Viewing a Rental Property? Here Are the Top 10 Things to Look Out For

When viewing a rental property, you have to take in a lot of information in a fairly short space of time. When selecting your new home, whether for a fixed term or several years to come, you don’t want to sign on the dotted line until you’ve covered your bases. Read on for the top 10 things to look out for when viewing a rental property.

1. Condition of the Property:
You need to have an idea in mind of the amount of work you’re willing to put into a place. When renting for yourself, and the landlord is okay with it, then painting a wall or two probably isn’t a big deal. On the other hand, you don’t want to rent a place that needs extensive structural work. Inspect the overall condition of the rental property, including walls, floors, and ceilings. Look for signs of damage, such as cracks, leaks, or peeling paint. Check that doors and windows open and close smoothly. Be sure to ask your realtor about these things, and if you do decide to accept a property with faults, document them. Take plenty of photos as soon as you move in, to avoid being blamed for them yourself when you move out. If the place obviously needs cleaning, ask if that can be done before you move in, and get that in writing.

2. Appliances and Fixtures:
Test all appliances and fixtures to ensure they are in working order. Check the stove, refrigerator, dishwasher, faucets, and lights. Don’t hesitate to ask the real estate agent about the age and maintenance history of these items. Do the appliances seem fairly new, and are they in working order? Buying big, new appliances is a pain when you’re renting, so unless you’re getting an amazing deal, you’ll want a fully-fitted kitchen that’s ready to go. In any case, be sure you know what you’re getting into as far as the basics, to ensure a smooth move-in experience.

3. Utilities and Infrastructure
Inquire about the utilities included in the rent and their condition. Check the water pressure, heating, and cooling systems. Verify the availability and reliability of internet and phone services if they’re crucial for your lifestyle. A good realtor won’t mind you turning on the shower and faucets to see that everything looks good.

4. Safety Features:
Assess the safety features of the property, including smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and fire extinguishers. Confirm the presence of secure locks on all doors and windows, and inquire about the neighborhood’s safety. Be sure to read up on the local laws for renters in your area and make sure the landlord is compliant. Be strict on these things, and once you move in, do your part in testing them on a regular basis. You’ll be glad you did, should an emergency occur.

5. Pest Control:
Look for any signs of pests such as rodents, insects, or droppings. Ask the real estate agent about the property’s history with pest control and if there are any ongoing issues. There may not be immediately obvious signs of rodent problems, for example, but a close look at baseboards may reveal telltale scratches or bite marks. An inexplicable odor, especially in the kitchen, may be another sign.

6. Storage Space:

Evaluate the available storage space, including closets, cabinets, and any additional storage areas like a basement or attic. Sufficient storage is crucial for maintaining a clutter-free living space. Even if you’re looking at a small, one-bedroom apartment, they can vary a lot in terms the amount of space available. If there’s limited space, ask if you’re allowed to put up shelving, for example. Think carefully about how much stuff you have to bring and whether it will fit in the space provided. Self-storage units are a big expense, so if there’s any way you can avoid them by having sufficient storage in your new place, it could pay off big time.

7. Parking and Transportation:
Check the parking situation, ensuring there is sufficient space for your vehicles. Inquire about public transportation options, proximity to highways, and local traffic patterns. If on-street parking is the only option, ideally, you’ll visit the neighborhood at several different times of day and days of the week to assess how much is available. Alternatively, if you love the area and the house but parking is an issue, do research beforehand on paid parking options. A good realtor should be plugged in on the transport options in their area, and a good one will be able to fill you in on the situation.

8. Lease Terms and Conditions:
Review the lease terms thoroughly with the real estate agent. Pay attention to the rent amount, security deposit, lease duration, and any specific clauses or restrictions. Clarify any doubts you may have before committing. It’s incredible how many people skim through or even neglect to read the fine print of the contract. You don’t want any nasty surprises, so iron out any issues now. For example, if there are any demands that seem unreasonable, like weekly inspections, you’ll want to talk about that. Don’t let the realtor or landlord wave away your concerns and say it’s just “technically in the contract”. If you agree to a change, get them to change the contract itself.

9. Neighborhood Amenities:
Explore the neighborhood and take note of nearby amenities such as grocery stores, schools, parks, and healthcare facilities. Consider your lifestyle preferences and whether the location aligns with your needs. Think carefully about how highly you prioritize access to local city amenities or peace and quiet, and commuting distances for everyone in the household. Spend a while on Google Maps to see if there’s good local access to stores and other services, or if you don’t mind a long drive because the area is appealing to you. Ideally, take a walk or drive around the street and neighborhood to get a general vibe of how nice the area seems.

10. Future Development Plans:
Ask the real estate agent about any upcoming development plans in the area that may affect your living conditions. This information can provide insight into the long-term suitability of the rental property. Unless the rent is super cheap, you may not want to move into a building that’s about to have major construction work in some of the apartments, for example. If you’re living somewhere, especially for a long time, it may not always be possible to predict future construction work, but you can at least do your due diligence to get a heads-up on any immediate plans.

These 10 points are a starting point for your research before, during, and after viewing a rental property. You’ll want to think carefully about your budget and how this can be weighed against your preferences, like peace and quiet, access to services, and the condition of the home and surroundings. Doing your research ahead of time will minimize the risk of making a bad rental decision, and maximize the chances of a having happy time in your new home.