When making an offer to buy a home or condo, you typically have an “inspection contingency.” Within a few days of an accepted offer, you pay a professional or general contractor to inspect the house. If there are issues, you can back out of the deal, free and clear… minus the $200 – $1,000+ you paid the inspector. Or you go back to the seller and renegotiate.
When renting, when signing a lease and committing to live in an apartment for 12-24 months, there’s no such thing as in inspection contingency. You see an apartment, pay application fees and a deposit, and while you can do a final walk through before signing the lease, many renters skip it. Instead, your left doing your own walk-through, typically when you first view the apartment. So throw on your hard hat, put on your contractor-game-face, fire up our evaluation guide, and get ready to inspect. If you’re working with a broker, have them help you.
WHAT TO BRING TO VIEWINGS
1) Your application paperwork! This has nothing to do with inspections, but we have to reiterate: in this hyper-competitive market, you need to come prepared to apply immediately.
2) Measuring tape and the dimensions of your existing furniture.
3) A phone charger – to charge your phone, which will be used a lot, AND to check all outlets in an apartment.
5) Pen and paper – in case you’re reading this and it’s 1998.
Look Inside All of the Cabinets, Cupboards, and Closets
Right now you’re thinking, “I did, they look great!” but go back and look again. Checking these areas carefully, from top to bottom, can give you a heads-up on major issues like mold, water damage, or furry (and not so furry) critters. Grab a flashlight and have a thorough look for weird spots or black specks. You may also find some forgotten traps or poison at the back that indicate a previous infestation. It’s worth checking before you sign.
Check all Plugs, Lights, Appliances, etc.
Does everything work in the apartment? We’re not just talking about flipping a few lights on and off, but does everything that has moving parts do what it’s supposed to? Find out. Here’s a checklist:
All electrical outlets
Fridge and freezer (is on, stays cold, doesn’t sound funny)
Stovetop and oven
Dishwasher, clothes washer and dryer
Toilets and faucets, including shower (check water pressure too!)
Also check that all the doors and windows open easily; there’s nothing worse than trying to open a window to get some fresh air after you burn the Christmas turkey, only to find out the kitchen window is stuck!
Talk to Neighbors
Your potential new neighbors can give you a pretty good insight into the building management, as well as any issues that have occurred in the past. Or they might be crazy, in which case if they’re on the same floor as the apartment you are considering you can just keep looking.
On move-in day, take photos of everything in the apartment, especially issues or damage you found during your inspection. Any scratch, dent, weird color on the wall, or scuff on the cupboard. It may seem benign, but collecting this evidence could truly save you down the road.