Red-hot rental markets in a number of cities around the country are making would-be tenants worry that if they don’t sign on the dotted line right now, they’ll miss out.
Let’s say you’re lucky enough to have found a place that seems perfect for you. Even if you need to move quickly, don’t get so caught up in the excitement that you overlook critical details. Real estate experts say these are the most important things to check when you’re doing your due diligence.
Security: Your evaluation should start before the broker or landlord unlocks the door of the apartment. You want to make sure that the locks on the building are secure and that buzzer entry systems are working. If it’s a large building, there should be security cameras in common areas like the lobby and hallways.
Cleanliness: If there are visible signs of neglect, such as peeling paint in the hallways or trash around the building or basement, that’s a sign the landlord or property manager isn’t as hands-on as he should be, says Lynnette Bruno, vice president of communications at Trulia. That could be a problem once you’re in residence and need something in the apartment fixed or replaced.
Elevator: If there’s an elevator, check to see if the inspection sticker is up to date. If the certificate is not on display in the elevator, the landlord or building manager should be able to provide proof of inspection upon request.
Water pressure: Turn on the faucets and shower and flush the toilet. Make sure the water pressure is decent, and run the water long enough to make sure the hot water works.
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Heat and A/C: Confirm that they’re in good working order before you sign anything.
Major appliances: Check the refrigerator, stove, and any other major appliances to make sure they’re functioning properly. (If you’re lucky enough to have a washer and dryer in the unit, do the same.) If they’re not brand-new, it might be worth asking how old they are, suggests Jared Zak, director of property management for Howard Hanna Real Estate Services, since older appliances might not be as efficient and could cost more to run.
Laundry: If there are shared laundry facilities, take a look to see that they’re well-maintained and see how much it costs to use them.
Noise: You’ll want to know if a nearby subway line or airport will rattle your windows at regular intervals. A broker might not be forthcoming with this detail, so it pays to ask—or hang around long enough to hear for yourself.
Windows and emergency exits: Windows should be operable, with no broken glass, and you should be able to lock them from the inside. Emergency exits should be clearly marked and not blocked by other tenants’ belongings.
Parking: If there’s a parking garage, make sure it’s accessible and safe. If you plan to park there, ask if there’s space available for you and how much it will cost. If there are no spaces available, inquire about the waiting list and what your other options are in the meantime.