Apartment Hunting: 5 Things You Should Bring With You
Apartment hunting can be one of the most exciting yet nerve-racking experiences you can go through in life. You scour the listing websites, narrow in on a few promising options then the real fun begins: It’s time to check them out in person.
While seeing a space up close and personal should help you make the final decision, it can be easy to get caught up in the moment and forget some crucial details along the way. Seeing those gorgeous granite countertops may distract you from realizing there’s limited counter space, and twirling gleefully in the spacious walk-in closet may prevent you from noticing that your king-size bed may not fit in the master bedroom. We’ve all been there.
In learning from our mistakes, we’ve come to find that there are five key items to bring with you when apartment hunting to help keep you on track.
1. Required Paperwork
Before you can even step foot in most apartments (and certainly before signing a lease), there is often some proof of qualification required by the landlord or property management company. According to Bill Szczytko, director of leasing operations at WC Smith, a property management company in Washington, D.C., this may include a pay stub, a bank statement, a copy of your current lease, a letter of recommendation, a letter of employment, a copy of your W-2 or a check or money order for application and processing fees. The requirements may vary from city to city and often from building to building, so be sure to ask ahead of time.
This is especially important to keep in mind in markets, such as New York City and San Francisco, where available rentals are rare and are often leased on the spot. Don’t lose out on your dream apartment by not being adequately prepared. Having a photo ID with you is almost always required in professionally managed buildings, and you may want to take that a step further by bringing a photocopy of your ID as well.
2. Camera (or a Smartphone)
When you’re chatting with the leasing agent, it might be easy to overlook the smaller details that may affect day-to-day life in your new apartment. You may think you’ve committed everything to memory, but after viewing three or more apartments in one day, the details may get a little fuzzy. Make sure to snap plenty of photos, that way you’ll have something to look back on to help both jog your memory and compare your options side by side. Don’t be afraid to be thorough! Snap photos inside the shower, linen closet, kitchen cabinets and get close-ups of any appliances.
3. Tape Measure
Seeing an empty apartment without any furniture in it can make it hard to gauge exactly how much living space you’re working with. Bring a tape measure with you to take some basic measurements of room dimensions and doorways to help ensure your furniture can fit. If you want to be extra prepared, measure your furniture ahead of time and bring a list of those dimensions with you, paying special attention to large items such as dining tables, beds and couches. If you’re short on time, the Capital Area Woodworkers has an extensive list of standard furniture dimensions that you can print and use as a general guide.
4. Voice Recorder
Just as looking back on photos can help clarify the fuzzy details of your apartment tour, playing back the conversation with a landlord may help you remember all of the specifics. This can easily be done using your smartphone, just be sure to ask the landlord’s permission before you begin recording. You (hopefully) remembered to ask all of the important questions, so don’t sell yourself short by forgetting the answers to them! Which leads us to our next item …
5. Checklist of Questions for the Landlord
Beyond just the appearance and feel of the apartments you’re viewing, there are a number of questions that you’ll want answers to when it comes time to make your decision. Don’t wait until you’re locked into a lease to find out what the visitor policy is or if additional expenses such as an amenity fee or pet deposit are involved. Take this checklist of 12 questions to ask the landlord with you to help make sure you’ve got all of your bases covered, and then weigh the pros and cons when you get home.
Apartment hunting, like most things in life, can be a lot easier when you’re properly prepared for the task ahead. Keeping these items handy may help you score your dream apartment without being blindsided by any surprises down the line.