7 Red Flags to Look Out for When You’re Renting an Apartment

Magnifying glass in front of an open newspaper with paper houses. Concept of rent, search, purchase real estate.

A True Life Story

Sometimes last year, I wanted to rent an apartment in NYC. I was so desperate to get a place ‘cus I had just gotten a job in the area and needed a place to crash.

Unfortunately, I didn’t know anyone in that part of the world, and no one in my network did, too. So, I took a leap of faith and went down. But before leaving my place, I checked Instagram for reputable rental agents in NYC and found one.

To cut a sob story short. I connected with the agent, and he asked me to make an upfront payment, which I did happily. He took me to the house, and I was happy with it. Then I came back the next day as agreed to finalize payment and move in. That was when I met the ‘real landlord’ who told me the apartment wasn’t for rent and that I had been SCAMMED. I called the agent’s number repeatedly, but he never answered.

You can imagine how angry I got.

The existence of mobile solutions

When I got back to Santa Cruz and narrated my ordeal to my friends, they felt bad for me. Then one of them suggested that I use an app called Nicelocal.com. That was my first time hearing the name. I knew technology had gotten really crazy in recent times, but to find an app that connects someone to local business owners anywhere in the world was just mind-blowing.

Without saying much, I used Nice Local to find awesome rental agencies in my destination (New York).

In this post, I want to share some common red flags you need to look out for when hunting for rental apartments.

7 red flags to look out for when you’re renting an apartment

1. An upfront payment is required

You can understand why I made this the first point of discussion here – I’ve fallen victim to it.

If a rental agent or broker asks you to make an upfront payment before showing you an apartment, just turn and run. It’s that simple.

There’s no way a legit real estate agent will demand that a client makes an upfront payment to see an apartment they want to rent. It’s like a car dealership asking you to pay a fee before you can be allowed to see the cars in their showroom. It’s not just reasonable.

Rental estate companies want people to come and check out their units. They won’t charge you a fee for showing you what they’ve got.

2. Deal sounds too good to be true

One thing you should always trust first in life is your gut. If your gut tells you a deal is too good to be true, then that just might be the case.

Don’t second guess yourself into thinking maybe you’re just being paranoid. Because you are not.

However, if you must strike a deal, ensure you’re doing it based on extensive research. If you’re looking for apartmetns in Zurich, for example, make sure to dig the internet and see what deals are available.

Go to the area and find out the average costs of rent of similar apartments. Find out about the landlord and see whether you can talk to them. Do a thorough online search of the unit to see if you can find someone living there or who has lived there before.

3. Only a small number of photos is available

Pictures sell products. If an apartment is decent enough, the owner or agent in charge will be happy to flaunt its beauty over the internet or on the listing site.

If you check out an apartment online and find only a few pictures, don’t even bother going to see it. I can bet you’ll be disappointed if you go.

4. Windows have bars

Why else would anyone fit iron bars on the around windows if they didn’t think the room could be burgled in the first place?

A landlord will deem it necessary to add an extra layer of security on the doors and windows if the house is situated in an area rife with crime.

If you see bars on the windows, ask the landlord or agent for the reason. If you’re not convinced by what they see, just walk away.

5. Prioritize kitchen ventilation

Renting an apartment means you’re getting a place that will probably have your kitchen constructed with the rest of the room. To ensure you don’t choke yourself and visiting friends to death, you need a kitchen that’s well ventilated.

So, if you walk into an apartment to check it out and you find a poor window structure, just take that to be a red flag and walk away.

6. Too many repairs to make

House agents will try to downplay the significance of common issues like a broken pipe, a hole in the wall, a rusty door handle, and other stuff like that.

Don’t listen to them. An apartment that looks ragged at first sight is most likely a lot more damaged if you look deeper.

There are a thousand more options out there to check out. Don’t let them fool you into believing what’s in front of you is the best you can get. Go out there and look for better alternatives.

But if you must rent that house – with its many damages – ask whether the landlord will be happy to fix the issues or at least reduce the rental fees.

7. Landlord or agent is hard to reach

Is anyone ever hard to reach when you want to give them money? No, I don’t think so. The fact you’re on the verge of paying for rent should get even the busiest of landlords or rental agents running after you.

If that’s not the case, I implore you not to rent that house. If you’re having trouble reaching a rental agent/landlord when you want to give them money, imagine how tough it will be when you’re a tenant, and you need their attention.


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