Part of flying out of the nest is having another nest to go to, which is why I’m dedicating this article to apartment hunting. As a young professional, this may be your first time, third time, or fifth time renting an apartment. Either way, there are some important questions to ask when renting an apartment and a lot of things about apartment tours and apartment walkthroughs to keep straight. 

For me, the best way to organize everything and make an informed decision is to seek wisdom, pray for God’s guidance, and use my ultimate apartment hunting checklist (with two free printables > >).

a living room in an apartment with a vase and cup of tea

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I’ll receive a commission if you purchase through my links, at no extra cost to you. Please read the full disclosure for more information.

Also, I am not your financial advisor, real estate agent, or professional consultant. Please view my legal disclaimer if you have any questions about how you should use any advice or suggestions in this article.

Apartment Hunting Checklist – Before You Go

So you’ve made the decision to look for an apartment?! This is another big step into adulthood for young adults alike. Before getting into the nitty-gritty of apartment hunting, take a moment to celebrate this important milestone.

(Moment)

Alright, back to it, now. 

If you are apartment hunting, I recommend you don’t start with driving down streets and knocking on the doors of leasing offices (though in some places, you may have to resort to that). Why? Because you won’t know if there is an apartment available, which could lead to wasted time, and you won’t know what questions to ask, which could lead to a bad decision.

This Ultimate Apartment Hunting Checklist will help you narrow down your apartment search and suggest questions for you to ask before renting an apartment. It all starts with activities to do before you go.

Questions to Ask Myself Before Renting an Apartment

First and foremost, there are questions you must ask yourself before renting an apartment that will determine which apartments you will consider. These are aspects like:

  • Timing
    • When do I want to move?
    • How long of a lease do I want to sign?
  • Location & Attractions
    • Where do I want to live?
    • How long will my commute to work be?
    • What’s around the area? Are there parks, restaurants, shopping, theaters, etc.?
    • Am I close to friends, family, church, other activities?
  • Walkability
    • Do I want to live in an area where I can walk places?
      • If so, how safe are the streets? Are there sidewalks and crosswalks?
      • What is around that I’d like to walk to?
  • Availability of Public Transportation
    • Am I planning to take the bus/train/subway to work or other places?
    • Is public transportation easily accessible from where I want to live?
  • Budget: Maximum Rent & Utilities
    • How much am I willing and able to spend on rent and utilities?
    • How much do I have saved up for a security deposit? Can I afford it now or do I need to save up a little longer?
  • Pet Policies
    • Am I planning to have a pet? 
      • If so, you’ll need an apartment complex that allows pets and the breed of your pet.
  • Parking Policy
    • Will I have a car on the property?
    • Am I ready to pay more for parking, if necessary?
    • Is guest parking available or easily accessible?
  • Roommates
    • Am I wanting to or planning to have roommates?
    • How much are my roommates wanting to pay in rent and utilities?
    • Do I have a roommate in mind or do I need to find one?
    • Why do I want a roommate?
      • I’m asking this last question, because I thought I wanted a roommate. Once I started living on my own, I realized that living solo was much better for me.
  • Amenities & Features
    • What are my must-haves, wants, and would-likes for the amenities and features of my apartment? Here are some examples:
      • In-unit washer and dryer
      • Dishwasher
      • Central Air conditioning & Heat
      • Garage Parking
      • Free Printing
      • Business Office
      • Pool
      • Gym

Before proceeding to the next step of the ultimate apartment hunting checklist, you should think through all of these questions. However, the most important, must-have questions you will want to have answered are “Location” and “Budget” because that will determine where to start when you begin your apartment hunt.

First Time Renting an Apartment

If this is your first time renting an apartment, I suggest you seek the guidance of your parents, older siblings, church friends, trusted mentors, or someone else who has done this before and whom you trust. 

Never go apartment hunting by yourself! 

The “Love is Blind” statement applies to apartment hunting. You may be so enamored with an apartment or a location that you go way past your budget, forget to ask important questions, or say yes before doing all your research.

Slow your roll. You can still be excited, of course, this is an important step and goal for a young professional! But engage someone in your apartment hunting, preferably someone who has done this before, to guide you and keep you from becoming too “starstruck.”

What do I need to know before renting an apartment?

That being said, there are some other items I want to bring up that may be unfamiliar to first-time apartment renters.

