Guide for Your Apartment Tour

In the chaos of trying to find an apartment, it can be tough to know what to look for during a walk through Sometimes you may only get a couple of minutes to tour a potential place, which can make it challenging to know what to check and what questions or concerns to ask a property manager. So how do you keep track? With our Guide for Your Apartment Tour, we’ve outlined what to take notice of and what questions to ask during your walkthrough.

The kitchen:

In general, it’s good to check the kitchen thoroughly. Must insect and mold problems are going to come from the kitchen, so open cupboards and check under the sink. If you cook often often, pay extra attention to the appliances. Make sure that they work, and as when they were updated last. If you don’t think you’ll be cooking much, still double check for bugs and mold.

Things to look out for include:

  • The Tap Water
    • How is the pressure?
    • How quickly does it get hot?
    • How does it look/ smell
    • open the under the sink. Is there any mold? dampness?
  • Look Over The Appliances
    • Open the refrigerator and check that it’s cold
    • Open the oven and microwave to see if they’ve been cleaned
    • Ask when they were last updated
  • The Floors
    • Check around the edges that there’s no visible mold.
    • Note and discoloration or damage that’s already there.

The Bathroom:

So many things can go wrong in a bathroom. Be thorough when looking it over. Open every cupboard and turn on every faucet. Bathroom woes are often a stinky mess.
Things to check

  • The Sink
    • what is the water pressure like?
    • how well does it drain?
    • is the water clear?
    • When you turn the faucet off, does it leak? (that could cost you money over time)
  • The Toilet
    • Does it flush?
    • How quickly does it refill?
    • Is there any leaking?
  • The Shower/ Bath
    • How is the water pressure?
    • How quickly does the water heat up?
    • If there’s a shower head as well as a faucet, does it switch between the two easily?
    • When you turn it off does it leak?
    • Looking around the tub where it meets the floor are there any signs of mold?

Safety:

Everyone has the right to be safe in their apartment. Below are some questions to ask, and things to inspect as you tour your apartment.

  • Take a good look at smoke detectors, sprinklers and carbon-monoxide detectors.
    • Are they in good working condition?
    • Ask when was the latest inspection on these safety devices.
  • Does the kitchen include a fire extinguisher or fire blanket?
  • How secure are the locks? When was the last time they changed them?
  • When was the last time they had the place inspected for mold?
  • How is access to the building handled?
  • Who else will have a key to the apartment?

Setting up:

  • Where is the connection for cable hookup, and will the position work for your living room setup?
  • What is the process for emergency maintenance requests?
  • Is there space for storing other items such as bikes?
  • How much is the security deposit?
  • Are pets allowed?
    • If so, is there a pet fee or pet deposit?
  • Are utilities included in rent? if not, about how much do they run a month?
  • What is their guest policy?
  • How are repair requests handled?

Transportation:

  • Is there off street parking available?
  • Where is the nearest bus stop?

General:

  • Note the condition of the floors and the carpet.
  • Check along the edges for the condition of the running boards, inspecting nooks and crannies along the way.
  • Where is the circuit breaker located? Is it easily accessible in case of outages?

After the Walkthrough

Discuss any lingering concerns you may have with the landlord or agent. If you are unsure if the property will fit your needs, don’t be pressured into anything. Think it over, but don’t take too long. Some apartment buildings have limited openings, and sitting on a decision too long may result in you missing out.

Community Resource Guides

Within the greater Madison area we have a number of help providers who have compiled lists of resources available for a wide range of issues. From Covid-19 testing to free phones, there are a lot of resources that are out there that you may not even be aware of. To try and help get the word out on these resources, there are two providers that have lists of resources available online.

Community Resource Guide

As the name implies, this organization seeks to be a guide to help the underserved and vulnerable populations of Madison find and connect with the resources they need. Their list is updated dailey, and relies on input from users to expand and correct their list. It can be found here on their website.

211

Another great resource is the 211 hotline run by United Way. This repository of information has a few different ways to access it. You can call 211 to talk with a trained representative to help you identify what resources are available to you, or you can explore on their online tool to find resources that fit your needs.

