Renting a house in a new neighborhood or new city is stressful enough without having any unexpected surprises. Often when renting a house, people tend to take a look at the overall cosmetic condition without regards of what it will be like living in the house everyday. Are there bugs? Does the plumbing work? Are the neighbors noisy? While the agent or homeowner might give you the answer you want to hear, it is really a good idea to find out for yourself.
Open The Cabinets
One potential problem you might not ever see until after you move in, is whether or not there are small leaks around the plumbing. Open up the cabinet doors under the kitchen and bathroom sinks. Check for signs of water damage on the bottom of the cabinet. If water damage is present, ask about repairs made and make sure the rental agreement indicates existing water damage so that it does not come off your deposit when you decide to move later.
Another reason to open up cabinets is to check for the presence of bugs, rodents or roaches. Check out the back corners of the cabinets in the kitchen for signs of eggs or droppings left behind by unwanted residents. Renting a house that has signs of previous pest problems does not necessarily mean the problem still exists. Ask about pest control and who is responsible if you suspect an infestation, if you still want to sign lease after discovering extra guests.
Turn On The Appliances
As you are walking through the house, turn on appliances to ensure they are working properly. Make sure that each of the burner eyes on the stove top turn red, if the stove is electric. The burners on gas stoves should ignite quickly and evenly.
Open the refrigerator and freezer door. Does it feel cool inside the refrigerator? Is there ice in the freezer ice bin? If the refrigerator also includes a water dispenser, test it out to make sure water flows. Ask about filter changes for the dispenser and who is responsible for the cost of the filters.
Turn on the cold water in the kitchen sink and run the garbage disposal. Listen for sounds that might indicate the disposal blades are broken. Check out the microwave, if one is included with the house. Open the door and check the glass plate for cracks. Turn the microwave on for 10 seconds to ensure that it works and the turntable rotates.
Inspect The Heating and Cooling System
Locate the thermostat for the heating and cooling system. Turn on the “Fan Only” mode to check that the blower is operating properly. Turn off the “Fan Only” mode and ask where the furnace or inside HVAC unit is in the home. It is usually in its own closet. Open the blower compartment and inspect area. The blower compartment is going to have some dust, but it should not be caked on to a point that it hinders the operation of the blower. Locate the filter housing and check the filter. Ask the agent or homeowner who is responsible for purchasing and changing the filters.
Flush The Toilet
Go to the bathrooms and flush the toilets. Now is the time to find out whether there is a leaky or noisy toilet, instead of when you are trying to get a good nights sleep. Take the toilet tank lid off and inspect the working components. Although rust is usually visible, it should only be surface rust and not the jagged rust that indicates a part is about to break.
Take a Drive at Night
Nearly all neighborhoods appear safe and quiet during the day. Neighbors are usually on their best behavior when an agent or homeowner is showing a property. But what happens when the street lights come on at night? Take some time to drive around the new neighborhood after dark before renting a house and signing the lease. If possible, arrange your trip through the neighborhood on a Friday or Saturday night. This gives you an opportunity to see first hand how noisy or safe your potential neighborhood really is after the sun goes down.
Spend some time checking your potential next door neighbors. Do they have dogs that bark constantly? Is there yelling or screaming? Are the kids running around and making noise? These are the types of things you won't see until after dark.
Don't allow a homeowner or agent to rush you through the walk through when renting a house. Think about what it will be like to live in the house on a daily basis. Taking the time to check out things beforehand will help avoid unexpected surprises and make your move as stress-free as possible.