Before renting an apartment you should know:

  • Your credit score does matter. It is what apartment complexes use to determine if you’re likely to pay your rent in full and on time every month. Depending on your credit score, they determine how much your security deposit will be or, in some cases, if they’ll rent to you.
  • You need to have your security deposit (and more) saved up before renting. There are no IOUs in the adulting world, so you’ll want to be sure you already have the cash for the security deposit before you start looking. How much the security deposit will be depends on many factors, such as your credit score, renting history, and the apartment policy. As a young, first-time renter, chances are your security deposit will be higher, so keep that in mind.
  • Shorter lease terms are usually more expensive. In other words, a 4-month lease is typically more expensive than a 13-month lease. Whenever you’re apartment hunting, always ask for all of the options so you can compare different prices if you’re debating which lease length to pick.
  • Apartments do not earn you any equity. Apartments are great for the short-term. All the maintenance is handled for you, so you don’t have to worry about fitting the bill if the apartment air conditioning breaks. At the same time, with each rent check, you aren’t gaining any ownership in the apartment. If you’re ready to put down roots and make an investment that grows over time, you may consider putting house-buying on your radar.
    • That being said, apartments are great for young professionals because we usually aren’t ready to put down roots and are likely to be moving for a new job, schooling, etc. So don’t rush into anything either. 🙂 
  • An honest recommendation goes a long way. Remember that all leasing agents want you to lease an apartment, so they may not give you the brutal truth about what it’s like to live at a complex. If you can get an honest opinion from a friend, college, or someone else who lives at the complex, it may enlighten you of things you wouldn’t have known otherwise.

Related: Truths about the Adulting Life and the Adulting Struggle

Finding an Apartment

Once you’ve got your priorities, it’s time to begin the true apartment hunting by finding options. 

I recommend that you create a spreadsheet to keep all of the information you find in one place. Otherwise you’ll be hopping from tab to tab and not remembering which complex you’re trying to compare to which.

Here’s my spreadsheet for this ultimate apartment hunting checklist.

Feel free to download and add additional columns for different features or apartment aspects you’d like to track. I recommend viewing it in Excel for the best experience.

  • Related: Looking for more freebies? Check out the KJL Co. Freebie Library with all the printables from my posts and free phone screensaver designs.

The Research of Apartment Hunting

With a spreadsheet to help you stay organized, now it’s time to get to work on locating apartments. You can research each apartment complex in a couple of different ways:

  • Use an apartment search engine like apartments.com.
  • Go directly to the apartment’s website.

My recommendation would be to do both! I always start with the apartment search engines because they are great for nailing down your location, giving you a list of options, and helping you narrow it down. You can filter by different categories, such as price, numbers of beds/bath, amenities, etc. The downside is that they don’t always have the most up-to-date information about the complex, availability, and pictures. 

Once you’ve got a solid list of apartments you are interested in, go to the website for each apartment complex and verify the information you found. As you find additional information, fill out your spreadsheet to keep track of the data.

What should I look for when renting an apartment?

As you’re researching apartments, there are a couple of things you’ll want to be looking for:

  1. Availability – Do they have the apartment you want in the time frame you’re looking to move?
    1. If no, then scratch it off the list.
  2. Pricing – Does the rent fit into your budget? Are utilities included? Are there any amenities fees?
    1. You don’t want to be “house-poor.” So if it doesn’t fit in your budget, scratch it off the list.
  3. Floor Plan – Do you like the floorplan of the apartment? 
    1. Big closet? Check. 
  4. Location in the complex – Is the available apartment on the right floor/corner/facing the street/courtyard like you want?
    1. I personally prefer windows to face a courtyard rather than the pool.
  5. Apartment Features – Does the apartment have the apartment features you are looking for? How many of your must-haves, wants, and would likes does the apartment have?
    1. No in-unit washer and dryer? I’m out of there.
  6. Apartment Amenities – Does the apartment have the apartment amenities you are looking for?
    1. Need to have a pool? Free parking? Double check here or cross it off the list.

While you should be able to find most of this information on the website of the apartment complex, you may need to call the complex to get more information. Some places don’t post prices online or have an entire list of their amenities online. 

Apartment Tour Checklist

Next in the apartment hunting checklist is getting prepared for the apartment tours. Grab a friend or family member and bring them along for the ride. 

Should you tour an apartment before applying?

Yes. If at all possible, you should tour an apartment before applying. A little bit of staging and good lighting can make an apartment that’s not-so-great in person appear really-really-great online. 

Additionally, applications usually have an administration fee attached to them, so it’s more economical to only apply to the apartments where you really want to live. This list will be shorter after you’ve toured the apartments.

Lastly, when you tour an apartment, you can also see the quality of the amenities and get a feel for the area. For example, does it feel safe and well-lit? Does it have a lot of attractions nearby? Are the streets noisy or quiet? These are a few questions that can only be answered by you going to the place in person.