Calling About an Apartment

It can be intimidating to cold call a landlord, but this handy worksheet is designed to guide you in your call and help you determine whether an apartment would fit your needs. Questions about screening are particularly important because many landlords charge an application fee to screen for criminal history, credit history, and rental history. If you know in advance the “tolerance level” of the landlord (that is, whether the landlord will rent to people in your situation), you can decide if it would be worth paying the fee and applying for the apartment. A printable version of this sheet is at the bottom for download.

TIPS TO HELP YOU WITH THE CALL

  • If possible, call from a quiet place so you can hear the landlord.  It is also better if the landlord does not hear a lot of noise (like people yelling) in the background.
  • Make sure to review the list of questions below so you are prepared when you call the landlord. 
  • Know when you can move. 
  • Write down the name of the person you talked to, his or her phone number, and the date you made the call in case you need to call back to ask more questions or to reschedule an appointment.
  • Since you may have to contact several landlords to find an apartment, print off and use the “Housing Search Tracking Worksheet” for each call you make to help you remember when you have scheduled an appointment to look at an apartment, where you have submitted applications, and when and with whom you need to follow up about an apartment.

TELEPHONE SCRIPT

“Hello, my name is ________.  I’m looking for a (1,2,3,4,5) bedroom apartment for (this month, next month, two months from now).  Do you have any available units?”

If the landlord does not have any available units:  “Do you have any other properties with a vacancy?”      

If the landlord does have a vacancy, ask the following questions.  Be sure to write down the answers.  If the landlord has two or more apartments, write down the answers for each unit.           

                                                                                                Date of Call: ________________

Questions About the Apartment
     Apartment 1  Apartment 2
  What is the address of the property?  
  What date is the unit available?  
Do you charge an application fee?  If he/she says yes:  How much?  
  What is the monthly rent?  
  How much is the security deposit?  
What utilities would I pay?     
Do you know approximately how much utilities for that unit cost each month?  
How many people are allowed to live in the unit?  
What is the minimum lease you require (how many months)?  
Do you require me to have a certain income to rent the unit?  If he/she says yes:  How much?  
Are there laundry facilities on-site?  If he/she says no:  Is there a laundromat nearby?  
Is the apartment near the subway or a bus line?  Which one?  
Table 2:  Screening Questions [Ask only those questions that apply to your situation.]
                              Apartment 1  Apartment 2
If you have Section 8 or another rent subsidy:    Do you accept Section 8 or other rent subsidies?  
If you’ve had credit problems:   Do you work with people who have had credit problems in the past?  
If you have been evicted: Do you work with people who have evictions that can be explained?  
If you have a criminal history: Do you work with people who have a criminal history if they’ve worked to improve their life?  
If you have a disability:          Can you accommodate people with disabilities?  
If you have pets: What are your rules about pets?  

The landlord may ask you to explain the circumstances if you have bad credit, a criminal history, or prior evictions.  They may want to know dates, places, and if you owe any money.  The best response is to be truthful, take responsibility for your mistakes, and talk about what you are doing to make sure it never happens again.  You may want to write some notes about your circumstances below to make sure you are prepared to answer the landlord’s questions.

Here are things that might show a landlord how you are improving your life:  

__ employed for ___months/years          __ taking classes on budgeting your money

__ going to school (or job training)          __ completed treatment and sober

__ working with a credit counselor          __ working with a social worker            

__ have a payment plan for money owed   __ ended a bad relationship                   

__ established a savings account           __ taking classes about being a better tenant 

If the landlord is willing to work with people in your situation: 

  • Is it possible to set up a time to see the apartment?  When? ______________________
  • Can you give me directions from [where you are living/staying]?
  • Can I have your name again, in case I need to call you back?  ____________________
  • And what is the best number to reach you at? _________________________________

Be sure to thank him or her before hanging up.

Table 3:  Follow-Up
                             Apartment 1  Apartment 2
Apartment address  
Date and time of appointment  
Did you fill out an application? If yes, when will the landlord be contacting you with a decision?  
Did you get the apartment? If yes, when is the move-in date? If no, what was the reason provided?  
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