When searching for the perfect apartment, it's a good idea to pack an apartment rental toolkit. This will assist you in deciding which apartment is just right for you.
Apartment Rental Toolkit
- Notebook and pencil/pen: A notebook is essential for ensuring that you remember each apartment and the features each has. It's easy to confuse spaces, especially if you see quite a few over several days. Give each apartment its own separate page. Write the address at the top and the phone number of the landlord or manager. Also note the size, including number of bedrooms, bathrooms, etc. Most of this information you can get from the apartment listing. This will save you time when you're actually touring the apartments on your list. And make sure you write down the details of each apartment. Note the things you love and the things you don't love. Also note the problem areas, things that the landlord said they would fix or do. Refer to these problem areas if and when you negotiate the lease and you may find yourself getting a better bargain.
- Tape measure: It's always a good idea that you know ahead of time if your furniture is going to fit, not only in the space, but through the doorways, hallways and elevators. I suggest measuring your sofa, large chairs and any other pieces of furniture that are large. Take those measurements with you, then spend some time in the space measuring doorways, bedrooms, hallways and other spaces to ensure your stuff will fit.
- Camera: I always take a digital camera with me, especially if I'm on my own and the person I'm going to be sharing the space with isn't there to see the apartment. Most landlords don't mind, but make sure you ask before you start taking pictures. To identify pictures afterward, count off shots or make a note of how many photos you took. Afterward, it's easy to confuse one apartment bathroom with another. If I'm seeing a lot of apartments in one day, then I always start by taking a picture of the outside of the building. Not only is the address and building name usually displayed out front, but it's also an easy way to separate the pictures once you're home.
- List of "must-have's": If you'll be sharing this space with a friend, partner or spouse, and they aren't accompanying you to the viewing, then it's a good idea to make a list of what all tenants need in the space. I do this before I even start to hunt for rentals. It keeps me on track and ensures that I'm not forgoing my needs because I'm tired of looking or I'm wowed by something else in the space that isn't on the must-have list. For me, my must-have's are things like, a large enough balcony to accommodate some outdoor living, a master bedroom that fits our king-sized bed, and a kitchen that has enough counter space to accommodate two chefs.
- List of "nice-to-have's": While the nice-to-have's aren't as important as the must-have's, it's still helpful in determining which apartment is best suited to all tenants. Plus, it forces you to think about what you'd like in an apartment, making it easier to ask questions and to negotiate a lease.
- References: Before you start viewing, make sure you have your references listed (former landlords, employers, etc...)and take a copy of that list with you to your viewings. While I always suggest taking your time in choosing an apartment, there are those occasions when you find the perfect place, along with a long line of other people. So having that list with you can give you an edge.
- A friend: If you're hunting for apartments on your own, it's always good to bring a friend. Not just for safety reasons, either. It's always good to have a second opinion and to serve as a support system.