Typically, it takes about an hour to tour an apartment.
This estimated time includes seeing the unit and getting a feel for the apartment building and the surrounding neighborhood.
Make sure you do your research about the area ahead of time and look out for potential scams.
When you are prepared for the tour, the process of renting will go a lot more smoothly.
What to Look for On Your Apartment Tour
When touring an apartment, look for damages and other red flags.
Such flaws in the property are not only an inconvenience but may be dangerous as well.
You don’t want to sign a lease and get an unpleasant surprise later.
Electricity, Water, and Appliances
Electricity and plumbing are essential for modern living, and a real inconvenience if they don’t work properly.
Test out the light switches in every room to make sure the electricity is working. Inspect the fixtures and outlet covers to ensure they are firmly in place.
If a light doesn’t work, figure out if this is because of a burned-out lightbulb or a deeper electrical problem.
Test the power outlets. You can do this by plugging in a small device like a phone to see if it works.
Turn on the sinks in the kitchen and bathroom. Make sure the water pressure is acceptable and that the taps get both hot and cold water.
Also, check the water pressure and temperature in the shower, and make sure the showerhead is firmly attached to the wall. Flush the toilet to test whether it’s working properly or not.
Some apartments come with amenities like a refrigerator and stove. Open the refrigerator and the freezer to make sure the lights turn on inside.
You should also test out the burners on the stove. Keep in mind that the property manager may have unplugged the appliances to conserve energy.
If so, you can ask to plug them in for a moment.
Make sure the thermostat in the apartment is operational. Is there central air conditioning?
Ask the property manager if a window AC unit is provided, or if you will be expected to bring one.
Also, note if there are ceiling fans and whether they work or not. Make sure the ceiling fans don’t wobble or shake too much while they are turned on.
Keep an Eye Out for Safety and Security Concerns
Check the windows and doors. This is an important thing to check since a flimsy door or a defective lock can expose you to break-ins.
Doors and windows should close all the way and have functional locks. Windows should also have screens.
Fires and gas leaks are other possible dangers in an apartment. Check for smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and a fire extinguisher.
Some apartments might have a sprinkler system instead of a fire extinguisher.
If the apartment doesn’t have one of these, ask the property manager to install it before move-in.
Inspect the walls, ceilings, and floors for signs of water damage. Discolored patches, peeling paint, warped wallpaper, and a musty smell are all signs of water damage.
Water damage can cause structural damage and may lead to mold, which can be a health hazard.
Apartment Complex and Neighborhood
When touring an apartment, you should also get a look at the rest of the property.
Ask the property manager if there is a laundry room or other shared amenities.
Many apartment buildings have parking lots for their tenants, either outdoors or in a covered garage.
Ask the property manager if your unit comes with an assigned parking spot and if there is a fee for parking in addition to your rent.
You may have to park on the street instead, which may require a parking pass from the city you live in.
Take a walk around the neighborhood and see what’s nearby.
Also, take note of the conditions of the streets and the surrounding buildings. If you can, research the level of crime in the area.
What to Do if You Find a Problem
If your assessment of the property is mostly positive but there is one thing that needs to be fixed, don’t reject the property outright.
Mention the problem to the property manager. They may have been unaware of the problem, and will likely fix it before your move-in date.
Property managers should care about the condition of their property and be willing to fix problems.
If they don’t plan on making improvements to a unit to accommodate you, you’re probably better off looking elsewhere.
The Property Manager is Part of the Tour
When you tour an apartment, you are also meeting the property manager for the first time. The tour is a preview of how your property manager runs their business.
Take note of the property manager’s behavior. Do they arrive in time for the tour? Are they friendly and accommodating?
Are they able to answer your questions, or are their answers vague and elusive?
Your property manager should behave professionally during the tour.
This is the person who will be taking care of maintenance, and the person you will contact if there is a serious problem in your unit.
You should be able to trust this person to be available and helpful when you become a tenant.
Are You Being Scammed?
Before you even tour an apartment, make sure you aren’t dealing with a scam artist.
The Federal Trade Commission describes a couple of types of rental listing scams:
Scam artists will take a legitimate listing and repost it on another site with altered contact details.
The property is real, but the person you have contacted doesn’t own the place.
Since scam artists have no access to the building, they will try to get a security deposit or advance on rent from you without a tour.
Never pay a property manager without touring the apartment first. They should not require you to pay anything until you have signed a lease.
This is why touring an apartment is so crucial. A real property manager will have keys to the building and will gladly show you around.
Phantom rentals are fake listings for locations that don’t exist. A phantom rental scam is designed to get money from you upfront before you realize the listing is fake.
Scam artists do this by promising low rent and amazing amenities that seem like a bargain. Be wary of apartment listings that seem too good to be true.
Red Flags to Watch Out For
If the property manager is pressuring you to pay a fee before you’ve viewed the apartment or signed the lease, they are probably trying to scam you.
A scammer may also request an unusual form of payment like a wire transfer. A wire transfer is equivalent to sending cash, and once you send it you can’t get it back.
Never send money via wire transfer or any payment option that sends your money overseas.
You should be suspicious if the property manager is unavailable to meet or talk on the phone.
If the landlord is hard to contact, this may be a sign of an apartment scam or just a badly-run business.
Even if the listing is genuine, a property manager who won’t respond now won’t be responsive when you are a tenant.
If the landlord is out of the country, you should immediately be wary. The scammer will “arrange” to get the keys to you via an “associate,” and may even create a fake key to an apartment that doesn’t exist.
This is why it’s important to view the unit and meet the property manager before you even consider making a security deposit or a rent payment.
Reporting a Scam
If you fall prey to a scam artist or even suspect that a listing is a scam, you should report it immediately. Inform your local law enforcement and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
The FTC is a federal agency that protects both consumers and legitimate businesses. Their job is to prevent unfair and unlawful business practices like rental scams.
When you report a scam, you can get the fake apartment listing off the market and protect other apartment shoppers.
The federal trade commission has a page on its website for reporting fraud.
The site guides you through filing your report and provides you with resources to help protect yourself from fraud.
The FTC shares your report with more than 3,000 law enforcers in the United States.
Happy Apartment Hunting!
When you schedule an apartment tour, make sure you have at least an hour to make a thorough inspection.
Don’t let the property manager rush you through the apartment tour. If you’re worried about forgetting something, there are a lot of handy checklists online that you can refer to during your tour.
The most important thing is that your new home be safe and comfortable.
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