If you're moving into your first home and looking for a new apartment, it's a good idea to pack an apartment rental toolkit when searching for the perfect space. This will assist you in deciding which apartment is just right for you!
Notebook and Pencil/Pen
A notebook is essential. It's easy to confuse spaces, especially if you see quite a few over several days. Give each apartment its own separate page. Write the address at the top and the phone number of the landlord or manager. Also note the size, including the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, etc. You can get most of this information from the apartment listing. This will save you time when you're actually touring the apartments on your list. Note the things you love and the things you don't love. Also, note the problem areas and things that the landlord said they would fix or do.
It's always a good idea that you know ahead of time if your furniture is going to fit, not only in the space, but through the doorways, hallways, and elevators. You should always measure your sofa, large chairs, and any other pieces of furniture that are large. Take these measurements with you, then spend some time in the space measuring doorways, bedrooms, hallways, and other spaces to ensure your stuff will fit.
Use your phone to take pictures of the space, especially if you're on your own and the person you're going to be sharing the space with isn't there to see the apartment. Most landlords don't mind but make sure you ask before you start taking pictures. If you're seeing a lot of apartments in one day, then start by taking a picture of the outside of the building. Not only is the address and building name usually displayed out front, but it's also an easy way to separate the pictures once you're home.
List of "Must-Haves"
If you'll be sharing this space with a roommate, partner, or spouse and they aren't accompanying you to the viewing, then it's a good idea to make a list of what all tenants need in the space. Do this before you even start to hunt for rentals. It will keep you on track and ensure that you're not forgoing your needs because you're tired of looking or wowed by something else in the space that isn't on the must-have list.
List of "Nice-To-Haves"
While the nice-to-haves aren't as important as the must-have's, it's still helpful in determining which apartment is best suited to all tenants. Plus, it forces you to think about what you'd like in an apartment, making it easier to ask questions and to negotiate a lease.
Before you start viewing, make sure you have your references listed (former landlords, employers, etc.) and take a copy of that list with you to your viewings. While you should always take your time in choosing an apartment, there are those occasions when you find the perfect place along with a long line of other people. Having that list with you can give you an edge.
You need to know what you can afford to spend on your new home, so figure out your budget before you start looking. You should also take a list of financial questions to ask the landlord before signing a lease. You'll also need to ask questions about the lease before you sign.
If you're hunting for apartments on your own, it's always good to bring a friend—and not just for safety reasons, either! It's always good to have a second opinion and to serve as a support system.