Renting an Apartment    

When you move out, we hope you'll be going off to college. And if you do, you'll probably move into the college dorm. Since your mother and I both lived at home during our college years, we can't offer you any advice about that. My first year of graduate school was in Evanston, Illinois (a suburb of Chicago). I spent the first week in a YMCA room, while I was looking for an apartment. Later, when I started graduate school for a second time, at Iowa State University, I shared a dorm room, but sharing a room with a graduate student, is a lot different than sharing a room with several young college students. If you are serious, and they are not, you might want to get an apartment, but you'll probably have to share it with someone. So, in either case, the most important factor in your happiness, comfort, and safety will be your roommate.


Make sure your first roommate (and your second, third, and fourth roommates) are girls (that goes for you too, Timmy :-) You'll have enough problems dealing with trash, dishes, expenses, TV, noise, roommate's friends, rather than complicate it with problems dealing with someone of the opposite sex.

Your roommate may become a great friend, or may become your worst enemy, or just a casual acquaintance.

Finding an Apartment

  • Location, transportation
  • Size
  • Roommates
  • Ads - Craigslist, local newspapers

    Paying for It

  • ID and Credit check
  • Security Deposit
  • 1st Month's Rent

      Apartment Checklist

    Looking at apartments can be exciting as you imagine carving out a home in the empty rooms. But don't let looks deceive you. In addition to checking out the size and layout of the apartment, remember to inspect the "hidden" attributes. Before you sign the lease, make sure you've confirmed that the following work properly, especially because broken items can be brought to the landlord's attention during the lease signing, and a written and initialed promise to repair can be added to the lease.

    Sink Faucets in Kitchen / Bathroom and Shower Heads

    Make sure water comes out of the faucets and shower heads, and the pressure is more than a dribble. Also see if the hot water works. No one wants to take a cold shower their first days in their new home.


    Check that the toilet flushes properly and thoroughly. Depending on the force of the flush, you may or may not need to invest in a plunger.


    Make sure all the applicances, such as the stove, the oven, the refrigerator, the air conditioner, and the heater function properly.


    Check that all the lights in the apartment are operational.

    Cell Phone Reception

    If you own a cell phone, be sure to see what the reception is like in the different rooms. Does it work only near a window? Under a doorway? In the bathroom?

    Windows and Sunlight

    Make sure all the window open, shut, and lock properly. There should be no cracks in the glass or holes in the window screens. If you have children, the landlord may be required by law to provide window grates. Though our schedules may not always permit, try to see the apartment during the day, so you may see how much sunlight the unit receives.

    Walls and Outside Traffic

    Check how sound proof the apartment is or how nearby you are to highways or railroads. How much external noise can you hear? Do you hear the honking of car horns or the television in the unit next to you?


    Check for dirt in the cabinets or closets. The apartment should be swept, mopped or vacuumed. Also be sure to check for any cockroaches or ants crawling around.

      Checklist for the Surrounding Neighborhood

    When looking at an apartment, remember to bring an apartment checklist of what to inspect in the surrounding area. Try to imagine yourself running your daily tasks and going about your life. Ask yourself what conveniences are important to you. Do you require a fast commute to work everyday? Or would your prefer a neighborhood near trendy shops and restaurants? These considerations will help you decide the desirability of an apartment.

    The apartment building

    Besides checking the apartment unit, investigate the rest of the building. Are the corridors well lit and clean? Is the building quiet? Is there an elevator? How steep are the stairs? Will it bother you, if you need to climb five stories to reach your apartment?

    The super / landlord

    Ask any of the current residents for their opinion of the super or the landlord. Does he or she respond quickly to their repair needs? Do they keep the apartment building clean? It is important to have a responsive landlord. Should any major appliance break (refrigerator, toilet, or heater), a landlord who responds promptly to such an urgent situation is desirable.

    The safety of the neighborhood

    Research the crime statistics in the area. Ask neighbors whether they feel safe in the neighborhood. Are muggings common? Can you walk alone at night? Are there frequent attempted break-ins? Must you get high security locks? For women, it is a good idea to ask another woman how safe she feels living in this area.

    Public Transportation and Roads

    If you will primarily be moving about via public transportation, check how near you are to bus stops and subways stations and how many transfers you would need to make to get to work, your child's daycare, shopping centers, and gyms. If you will be driving around, then find out how near you are to any major highways and freeways, especially if you will be using them to get to work.

    Quality of schools

    For public schools, research the school's credentials. Remember the location of your apartment determines which school your child can attend. Some districts may allow you to send your child to a different school under certain conditions. If the apartment is not in the zone of the school you like, find out if you meet those conditions. You may be able to both rent the apartment and send your kids to the preferred school.

    Laundry facilities

    If there is no washer and dryer hook-up in the unit, check for laundry machines in the building. If there are none, find the nearest Laundromat. Laundry is a time-consuming chore. Because laundry must always be done, I recommend spending the extra time to check this out.

    Gyms / Playgrounds / Parks

    If you go the gym frequently, remember to check out any athletic facilities near you and whether they are affordable and serve your fitness needs. Another alternative is to find one close to your job. Playgrounds and parks are great for taking your children, walking your dog, or enjoying a brisk jog. If this is important to you, remember to find out how near any parks or playgrounds are to the apartment you are looking at.

    Gas stations / Supermarkets / Banks / Drug Stores

    Though not necessarily a deciding factor, it is always a good idea to check out nearby gas stations, supermarkets, banks, and drug stores--especially if you are deciding between two apartments. Being able to access any of these locations quickly will certainly make your life easier in small doses that quickly add up.

    Dealing with Noisy Neighbors

    Loud Music Pounding on your ceiling