top things to check before renting an apartment

Apartment hunting can be a competitive sport in many cities, and in the throes of competition, you might forget to inspect a few key elements of your new pad.

Sure, you want the landlord to like you, but you also want to make sure that the faucets don't leak before you sign the lease. Fortunately, it's easy to become a pro apartment hunter with our checklist of things to look for in a new apartment.

functionality

Above all else, you want to make sure everything in the apartment is safe and in working order. It helps to check out the functionality of everything before you're stuck living in an apartment with suspicious smells and dead outlets.

Cell reception

You don't want to find out that you have no reception after you've moved in. While you're walking around the apartment, try sending a few texts and make a call.

Electrical outlets

It's not enough to have functional outlets — you have to have enough of them to fit your needs. And if the living room has outdated outlets, it's likely they won't work for modern electronics.

If you want to test functionality on the spot, take a plug-in nightlight or phone charger with you when you're seeing the apartment and try out the outlets. It's good to know what you're getting into.

Check the bedbug registry

Unfortunately, former tenants could include bedbugs. To get the scoop on any such problems in the past, check out bedbugregistry.com, a free public database where you can submit or read bedbug reports on homes and hotels throughout the U.S.

Take measurements

It's important to make sure your new apartment will house your belongings comfortably. Take careful measurements and map out where things will go before you're trapped with a moving van full of stuff that doesn't quite fit.

Watch out for health risks

If there's already a stash of bug spray beneath the kitchen sink or the distinct odor of bug spray, it could pose a big problem. Likewise, water damage hints at a bigger issue. Water damage is often a sign of mold (which could pose a health risk) and mildew — things you shouldn't ignore.

Talk to a neighbor

Though you might be able to get reviews of the building and even your landlord online, it's always best to get it directly from a knowing source. If possible, knock on a neighbor's door and see if you can get an honest opinion about living in the building.

Check the water (and faucets)

Let the water run in each sink, the shower, and bath tub — just to be sure that your water isn't a murky brown (it should always run clear) and that hot and cold both work. Make sure nothing leaks and that you have good water pressure.

convenience

The following are a list of wannabe must-haves, meaning you can function without these things, but they'll make your life easier (and depending on how and where you live, you may consider a few of them to be necessities).

Delivery options

Do you know how many restaurants deliver to your new address? Test it out with some online food delivery services just by typing in your new address. (Sometimes you just want to be able to order a pizza on a Friday night.)

Try out the commute

You might love everything about the new apartment, but what about getting to and from work? It's a good idea to test out your daily commute firsthand, or at least map it out online so you're not surprised after moving.

Visit at night

If you can visit the apartment or even just drive around the neighborhood at night, it'll give you a reasonable preview of any potential noise or safety concerns you'll have to contend with.

Check street parking

If you drive often, this is incredibly important. Check nearby street signs to see if any permits are required for residential zones. Even if you only use public transportation, it's a nice bonus if you have easy parking for guests.

Find the shared walls

Unless you're living in a corner unit on the top floor with soundproofed walls, it's important to figure out which of your walls are shared with neighboring apartments. You might be able to live with your bedroom pressed against a neighbor's kitchen, but it's something you should know in advance.

add renters insurance to your checklist

Another way to be sure your new place and the stuff you'll be keeping there is safe and sound? Get a free quote for renters insurance. It's affordable, for starters, and it protects your personal items from a whole host of covered perils.

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