The first time I stepped foot in our current place, it was love at first sight. A 1940s duplex in a great part of town, I was blinded by its personality, charm, old wood floors, big front porch and cute, old-fashioned casement windows. Unfortunately, I seemed to overlook a lot of things.
Don't get me wrong, I love where I live, and my roommate's a doll. But as careful of a person I am, I let my love of the "cuteness" of this new place keep me from seeing a lot of its downsides, like the lack of central A/C and the window unit from 1972, or that none of the cute windows actually worked (and the landlord wasn't keen on fixing them). I ignored warning signs that this might not be the ideal place to live in exchange for total aesthetic love. Truthfully, things aren't that bad and I'd probably still choose to live here even if I hadn't fallen head over heels, but I still could have been more discerning.
Next time you're going around looking for a place to rent, here are some warning signs to look for and some things to check that you may not have thought of:
1) Is everything (fridge/air conditioning/windows/locks/doors/toilets/shower) functioning? And if it's not, is the land lord willing to fix before you move in?
2) Bug evidence of any kind If you're looking at a place to rent and you see any evidence of bugs or rodents (sightings, bodies or droppings), head to the hills. If they can't keep it clean for people looking at a place, imagine how many more you'll have when you move all your stuff in there and start living.
3) What neighbors the apartment? Is it just neighbors? Or would you be living above a basement where workers might make noise all day? Or next to a laundry room that seems quiet now but might get loud at odd hours?
4) How's that water heater looking? Does it look like it was made in 1822? Hot water is pretty vital, don't you think?
5) Missing/too old/not working smoke detectors That just makes us feel like a landlord doesn't care about a tenent's safety
6) Condition of Carpet Just gross
7) What's around the apartment? Drive around the area at all hours of the day and especially at night to see how safe it really is. Bus stops or roads with a lot of traffic might be something to run away from, too, if they're near enough to your potential apartment to cause a lot of noise.
8) The smell of smoke in the hallway/around the building If you don't like cigarette smoke in your apartment, investigate if it looks like any neighbors are smokers…unless you want to have close your windows all the time.
9) Where/how the trash and communal laundry is kept It can tell a lot about how the apartments are taken care of and what kind of neighbors you'd be living next to!
10) Mold, moisture, ceiling stains This seems pretty obvious, but again, remember to look for it.
What are your warning signs? Any signs you saw before you signed a lease but ignored, to a bad outcome? Have you ever dodged any bullets in the apartment department?
Image: Flickr member DennisKatinas & licensed for use under Creative Commons