Apartment Touring 101: What to Look for and Which Questions to Ask

Image Source: iStock.com/AJ_Watt
Image Source: iStock.com/AJ_WattZumper

As you start to plan your apartment search, it’s essential to understand how to schedule a tour and what to look for as you view potential units. To optimize your apartment touring experience, you’ll want to have a comprehensive checklist, as well as a list of questions to ask the leasing agent. Being prepared, and having a guide of things to look for while touring apartments can help you quickly decide if a unit is the right fit. Use this apartment tour 101 guide to help you find your ideal new home.

Your complete guide to touring a new apartment

Why you should tour a potential apartment

It’s an old saying, “see it to believe it”, and this is especially true when selecting an apartment. You can get a lot of information from an online listing, but it’s never quite as thorough as touring the unit in person. In addition to avoiding potential rental scams, touring an apartment in person allows you to inspect the quality of the unit, gauge the noise level of the building, and survey the space you’ll have for your belongings and furnishings. While listing photos can give a general idea of the condition of the apartment, viewing in person can provide more clarity to any underlaying issues such as pests or leaks. In order to have a successful tour, there are the steps to take and tips to keep in mind.

Setting up an apartment tour

After searching apartment rental websites, locate the phone number of the leasing agent to secure a time to see the available unit. You may also have the option to request an apartment tour through the online leasing portal. After your initial contact, you’ll give the leasing agent your name and phone number and identify which apartment you’d like to view.

Next, set up a date and time to meet with the showing agent and confirm the address of where you’ll meet. Plan to spend anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour to thoroughly inspect the apartment and ask pertinent questions. Be punctual for your appointment slot, and if you need to cancel or reschedule, do so with advanced notice.

What to wear when touring apartments

You’ll want to look respectable when touring an apartment. The showing agent often has multiple people interested in any unit, so you will want to dress for success and set yourself apart from other potential applicants. Wear comfortable shoes and clothing since you may need to walk up multiple flights of stairs and be on your feet for some time.

What to bring with you to your appointment

Bring all of your necessary paperwork with you, such as your rental application, credit report, and a notebook and writing utensil to mark off your questions on your checklist. You may also want to bring measuring tape so that you can get initial measurements of the space and better identify if your current furnishings and belongings will accommodate the layout.

Essential questions to ask during an apartment tour

Asking these questions early on can help avoid any misunderstandings.

  • Can I have a roommate? If you think you’d like to share the apartment with a roommate, be sure to ask about roommate rules and regulations and bring your potential roommate with you to the showing.
  • What are your pet policies? Even though you’ve narrowed your search to apartments that allow pets, always cover your bases by asking about specific pet policies and deposits or fees.
  • What should I expect to pay for the first and last month’s rent? Be clear about the first and last month’s rent policies so that you can budget properly.
  • How much is the security deposit? You want to know how much to budget for the security deposit and the cleaning and maintenance requirements to receive your full deposit back at the end of your lease term. 
  • Are utilities included? Find out what utilities you will be responsible for paying and setting up, and if there are any building amenity utilities included in the price of rent.
  • What are the parking policies? Ask if you’ll have a designated parking spot or if parking is on a first-come, first-served basis. Most buildings will have an additional fee for reserved parking, so be sure to factor that cost into your monthly budget.
  • Can I sublet the apartment? Ask this question in case you have any plans to travel for an extended time and would like to have someone sublet the unit while you’re away.
  • How do I file a maintenance request? Ask this question so that you know how to go about the process of filling a maintenance request. Is the request submitted through an online form or via email? How long does it take for a maintenance issue to be resolved?

What to look for and tasks to perform during an apartment tour

  • Signs of pests or rodent infestations: Look for droppings, signs of termites, ants, or cockroaches.
  • Check all the faucets in the apartment: Turn on the faucets in the kitchen bathroom sink, shower, and tub to ensure they’re functional and not leaking.
  • Flush the toilet: Make sure it flushes correctly.
  • Turn on all the lights and the ceiling fan: Test that the lights work as well as any fans. If the light doesn’t work, ask whether the bulb needs replacing or whether an electrical problem is the cause.
  • Test the thermostat: You want to make sure that the heater and air conditioner work. Ask who’s responsible for changing the HVAC or ductless filters.
  • Test the stove and oven: If it’s a gas appliance, ensure that it lights correctly and that there is no smell of leaking gas when in use. If electric, make sure the burners are heating properly.
  • Open the refrigerator, freezer, and all kitchen cabinets: Find out whether the refrigerator and freezer are empty, clean, and in good working condition. Open the cabinets to ensure no pests and leftover food are present.
  • Test the electrical outlets: Bring a small charger, such as a cellphone charger, and make sure the outlets work. Look for any burn marks around the outlets, and if you see any, point them out to the person conducting the tour.
  • Check the safety and security of the building and unit: While in the unit, confirm that the locks are fully functional and in good working condition. It’s also important to assess the safety of the building by asking about controlled entry and security cameras. Check the main doors to see if other tenants have propped open the doors, as this could be a safety concern down the line if not addressed.

What to avoid during an apartment tour

While you want to ask relevant questions and inspect the unit during your apartment tour, please try and avoid the following:

  • Being late for your appointment. Showing agents are generally quite busy, and you don’t want to waste their time by showing up late. In addition, when you show up on time, it shows your dependability.
  • Using the apartment bathroom. If you’ve been diligent about hydrating during your apartment tours, be considerate and use a public restroom for your personal needs.
  • Eating during the tour. Eat your sandwich or power bar before the tour to avoid spilling food in the apartment or trying to talk with your mouth full.
  • Overthink minor issues. Whether you’re looking at the top-floor apartment in the downtown area of your city or a basement apartment near the university, try to overlook normal wear and tear that the apartment manager will fix before you move in.
  • Tour the apartment if it’s out of your price range. While looking at apartments out of your price range can make for a fun and fanciful afternoon, you’re taking time away from the showing agent to tour the apartment to a qualified renter.

FAQ: Touring a new apartment

What should I do if I can’t tour a new apartment in person?

If you are unable to tour a new apartment in person you have a few other options. One is to request a video tour with the property manager. This way you can still have the property manager show you the details of the unit and ask questions. Another option is to ask a friend or relative in the area to tour the apartment for you and take photos of the unit for you.

How long does an apartment tour usually last?

Your apartment tour generally shouldn’t take longer than 30 minutes. Leasing agents and property managers often have multiple tours booked in a day, so it’s important to show up on time and be prepared with any questions to utilize your time efficiently.

What should I do if I’m running late to my apartment tour appointment?

If you are running late to your appointment be sure to call the leasing office or landlord directly and give them a heads up. If you are going to be more than five minutes late you may want to reschedule. It’s important to make a good impression, so always do your best to be on time.

Can I fill out an application directly after my apartment tour?

Absolutely. Once you’ve seen the apartment and have decided that it’s a good fit, you should fill out an application as soon as possible to ensure another renter doesn’t beat you to it. In some cases you’ll have to apply through an online portal, but you may also be able to fill out a paper application on-site. Come prepared with all of your information including recent paystubs, employment verification, check for the security deposit, and your I.D. in case you decide to apply for the unit ASAP.

Asking the right questions and knowing what to look for while touring apartments can successfully help you find the perfect new home. With available resources and diligent research, you can make apartment hunting fun.

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