Apartment Hunting Checklist – Preparing for an Apartment Tour

Now that you’ve done an extensive amount of research and filled out your spreadsheet, the next step in the apartment hunting checklist is preparing for the apartment tour.

However, before that, you’ve got to narrow your list down or you’ll be driving around all day!

Make Your Apartment Hunting List

Take your spreadsheet of apartments and add an additional column for “Rank.” You’ll want to go through each apartment complex and read over the information that you previously noted. Based on that and what you remember, decide if this complex is good enough for your “Top 10.”

Why 10? Two reasons. It’s a manageable size, and it gives you wiggle room in case some places that used to have availability don’t anymore.

Instead of trying to rank all of the apartments on your list immediately, first decide if they are top ten worthy. Go through the spreadsheet as many times as necessary to make sure you only have 10 marked as your “Top 10.”

Next is the hard part: actually ranking the 10 apartments from 1 to 10 . For this part, it’s important to look back at everything discussed earlier in this apartment hunting checklist. You’ll need to consider: budget, location, features, roommates, attractions nearby, parking, floor plan, etc.

Once you have your list of 1 to 10, now you have direction on where to go next: the apartment viewing phase.

How should I prepare for an apartment viewing?

In order to prepare for an apartment viewing, you will want to do the following beforehand:

  • Set your budget and make it a priority to stick to it. Know how much you can afford to spend on rent and utilities.
  • Have your list of must-haves, wants, and would likes. This way you’ll be prepared to check them off during the apartment tour.
  • Check the availability of the apartment you are interested in viewing. Call if necessary to confirm that it’s still available.
  • Check the office hours and directions for setting up an apartment tour. You may need to make an appointment or take a day off to view apartments during business hours.
  • Look up directions to the apartment complex. If you have an appointment, you’ll know what time to leave. You can also see what’s around the area.
  • Prepare apartment tour questions.
  • Dress in the right attire and review appropriate apartment viewing etiquette.

How do you ask about apartment availability?

To ask about apartment availability, you’ll want to call the number provided on the website during business hours. Ask to speak to a leasing agent, and let them know that you’re inquiring about renting an apartment.

Once you’ve been connected to a leasing agent, briefly introduce yourself and mention that you’re interested in renting an apartment at their complex. Give them the time frame of when you’d like to move and the number of beds/baths that you’re looking for in a unit. Next, ask them what their availability looks like for those parameters. 

If you’ve seen a unit listed as available online, ask them to confirm the apartment type (beds/bath), availability date, and starting rent of the unit. 

Before hanging up, make sure to note the name of the leasing agent. In case you have to call back later or follow up with them, you’ll know the name of the person that you spoke to and be able to continue the conversation with the same person. It saves a lot of time and headache on both ends!

How do I schedule an apartment tour?

To schedule an apartment tour, you’ll want to view the instructions on the apartment complex website. Some places want you to call ahead of time or fill out information online beforehand. Others allow you to just walk in during office hours, but you may have to wait before someone can help you.

Preparing apartment tour questions

Now that you know that an apartment is available in your budget and time frame, you’ll want to start preparing apartment tour questions. Don’t go into an apartment tour empty handed. Already have your list of apartment tour questions ready to ask.

Jot down any specific questions that were raised by what you saw on the website.

For example, if you have a pet and an apartment complex has a pet policy, but it says, “breed restrictions,” then you’ll want to be sure to ask about the breed restrictions.

Additionally, note down any questions from your spreadsheet and apartment hunting checklist that are still unanswered. Is there no mention of parking on the website? Be sure to ask about the parking situation when you go on the apartment tour.

Apartment viewing etiquette

When you go to view an apartment, you’re assessing the apartment and seeing if it fits your needs. On the flip side, the apartment complex is doing the same thing. With your application information and how you act, they will be thinking about if you’re someone they want to have living in their building and amongst their residents. For that reason, you’ll want to follow some apartment viewing etiquette when doing an apartment tour. 

Put your best foot forward.

If you have an appointment, make sure to show up on time. Be courteous and polite to the leasing agent, maintenance staff, and anyone else that you may come in contact with. Depending on other priorities of the staff, you may have to wait a while. Be patient.

Since you’ll be walking around the property, you’ll want to dress comfortable. Some properties are huge, and there isn’t always a golf cart.

Bring a pad of paper or have an empty note prepared on your phone so that you can take notes and write down answers to your questions. In your apartment hunt, you’ll likely view a lot of contenders. It may be hard to keep them straight, so taking good notes will save you a headache later. 

