units normally have a full size kitchen and often have a dining area as well as a living room. Of course, having a 2 or 3 bedroom unit allows for the option of having roommates to help split the cost and allow you to rent in a more desirable location for less out of pocket spending.
The larger the space and the more desirable the location, only stands to reason, the higher the cost of rent. Aside from location and size of the apartment, you will want to know what exactly you are getting for your rent and what additional expenditures you are likely to have. Some apartments include utilities, but many do not.
You will want to get estimates of how much it is going to cost for Water, Gas, Electric, and other luxury services such as cable television, home phone, and internet. Some property management companies like to squeeze every dollar out of a tenant and add charges for use of property amenities such as a pool, exercise room, extra parking, and even to allow pets. Make sure you have a good budget put together so you can compare all expected living expenses.
Take a notebook with you so you can record your findings and weigh them against other properties that you investigate. The things you want to pay close attention to are:
- The floors – this will be the first thing you notice when entering the apartment. Make note of any carpeting stains or smells. Make note of any missing tiles on the kitchen or bathroom floors.
- The Walls and Ceiling – check for fresh paint, peeling or chipped paint, holes or missing tiles on the walls, and for water stains on the ceiling.
- The Doors – all of the doors should open and close easily without any drag on the floor or without leaving any visible space between the door jams. Closet doors should be on tracks and open and shut with ease. Doorknobs should all have locking mechanisms. The main entry door should have a deadbolt, and or other safety latches.
- Plumbing Fixtures – check that all sinks and faucets operate properly without any leaking. Look under the kitchen sink for signs of leaking or mildew. Turn on the tub and shower faucets to inspect for water pressure as well as how long it takes for the water to heat up. Lastly, flush the toilet and determine if it flushes properly and how long it takes to refill the tank.
- Appliances – take note of what appliances are available. At the minimum, you should have a refrigerator and a stove/oven. Note if the oven is electric or gas. Note the age and condition of the appliances. If you have a dishwasher, turn it on to see if it cycles. If you have a garbage disposal, turn it on as well to listen for function. Turn on any exhaust fans to make sure they are operating as well. Note any damage or non functioning appliances and make sure the landlord is going to correct the problems prior to moving in.
- Switches and Outlets – take a small electric radio or alarm clock with you and test the electrical outlets. None of the outlets should be painted over, they should all be able to accommodate a grounded, three prong plug. If you turn on a light switch and there is flickering or sparking, make sure the landlord knows about it immediately.
- Safety Devices – take note of how many smoke detectors there are and their locations. Are there any carbon monoxide detectors? Any fire extinguishers? Any fire escapes?
- Cabinets and Closets – inspect these thoroughly and not just to see how much stuff they can hold. These are the main hiding spaces for unwanted critters. Look for signs of roaches and mice. Ask the management when and how often they exterminate
Before you sign any lease, make sure you are up to speed on all of the property policies regarding:
- Guests and Parties
- Painting and Decorating
Does the apartment complex you are interested have amenities to entice renters? Having a pool, or tennis courts, or exercise room can be quite attractive and allow you to save some money from private memberships that offer those amenities. But also, if the unit you are interested in does not have a washer or dryer, does the building have laundry facilities? If so, make sure that it is well maintained, well lit, and if the costs are reasonable.
Don’t sign a lease immediately after viewing an apartment for the first time because you are going to want to investigate some things first. Some mentioned above and some still to come. Most property management companies are going to want you to complete an application first and some might even charge you a fee to submit the application. Most reputable companies will run a credit check on you and also verify your references. If you pass all of that and are intent on the location then take the time to read the lease carefully. The lease will spell out in exact terms what the landlord is responsible for and what you are responsible for. It will also spell out the length of the lease, which is normally between 6 months and one year. Occasionally, you will find a landlord that will rent month by month but don’t rent anything without a lease.
Something that almost nobody does anymore is check out the neighbors. Go knock on some doors and ask the other tenants about the building, the facilities, the landlord, the neighborhood. First, you might make some new friends. Second, it shows that you are doing your due diligence to make the right decision.
#8 Light and Vent
During your initial walk-through, a major consideration for your first apartment or any apartment is how much natural lighting there is. Do the windows provide enough light or are you going to need additional lamps? Do the windows have screens so that you can safely open them without worry of outside pests entering? Do all of the windows open properly and lock properly? Do the windows have blinds or other treatments on them and are they functional and clean? Are there air conditioners in the windows or under window sleeves? Are there ceiling fans and do they work? Is there forced air heaters, or radiators? Is there a thermostat so that you can control the heat and cooling of the unit?
Take pictures of everything that you believe to be wrong with the unit before you even move in. Make copies of the photos and give a set to the landlord. If it is serious enough that you want it repaired first then let management know. This way, they can’t come back at the end of your lease and try to charge you for those problems. Pictures will be your first line of defense.
Good luck, and Happy Apartment Hunting!
Now for the fun stuff
Once you've decided on the perfect space, you might want to check out the book listed below to give you some great ideas on how to furnish a small space to get a big space feel. Going small for your first apartment is a good idea so you can learn what to expect from apartment living without pouring all of your hard earned money into it. You may think you have an idea based on info from your parents or friends, but nothing really counts until you have experienced it for yourself first hand. Good luck.