image of apartment hunting checklist in new york city

Because you want to be smiling after you move in, not calling the plumber.

Congratulations! You’re finally moving on from your mom’s basement/college dorm/brother’s couch to an actual NYC apartment. But sometimes the excitement (or desperation) of finding your first rental leaves you with a signed lease, an apartment that’s falling apart, and a “What did I just do?” panic. So before you sign on the dotted line, make sure to go through this NYC apartment hunting checklist.

Check for Signs of Unwanted Life

Everyone’s heard horror stories of indestructible cockroach colonies and families of mice (or worse, rats) setting up shop in NYC apartments. Make sure to check inside cabinets, drawers, and behind furniture for clues of rodent droppings and other unsightly creatures. One roommate is enough — you don’t want to also share your space with non-human pests.

Feel the Water Pressure and Temperature

Perhaps the only thing more depressing than realizing you live among furry friends (fur-enemies?) is hopping into a freezing cold shower in the middle of winter. Do yourself a favor and check that the shower provides more than just sporadic droplets and can produce both cold and hot water on demand.

image of small bright apartment

Even if you can’t get a big place, you can hopefully get a bright one.

Let There Be Light

Even if it’s more convenient to see an apartment after work, it’s important to view the space during the daytime, when natural light will (presumably) pour in. An otherwise great apartment can get depressing quickly if every time of day looks exactly the same: fluorescent.

Test the Temperature

For those who are lucky enough to find an apartment with air conditioning, consider yourself special, and don’t forget to test it out. The same goes for any sort of controllable heating system — because even that Snuggie won’t get you through the winter without the help of warm air.

Flush the Toilet

Chances are, your idea of a fun Saturday does not involve calling your plumber for the umpteenth time. To avoid this crappy situation, make sure to flush the toilet and check that it drains and refills properly. Speed dial spots on your phone are for parents, pizza joints, and significant others — not Jim at Roto-Rooter.

photo of a small apartment kitchen

Because you will want to cook … some day.

Pretend You Cook and Try Out the Kitchen Appliances

If there ever comes a night when you don’t feel like ordering Seamless (doubtful, we know), you’ll be glad to have a working kitchen. Test out all of the burners, check out the fridge and freezer temperatures, and fiddle around with the garbage disposal and kitchen sink. A working kitchen means that you can host that dinner party you’ve been promising all of your friends … at some point in the distant, distant future.

Bust Out Your Tape Measure

Unless your dad is an oligarch or you recently won the lottery, chance are your first NYC apartment will resemble a humble closet. Although you must accept this as a fact of life, you should also bring a tape measure to make sure that the basics — like your bed, dresser and Beanie Baby collection — will all fit in said closet. “You won’t always get floor plans,” explains real estate agent Nicolette Schlink, so measuring rooms yourself is always a smart idea.

Test the Outlets

Bring your cellphone charger and quickly make sure that all of the plugs work. Because sometimes, you will want to simultaneously watch TV on your laptop, read on your tablet, and Instagram on your phone — and that involves a lot of charged devices.

Check for Mold, Cracking and General Disarray

Although landlords are technically supposed to fix things and answer your calls, sometimes they take their sweet time. If an apartment is already showing signs of disarray and poor upkeep, this could point to a landlord who has decided to take her responsibilities lightly, so take note.

image of a lively neighborhood in New York City

You’ll want to know what the neighborhood is like — at all hours of the day.

Hang Out in the Neighborhood

Wait before you sign that lease! Your dream apartment could be in a calm, low-key neighborhood by day and transform into a pulsing nightclub scene by night. Stop by in the evening to make sure you still feel safe and happy with the area, and most importantly, with your immediate block.

But Remember, the Perfect Apartment Doesn’t Exist

It’s vital to go through this checklist, but beyond that, finding the “perfect” space with a spacious balcony and living room and renovated kitchen with great subway access probably isn’t going to happen at a reasonable price. “Prioritize what’s important to you,” says Schlink. “A lot of people come in expecting to get everything on their apartment dream list, [but] that’s just not the case for a lot of first-time apartment renters. Real estate moves quickly — always think it through and ask questions, but know the apartment is not waiting on you.”

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