Also, I recommend taking pictures so you can remember each place and show it to people who weren’t able to go apartment hunting with you. Always ask before taking pictures though. Wait until after the leasing agent has finished showing you an area of the property or an apartment, and then ask if you can take pictures. It’s frustrating to try to talk to someone when they have their phone or camera out. 

If you’re not using your phone for notes or the camera, then put your phone away in your pocket or purse to give your attention to the leasing agent. Trust me, the leasing agents will appreciate it.

Stylish bright living room in an apartment

Questions to Ask before Renting an Apartment

When you’re renting an apartment (and especially first time renting an apartment), it is not the time to be shy. You should ask any and all questions you have before submitting an application and signing any lease. Applications usually cost money for the administration, background check, credit check, etc. And if you sign a lease, then you have a binding contract that will be very expensive to break.

So ask questions before renting an apartment! Ask a lot of them throughout the renting process. No question is too miniscule, and nothing can be assumed or taken for granted.

If you’re drawing a blank, take this list of questions to ask before renting an apartment. Use them for your own apartment hunting checklist and add to them.

Availability Questions to Ask when Renting an Apartment

  • What units do you have available right now? In the next few weeks?
  • Do you have a __ bed and __ bath available right now? 
    • In the next few weeks?
  • When will that apartment be available?
  • Are you expecting to have any __ bed and __ bath available soon? (If there is currently nothing to suit your needs)
    • How often do you update the availability on your website? 
    • Should I check the website or call for the most accurate information?
  • Do you process move-ins on the weekend (Saturday or Sunday)?

Pricing Questions to Ask before Renting an Apartment

  • What is the base rent price for the ___-month lease term?
    • Make sure to ask about other lease terms or where you can go view the other lease terms.
  • How much higher must my income be than the rent for my apartment application to be approved?
    • Ex: A complex may have a stipulation that your income has to be 2 times higher than your rent.
  • What is included in the base rent price? What are the additional fees that I should expect to pay?
    • Ex: Is there an amenity fee? If so, how much is it per month?
  • What are the fixed or variable fees for utilities and services, such as:
    • Valet trash collection?
    • Trash disposal?
    • Pest control?
    • Water?
    • Sewage?
    • Administration Fees for utilities?
    • Amenities?
    • Maintenance?
    • Internet and Cable? (if included)
  • How will I be billed for those utilities and services?
  • How much renters insurance do you require?
    • Do you have a plan that renters can opt-in to and pay monthly with their rent? 
      • If so, how much does it cost per month?
    • You will need to budget for a renters insurance plan, ideally one that covers the apartment and your things, should they be stolen or damaged. I use Lemonade for renters insurance.
  • Is the apartment furnished or unfurnished?
    • How much per month is the furnished option?
  • Do appliances come with the apartment?
    • Are there additional charges for any appliances, such as a washer or dryer?
  • Are there any discounts I should be aware of?
    • Ex: For paying my rent early or in advance?
  • Are you offering any specials right now?
    • Some places will offer a Visa gift card or money off the first month of rent if you lease by a certain date.

Application Questions to Ask before Renting an Apartment

  • What is the application process?
  • What information do I need to have when I’m filling out the application?
  • How long does it take to fill out the application?
  • What are the fees associated with the application?
    • Are there any fees I should expect to pay upfront?
    • In what forms of payment can I pay those fees? (Check/Money Order/Debit Card, etc.)
  • What are the next steps after my application is approved?
    • How will I know that my application is approved or why it was denied?
  • How long can you hold an apartment in my name before I move in? 
    • (In case the apartment is not available immediately or if you don’t want to move in immediately).
  • What steps do I need to take between the application approval and moving into the unit?
  • What is the estimated range for the security deposit? (Usually depends on credit score among other factors.)
    • What factors determine the amount of the security deposit?
    • In what forms of payment do you accept security deposits? (Check/Money Order/Credit Card, etc.)

Questions to Ask when Viewing an Apartment

  • Apartment
    • This model apartment looks great. Can you tell me what’s actually included in the apartments and what is decoration?
    • Does the style of the model apartment match exactly the style of the apartment I’m interested in?
      • Ex: Will the stainless steel appliances be in my apartment, too? Will the hardwoods be this color in my apartment, too?
    • Is there any type of alarm system built into the apartment?
      • How easy would the install process be?
    • How does sound travel through the walls?
      • Will I be able to easily hear my neighbors?
    • Is there a lot of natural light in these units?
    • What are the internet and cable options for this complex?
    • What rules are there regarding decorating the apartment?
      • Can I mount frames or televisions on the wall?
      • Can I paint the walls a different color?
  • Security
    • What security measures do you have in the apartments, hallways, walkways, amenities, garages, parking lots, etc.?
    • Are there any courtesy officers living on site?

