Ready to find that perfect place, and not get ripped off in the process? It's easier than you think, with a little prep work. When you set up a time, inquire who will be showing the unit. It is preferable to have a walk-through with the actual owner of the property (not just a manager or his shady cousin). Be sure to allow yourself plenty of time, and don't rush.
Take pictures of every room while you are there – it will show you are serious and that you won’t be taking any crap when it comes to security deposit, because you have a record of the move-in condition. Don't be afraid to poke around and ask questions about anything that seems unusual.
The apartment should be perfectly clean and everything in it should work when you move in. If the landlord is too lazy or cheap to have the place cleaned when showing it to prospective tenants, that's not a good sign.
Get any “promises” to fix this or install that in writing. You can even mark right on the typed-up lease – that is totally fine. Hand-written sentences “Landlord agrees to have washer fixed by move in date. Landlord agrees to upgrade windows by X date” etc.
Things to ask the landlord about:
- Who pays utilities?
- What type of heat does it have?
- Are there washer/dryer hookups?
- How much do utilities run on average?
- Who do I call for maintenance?
- Have there ever been pets? (allergies)
- How long have you owned the building/house?
- Is there a dishwasher?
- How new are the windows? (heating/cooling cost)
- Do the unit have central AC?
- Will the locks be changed when I move in?
- Are the exterior walls insulated? (heating/cooling cost)
- Are the interior walls insulated? (noise)
- Will the carpet be professionally cleaned before I move in?
Items to take note of when viewing the unit:
- All doors/windows open and close easily (not painted shut), and the locks work.
- Safe egress from bedroom windows.
- General condition of the paint/trim/drywall/fixtures etc.
- Listen for neighbors – how is the soundproofing?
- If multi-story or above-ground: No broken steps on the stairwell, handrails in good shape.
- GFCI outlets anywhere near water (sink, tub) [GFCI outlets have those TEST/RESET buttons w a light]
- Enough counter space?
- Enough closet space?
- Enough storage space?
In general, the idea is to get a feel for how well-maintained the place is. If it's not in good shape now, there's no reason to believe it ever will be. Beware of promises! Good luck and happy hunting!