Niche Resources

9 Things to Look for During Your Apartment Walkthrough

After months of digging through online rentals, visiting a potential apartment is a momentous event. There are only so many photos of the same wood floors, red brick and white walls you can sort through before they all start to blend together in your mind. All you want to do is walk into a space that feels like home. This anticipation comes with a danger though: the curse of rose-colored rental glasses.

I’ve seen it a lot firsthand recently, both as a renter and as someone leaving our current place. Enthusiastic hopefuls peruse our apartment in a five-minute walkthrough with our landlord. They rave and marvel about what they love and seem blind to all the subtle issues of the place. There’s no way I can tell them about the slanted floors, the overpriced heating bill, and the family of wasps that somehow keeps burrowing its way into the bedroom closet. With my landlord standing near, I have to stay quiet. All I can do is head into our own apartment tours with more caution.

Here are a few tips for staying level-headed during your walkthrough.

1. Trust Your Gut

You’ll probably get hit with a wave of either excitement or dread the moment you walk into an apartment. Trust it. If you’re feeling immediately unenthused, you probably don’t want to come home to the space every day for the next few years.

Otherwise, start to imagine your own furniture in the space. Remember that an empty apartment can look a bit jarring without a demonstrated layout. Someone else’s design can also alter the size of a space. So, go in with an imagination while trusting your general first impression.

2. Make Notes Before You Go

I tend to forget every one of my questions the moment I walk into an apartment. Before your appointment, write down any thoughts that came up when looking at the posting. These might include:

  • Laundry facility access
  • Utilities
  • Available move-in date
  • Amount required for signing
  • Noise level from the outside and other apartments

3. Be a Sleuth

There are ways to snoop out the hidden quirks of an apartment without being completely invasive — especially if the current tenants are present. Run the faucets to test water pressure, open and close cabinets and test out how hard or easy it is to open windows. Though the apartment will probably be cleaned and painted before you move in, look for hard-to-fix problems like signs of water damage or odd smells. Also keep your eyes peeled for bug traps or any signs unwanted critters.

4. Take Helpful Photos

What types of pictures will help you make the best decision after you leave the apartment? In addition to snapping photos or taking a video of the general space, you may also want to include these images to jog your memory for later:

  1. Door frames and entryway sizes
  2. Appliances and plumbing fixtures
  3. Views from the windows
  4. Dents, damage, or leaks
  5. Floor finishes

And if you do sign a lease for the apartment, these pictures will help you plan for decorating and arranging your furniture.

6. Ask the Right Questions

No matter who is showing you around the apartment, their goal is to find a tenant as quickly as possible. It can be difficult to get helpful information about the apartment without specific questions. When phrased correctly, however, you can pick up a better sense for the tenant’s living experience. For example:

  • What is your experience with building management?
  • What is the turnaround time for repairs and requests?
  • Can you hear the neighbors next door?
  • What is the noise level compared to (nearby neighborhood or city)?
  • What are the average utility costs?
  • Have you recently done any repairs?
  • Can you run different faucets or showers at the same time?

7. Consider Daily Habits

Many people forget to think about the daily quality of life tasks related to a new apartment. Is there a garbage area in the building? Who is required to take the garbage and recycling out to the curb each week? Other topics to consider are:

  1. Nearby grocery stores
  2. Access to public transportation
  3. Rules about loud tenants
  4. Use of any outdoor space
  5. Available cable providers
  6. Loud times of the day or year (such as rush hour or a neighborhood festival)

8. Get to Know Your Landlord

If you have the chance to meet the landlord or super during your walkthrough, take the opportunity to gauge if it’s someone you want to work with for the next several years. Though you’ll rarely see them, you want to ensure you have a rapport from the start. A good landlord can make or break an apartment, no matter how amazing the space. Be sure they give you the sense that they respect your privacy, put care into their properties, and are easy to reach when needed.

9. Make a Post-Walk-Through Plan

The housing marketing notoriously rushes people through the apartment viewing process. In popular cities, you may have a hoard of other interested parties ready to fill out applications on the spot.

Decide ahead of time whether this is something you’re comfortable doing, no matter how much you like the apartment. Even if time is of the essence, walk to a coffee shop and review your notes before making the decision. It is always important to get some physical space from a transaction before signing any forms.

You can also use this time to explore the nearby neighborhood, have lunch or drive around to get a feeling for the area. Enthusiasm for the town could be the tipping point if you’re on the fence about an apartment. And remember, if you don’t live in an area with a busy rental market, you can request to see the apartment a second time.

The Bottom Line

Finding a new rental is always an emotional roller coaster. Though we’d love to check every box on our priority list, renters often have a small window to view apartments for their move-in date. You can still find an incredible place once you know where you’re willing to make concessions. Gather your notes before you do the first walkthrough and be sure to research the neighborhood ahead of time. Being in the right mindset will help you make an informed and confident choice for finding that dream home.

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Author: Ginny Bartolone

Ginny is a freelance writer and actress based in Montclair, NJ. She regularly contributes to a range of wedding, lifestyle and spirituality websites, as well as in her own blog, She is also currently completing a book about her two hikes across Spain.