What other questions should I ask a landlord before renting?

One of the great things about apartments is that you get a lot of great perks and amenities. But to make sure you can enjoy them to their fullest, you’ll want to ask some questions about them.

  • Pool
    • What are the pool hours? 
    • Are there any regulations on bringing guests?
    • Is there a public shower by the pool?
  • Business Office/Center
    • What are the hours of the business office?
    • Are there printers available? Does it cost to print?
  • Gym
    • What are the hours of the gym?
    • What type of equipment is available in the gym?
    • Are there any gym classes offered during the week?
    • Is there a locker room to keep my belongings?
    • Is there a public shower by the gym?
  • Other
    • What other amenities do you have available?
      • Ex: dog park, free coffee, free beer, meeting rooms, etc.
    • How do you handle package delivery?

Questions to Ask for First Time Apartment Renters

Whether you’re a first time renter or a fifth time renter, all of the questions I’ve mentioned above are helpful to ask during your apartment hunt. However, I want to highlight a couple of questions that are particularly important for first time apartment renters.

When I rented my first apartment, knowing the answers to some of these questions guided my decision. But also, finding out the answers to some of these questions the hard way was not fun! 

So I want to reiterate 10 overarching questions that were most important to me as a first-time renter.

  1. What is the estimated range for the security deposit? 
    1. What factors determine the amount of the security deposit?
  2. How much renters insurance do you require?
  3. How does sound travel through the walls?
    1. Consider living on the top floor and in an interior apartment not facing the street.
  4. This model apartment looks great. Can you tell me what’s actually included in the apartments and what is decoration?
  5. Does the style of the model apartment match exactly the style of the apartment I’m interested in?
  6. What is the application process?
    1. What information do I need to have when I’m filling out the application?
  7. How much higher must my income be than the rent for my apartment application to be approved?
  8. How long can you hold an apartment in my name before I move in?
  9. Do you process move-ins on the weekend (Saturday or Sunday)?
  10. What steps do I need to take between the application approval and moving into the unit?

Bonus! Questions to Ask when Renting an Apartment for College

If you’re reading this and you’re renting an apartment for college, you’ll want to ask all of the above questions. On top of that, you may also want to ask:

  • Do you allow guarantors?
    • If you’re on a college salary, you probably don’t make enough to afford rent without a little help. Guarantors allow you to rent an apartment you can’t afford on your own salary.
  • Do you offer individual leases? 
    • This means you’re only responsible for paying your part of the rent and can’t be kicked out because your roommates didn’t pay.
  • Do you offer any roommate matching programs?
    • How are people matched in those programs?
  • Do you offer any flexible lease terms? 
    • For complexes that target college students, leases are typically 12 months long. Make sure to check if you’re looking for something different.
  • What utilities am I responsible for? 
    • What utilities are flat rates? 
    • Am I responsible for setting up the utilities? 
    • How am I billed for the utilities?
  • How does the subletting process work? 
    • If you’re not going to be near campus during the summer, you may want to sublet your apartment. Otherwise, you’ll be responsible for paying the rent even though you’re not there. Some complexes don’t allow subletting or charge a fee.
  • Do you offer furnished apartments?
    • If so, is there an extra cost?
    • What types of furnishings are included? (ex: full bed, living room couch, coffee table, etc.)

All in all, this ultimate apartment hunting checklist has almost 100 questions to ask before renting an apartment. I hope you’re not shy about asking questions. 🙂 

Ultimate Apartment Hunting Checklist

I know this is a wealth of information, but I didn’t call this an ultimate apartment hunting checklist for nothing!

Instead of getting overwhelmed, go back to the basics–deciding your budget and location. Start there and follow the apartment hunting checklist one step at a time. 

Apartment hunting is a huge step in “how to start adulting,” but it’s also an exciting one. By simply getting organized, seeking wise counsel, and praying to God for direction, apartment hunting doesn’t have to be scary. You may even enjoy it!

To make things easier, I’m hoping to add a printable that breaks down the steps of my apartment hunting checklist. Make sure to sign up for updates so you can get notified once it’s ready. For now, download my master list of questions to ask before renting an apartment.

Happy Apartment Hunting!

What do you think? What other questions should you ask before renting an apartment?

Leave me a comment below!

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