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The Ultimate Apartment Checklist for Finding the Perfect First Place

Posted by Pekin Insurance on Apr 18, 2016

Finding the right apartment is not a simple task. Luckily, we have an apartment checklist for you to use during your search!

Finding the right apartment is not a simple task. Luckily, we have an apartment checklist for you to use during your search!

You're ready to move into your first "real" apartment. Maybe you've lived in one or two during college but spent the rest of your time living at home and saving for the big move. Now, you're serious about your apartment search—you want to find the perfect place to settle for at least a few years. Before you sign a lease, you need a special type of apartment checklist. One that will define your needs and guide the search process. 

The ultimate apartment checklist: 4 questions to ask yourself and how to find the answers 

1. Can you afford the "total cost" of the apartment? 

If you're moving into your first place alone, there are a lot of costs to consider beyond the actual rent amount. Many people make this mistake—they find a fantastic apartment and love it so much that they neglect to calculate the total costs. Inevitably, money starts to get tight, and the apartment is barely affordable.

So, when you're going through your apartment checklist, make sure you understand how the total cost of living matches your budget. You don't have to calculate every little expense, but being aware of the core costs is necessary to finding the right place.

  • Rent amount 
  • Average monthly cost of utilities (heat, hot water, electricity, etc.)
  • Cost of amenities (Wi-Fi connection, cable, private parking, etc.)
  • Upfront move-in costs (movers or moving truck, first and last month's rent, security deposit, Realtor fee, etc.) 
  • Costs to furnish the apartment as you see fit 
  • Rental insurance so you can protect yourself against theft and loss
  • Does your apartment have rent control? Can these costs rise over time? 

Can you see how the total cost of the apartment can change your initial decision? These are the numbers you have to crunch if you want to live comfortably and securely in your new place. 

2. Does the apartment meet your standards of safety? 

Safety and security should always be top concerns for new renters. You should feel safe where you live, even if it's in the city or a historically "rougher" part of town. You have to consider the many different angles and learn how to spot a safety issue when you see one.

To start off, run a few searches online to see what reported crimes have taken place within a half-mile radius from the apartment. You can usually find this information by visiting the website of the city's police department. What crimes have happened recently or frequently? Are there many break-ins? Violent crimes?

Next, run through every entry point of the apartment building. Check to see if there are easy ways for someone to break in or catch you off-guard when entering or leaving the building. Look for:

  • Working locks or deadbolts on each doorway into the building and the apartment
  • Secured windows on the first floor and the basement 
  • Motion-sensor lights for dark spots behind the building 

If you've finally decided that the apartment meets your needs, give it one last test by visiting the neighborhood late at night with a friend. Walk around the streets near the apartment and get a feeling for the area. 

3. Is the location of the apartment convenient for your work and personal life? 

The location of your apartment can have an enormous impact on your work and personal needs. Don't turn a blind-eye to these issues if you fall in love with a place. If you decide too soon, you'll eventually run into problems with commuting.

Calculate the distance from the apartment to every place you need to travel at least once a week. This is an effective way to figure out how accessible the location is. If you don't need a car, determine where you can find public transportation (is it within walking distance?). If you plan on riding a bicycle, consider how friendly the roads are to cyclists.

Think about all the places you absolutely need to travel to each week and how you plan on getting there.

  • The commute to and from work 
  • Grocery stores 
  • Public transit stations or stops 
  • Distance from friends and family 
  • The nearest hospital or emergency care 
  • Gyms, gas stations, necessary shopping, etc. 
  • Personal obligations, such as babysitting, group meetings, or sports practice

4. Does your landlord take care of his tenants and apartments? 

Sometimes the most wonderful apartments can be spoiled by a rotten egg. If you want to find a place to stay for at least a couple years, learn to recognize the qualities of good and bad landlords. Your relationship with your landlord can make or break the living experience.

Just as your landlord will likely conduct a background and credit check before discussing the lease, you should do homework on them as well.

Here are some red flags to watch out for when checking out the situation:

  • The landlord doesn't invest much energy or time into getting to know you as a person and is only concerned with filling the space immediately. 
  • He doesn't give out the information of previous tenants for you to contact and ask questions or the previous tenants don't have good things to say about him.
  • The apartment is not clean or taken care of. The floors are dirty, the appliances don't run well, or the windows and doors don't work properly. 
  • The landlord doesn't encourage you to ask questions or is clearly annoyed by your persistence to fix a certain problem before moving in. 

Don't get hung up on the little things in your apartment checklist—no place will be absolutely "perfect" 

It's wise to make a list of all the little things you're willing to let go of. You may have to sacrifice a few small things for the bigger prize. What's most important is that your apartment checklist covers all of the essentials. 

After you get settled in your new apartment, it may be wise to think about what might happen if anything gets damaged or stolen. We offer affordable renter's insurance for that exact reason. Give us a call today for more information.

What would you add to the checklist for finding your first apartment? Let us know in the comments! 


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