Tips for Choosing a Low-Maintenance Apartment

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Most of us choose our apartment for the look, the feel, the size, the location. We usually wait until after we move in to start thinking about how hard it might be to keep things working smoothly inside.

Here are some easy tips to have in mind while you’re looking, to save some headaches and hassle while you’re renting.

Who is in charge of what?

Outdoor/lawn management requirements are usually spelled out clearly in any lease agreement. But it’s worth asking what types of indoor repairs you’re expected to do yourself, and which are supposed to be managed by your landlord/property management company. Who changes the furnace filter? Who changes light bulbs in common hallways? Who deals with basic pipe clogs? Balance the answers out – for easy things, would you rather have to do them yourself, or have to arrange allowing maintenance staff into your space?

Who does the maintenance?

Will you be calling the landlord, who does most handy things him/herself? Do you have to deal with a 9-5 property management company? Or do you get the name and number of a maintenance person to call any time? If you have to start with a landlord or management company, will they arrange the contractor for more advanced work? Or do you have to put in the time to screen and arrange someone to come in? Think about how easy it will be to actually make a repair happen – in terms of communication and finding someone with the right expertise. Especially since most maintenance needs will come at non-work hours like the middle of the night plumbing back-up or the broken furnace on Saturday morning.

What type of housing is it?

The more parts of the house function that are just yours, the more maintenance hassles. So a stand-alone house, where you have your own furnace, water heater, air conditioner, etc., will usually have more times you need to get on the phone for maintenance requests. Many-unit apartments share many of these things so that you don’t need to be as directly involved.

How old is the building/unit?

Newly built homes don’t usually need much work. Homes in the 10-20 year range will start needing some major systems updated, like the furnace and water heater, so it’s worth checking out how old those are when you move in. Once a house reaches 30, it requires more maintenance in structural things, so expect to make at least some maintenance calls during your lease period.

What is the current condition of the apartment?

How well cared for has the home been? A poorly cared for building could indicate a bad landlord. Here are a few things to look for before signing on:

  • Check all the faucets and light switches, and turn on the garbage disposal. Pay attention to sounds and smells.
  • Check ventilation fans in the bathrooms. All rooms with showers are required to have a functional ventilation fan unless there is a window. But think about that – do you think the previous residents really opened that window to properly vent their showers last January? Again, listen, smell, and look around…
  • Water spots. Any discoloration on floors, walls, or ceilings could indicate water damage. At worst, water damage can be structurally unsafe. More often, it leads to an unfriendly roommate:
  • Mold. Look around wet areas like bathrooms, laundry, and kitchens. Also check areas with little air flow or sunlight, like the backs of closets. Some kinds of mold can be harmful to your health, so definitely get mold checked out if you spot some!
  • Finding one red flag item shouldn’t stop you from renting here. But it’s good to bring each item up with the leasing agent or landlord before you sign anything! Those early conversations will give you a great idea of how easy they’ll be to deal with when other challenges come up later on.

Going through this checklist won’t prevent issues from coming up in your new apartment, but they’ll give you a great sense of how to deal when they do. The more you know now, the better your apartment living experience will be!

8 Responses to “Tips for Choosing a Low-Maintenance Apartment”

  1. December 19, 2016 at 2:11 pm, Troy Blackburn said:

    I'm glad that you mentioned that finding one "red flag item" shouldn't stop me from renting a certain apartment. I've heard that within the first month of living in an apartment, there is almost always at least one thing that needs fixing or repair. These tips are super useful and I'll have to keep them in mind as I go about looking for a new place to live.


  2. January 30, 2017 at 10:04 am, Rachel Lannister said:

    My husband and I have been looking for an apartment to move into, and I thought I should start by looking up advice online. You wrote that you should check all the lights faucets and fans and make sure that everything works and is in good shape. We don't want to worry about having to do any repairs, so we'll have to find an apartment that is in great shape, with everything functioning as it should. Thanks for the great tips.


  3. February 28, 2017 at 9:27 am, Scott said:

    I agree that it is important to ask how old the building you are considering of living in is. This is especially important if you will be the required to pay for any of the maintenance. I have been looking around for an apartment to move into so that I live closer to my work. I'll have to keep this in mind when I am looking around.


  4. March 03, 2017 at 5:31 am, Tomas Killington said:

    My brother just graduated from college. He found a decent job, and he is now looking for an apartment to rent. I didn't realize that it is so important to find out who does the maintenance of the property and how easily it is to contact that party. That's a consideration I'll be sure my brother knows about.


  5. April 03, 2017 at 5:39 pm, Luke Smith said:

    I really liked your tip about making sure that you know who will be doing the maintenance on your apartment when you rent. It would be really frustrating to discover that you were responsible for items you didn't know you were. I feel like spending some time getting to know the landlords before buying would be helpful for this.


  6. April 18, 2017 at 8:55 am, John said:

    My wife has been looking at apartments for us, so I'm glad I found this article. I think it gave some really helpful tips for choosing an apartment building that fits our needs. I especially liked the suggestion to understand who is in charge of routine maintenance of your apartment. That way we would know who to call if we are ever experiencing any difficulties or problems with our place.


  7. May 25, 2017 at 2:31 pm, John Mahoney said:

    I appreciate you talking about the importance of considering who will be doing the maintenance and how the communication will be when looking for the right condo. It is important to remember that taking the time to ask about this can help you make sure you find an apartment you will be happy to live in. We are looking into moving closer to our school and want to make sure we find the best condo that will suit our lifestyle better so I'm glad I found your post.


  8. November 06, 2017 at 8:25 am, Joy Butler said:

    This guide will be very useful, especially for people like me who just finished college and have started working since we would need to be very careful with managing our financial responsibilities. It does make sense to determine which parts of the apartment you'd have to take care of especially when you'd need to plan a budget before moving in. I'll be sure to check all the things you have listed for checking the condition of the apartment that I will find.


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