Even if your search for a new home or apartment is getting desperate, there are times when you need to walk away from the place you are visiting and keep looking. If you notice any of the following, you should move on despite any other factors you might have fallen in love with.
Obvious maintenance neglect. If the place has a general aura of neglect, keep looking. This includes things like rusted out fixtures, obvious insect damage, abandoned landscaping, mouse droppings, and mold/mildew. Turn on a faucet and note how long it takes for the water to get hot. Check AC and heating units for proper function. If things do not work well now, when the landlord is trying to attract tenants, you can be certain they not much will be done to fix things if you move in.
Deteriorating paint. Paint is one of the easiest things for a landlord to get right and you should notice that at least a touch-up has been applied after the previous tenants move out. Scuffs and blemishes are a warning sign, peeling and water damage mean move on without looking back. If the paint is being ignored, you can be fairly certain that the landlord is inattentive and won’t be responsive to future problems. Peeling lead-based paint is also a serious health hazard.
We’re not in Kansas anymore… Bad neighborhoods can be really bad, especially if things looked okay the first time you visited. Walk around to get a sense of the neighborhood, check the local paper or an online police blotter for crime statistics. Of course, if you are specifically searching in a bad neighborhood for price reasons and are going in with your eyes open, then go ahead. Just be aware of what you are getting into.
The price is NOT right. Landlords have the upper hand in today’s tight rental market, but that does not mean you should let yourself get ripped off. Make sure the price asked is a fair one. There are numerous online resources available to compare rental prices within a market, beginning with Rent Café. Your feet may be your best weapon – walk the neighborhood to see what other places are charging. If the price is unfair, you might try negotiating for a better one before moving on.
The place is noisy. When you visit for the first time, if there’s a raucous party going on and police cars responding with sirens blazing and a train is going by on the tracks out back and an airplane is landing at the adjacent airport and Sauron’s disembodied voice is droning on about the Ring and a helicopter is landing on top of the building and there’s a jackhammer testing facility next door… probably turn around and keep walking. Some signs that point to a noisy building may be that obvious. Others might be more subtle, depend on the time of day, etc. Ask generalized questions about who the other tenants are, see if the recycling bins are overflowing with beer cans and liquor bottles, visit at different times, even ask the neighbors.
Lack of cable/Internet. Yes, there are still places that lack cable & Internet hookups. They are becoming increasingly hard to find but just make sure prior to renting, especially if the residence is way out in the sticks. If you prefer satellite service, make certain the building allows dishes.
Sad-sack windows. Windows that are old and cranky can turn into a nightmare when it comes time to pay the utilities. Bad windows leak heat in winter and let in heat during the summer months, which means you either settle for being miserable or splurge for heating and AC. Optimal are windows that are double-glazed and low-E, but you really just want to make sure they are in working order, sealed, and not more than 20 years old.
The best guideline: follow your instincts. If something in your gut tells you the place is not right, keep looking.