Making a first apartment checklist is an awesome thing to do. Let’s face it, taking that first step out into the real world is daunting. No more parents as a safety net. Nobody to clean up after you or cook for you. But there is a lot you need to know before you take the plunge. And that’s where I come in. Let me walk you through the steps you need to take. From finding you the perfect place to making sure you get your deposit back, here’s everything you need to know about taking the first step into adulthood.
Before you sign anything
I know, you’re itching to get going. But first things first. Can you afford to move? The very first thing you need to do is sit down and work out a budget you can afford. After all, there are far more expenses than you could ever have even dreamed about. Check out the spreadsheet below to see if there are any you have missed. For your own copy, here’s a Google Drive link.
So, how did you do? Can you afford to move and still eat? Great! Then let’s move on to the next area.
Finding An Apartment
We all want to live in the penthouse rooftop apartment downtown with gleaming appliances and an amazing roof terrace. But let’s face it, most of us can’t. So now you need to set realistic expectations. Go through this list and figure out which ones are important to you.
- Situated near work or school.
- In a safe neighbourhood. You can check using the trulia heat crime map.
- Access to bars, restaurants, nightclubs.
- Parking for your vehicle.
- Is the length of lease right for you? 6 Months / 1 Year Etc.
- Do you want a fully furnished / part furnished or unfurnished apartment?
- Near to friends.
- Close to shopping malls / supermarkets.
- Am I close enough to public transport (trains, buses etc).
- Do you want to be in a building that allows pets or not?
- Do you prefer being on the ground floor or above. Noise disturbance will differ greatly depending on location.
Where to find the right apartment
So you’ve narrowed down your first apartment checklist and you know what your priorities are. Next step is to start looking for apartments. Here’s a list of places to start looking.
The First Viewing
You found an apartment you like, at a price you like. So next up is the first viewing. This is your chance to meet your future landlord and get a feel for them, ask them any questions and found out not just about the apartment but also the area surrounding it. Before we get into what questions you should be asking your landlord there is one seriously important point to get out of the way.
Make sure you ask to see the exact unit you will be renting, not a showcase apartment. If they say no, be very suspicious.
Good questions to ask the landlord:
- How long has the unit been empty? / Why are the current tenants leaving?
- Will it be painted and cleaned before I move in?
- When was the last time the wiring / fuse box where last done?
- Are there any schools / churches nearby (traffic at peak times could be insane).
- What utilities are included?
- What appliances are included and do they all work?
- Who is responsible for maintenance and pest control?
- Does the apartment have its own water heater – if not how many apartments share it?
- Are there any major works scheduled for the apartment block?
- Where are the first escapes?
- What were the typical rent increases like in the last 5 years?
- Ask if they accept section 8 or convicted felons. If they do, walk away.
- Find out the consequences for breaking the lease early. No-one wants it to happen, but sometimes life gets in the way.
Things to check:
- Fusebox – Is it in good condition and of a reasonably new age?
- Windows – Are they in good repair with no draughts?
- Taps and hot water – Do they all run freely and give hot water?
- Test the appliances. Cooker turns on, microwave works, fridge is to temperature etc.
- General upkeep. Have screws / old nails just been painted over. Any mold or mildew. Paint splashes onto fixtures when repainted. All of these are signs that work has either not been done, or been done on the cheap.
- Do all the locks work?
- How’s the cell phone reception?
- Are there any signs of rodent droppings / cockroaches etc. Check the tops of cabinets as they are rarely cleaned and will give you a good idea.
Things to do
- Check out the local area and go into shops, cafe etc
- Talk to the leaving tenants and / or other tenants in the building.
- Check with the local rent board to see if your landlord has any complaints against them.
- Stick around the area until after dark. Places can get better or worse when the sun goes down. See if anyone in the complex is overly loud or annoying at night.
- Check any and all local tenant laws.
- Do you drive? Drive through the area at rush hour to get a feel for traffic levels.
- Call a local pizza place and see if they deliver after dark. If not, the place may have a history of being unsafe.
- Check apartmentratings.com.
Alright! You got through the first viewing. If you can, schedule a second viewing and go through everything again. However, in reality, most apartments go quick, so your first viewing might be the only one. Make sure you do it thoroughly.
Signing the contract
This is the boring bit. Read everything before you sign it. Any parts you are unsure of, ask for clarification. Make sure you understand how much of the deposit is refundable. Also make sure you understand what counts as wear and tear and what will need to be fixed when you move out so that you can get your full deposit back.
If everything is in order, sign that bad boy and agree a moving in date. If you have asked for something to be fixed or finished before you move in, make sure the landlord follows through and gets it done.
Because you already went through your first apartment checklist I’m not going to go over furniture needed or moving arrangements. What I am going to give you is a list of things you need to do with the landlord on moving day. You see, standard practise is to go over the apartment with a check in/check out sheet. This will mark any defects etc already in place. And most likely, when you move out they will use it to get you on the hook for as many costs as possible. So go through it extremely thoroughly.
- Document everything. Every mark, scuff, everything. With timestamped pictures.
- Check all appliances.
- Check all windows, doors and locks are working.
- Are there carpets? Document any marks already on them.
- Move appliances and check conditions underneath and behind them. You can find yourself on the hook for a “cleaning fee” when you leave otherwise.
- Check the taps, hot water, toilet flushes and shower has pressure.
- Check for mold, mildew and any water damage. Not just in the bathroom, but in kitchen cabinets too.
- If possible, video the walk-through and save a copy as evidence.
- And remember this, you can’t be too picky with this. It’s your cash you will lose.
We are at the end of your first apartment checklist! Congratulations! One last tip before I go. Any decorating, renovation that you have plans to do, do it in the first month. After the first month, you will be into a routine and you just won’t bother.