Finding a new apartment can be fun and exciting, but if you’re renting for your first time, the process can feel slightly overwhelming.
To help you make an informed decision and smooth the transition into your first apartment, we’ve compiled 30 apartment hunting tips to help you navigate the entire apartment hunting process.
From setting your budget & understanding lease terms, to inspecting water pressure keeping an eye out for red flags — these tips are designed to empower first-time renters with the knowledge and insights needed to find a rental apartment with confidence.
1. Determine Your Rental Budget
Navigating the world of renting starts with setting yourself a clear budget of what you can comfortably afford. To prevent unnecessary stress down the line, assess your financial situation, factor in your income vs monthly expenses, and establish a realistic budget for rent.
A common guideline with any rent affordability calculator is to spend up to 30% of your pre-tax income on rent. So if you earn $5k a month ($60,000 per year), that means you can spend up to $1,500 on rent. If you live in Kelowna and your income is less than $60,000, you’d be wise to share an apartment or house with roommates.
Check our blog on average rental rates in Kelowna.
2. Make a List of Your Needs, Wants & Nice-to-Haves
Create a comprehensive list outlining your priorities. For example, do you need a place with a den to work, an outdoor balcony, laundry hookups, or fibre internet connections?
Distinguish between your essential needs, desirable wants, and nice-to-have features. This list becomes your guide during the apartment hunting process, helping you stay focused and make sure your final choice aligns with your most crucial criteria.
3. Start Searching Months in Advance for Upcoming Vacancies
In a competitive rental market, proactive planning is key. Begin your search well in advance to familiarize yourself with the best options in town and beat the rush of apartment seekers.
Get a head start on upcoming vacancies by establishing connections with building or property managers to increase your chances of finding the right apartment and having priority over other rental applications.
Some building managers only allow you to start looking after the 1st business day of a new month. It helps to wake up early and be the first person to phone when their office opens — which is usually around 8 or 9am.
4. Make Your Application Stand Out from the Crowd
To help make your rental application shine, tell your potential landlord what you do for work, why you’re moving, and share great references from your previous landlords.
If you’re a student or you don’t have a sustainable income, it helps to have a co-signer or guarantor sign the lease with you.
5. Pick a Great Neighborhood
Selecting the right neighborhood is paramount. Opt for a safe area with a low crime index, ideally close to public transit, your workplace or school, and essential amenities. Consider walkability, proximity to groceries & amenities, and safety at night. A well-chosen neighborhood contributes significantly to your overall satisfaction with your new living space.
If you’re looking for a rental property in Kelowna, BC check out our Kelowna neighbourhood guides:
- 10 Best Neighbourhoods in Kelowna
- Best Kelowna Neighbourhoods for Families
- Kelowna’s Safest Neighbourhoods
- Most Walkable Neighbourhoods in Kelowna
6. Read Reviews of the Building You’re Looking At
Don’t overlook the power of firsthand experiences. Make an informed decision by diving into online reviews of the building you’re considering on Google Maps and — if possible — talk to current or former residents. You’ll gain valuable insights into the management’s approach to disputes, maintenance, and general living conditions.
7. Visit the Location in the Daytime & Nighttime
Visit your potential apartment at different times of the day to get a true feel of what it will be like living there. What may seem peaceful during a weekday could transform into a noisy environment at night. Take note of vehicle traffic, foot traffic, and bass noise from neighboring houses or businesses — particularly on weekends vs weekdays.
If you’re an early riser and appreciate a good night’s sleep, the last thing you want is to discover you’re living next to a busy bar or nightclub after moving in. Make sure your new rental property’s surroundings align with your lifestyle!
8. Test the Water Pressure & Faucets
Good water pressure is a simple yet essential aspect of apartment living. Adequate water pressure guarantees you’ll enjoy satisfying showers every day, and makes working in the kitchen more efficient.
Test the faucets and showers for adequate water pressure during your visit by turning them all the way on and off.
While you’re at it, make sure the sink and bathtub faucets don’t drip or leak — especially if you’re on a water meter, as those tiny leaks translate into money down the drain.
9. Check Plumbing Areas for Signs of Leaks & Water Damage
To avoid future headaches and possible health concerns like mold, check underneath the sinks in the kitchen, laundry room, and bathrooms for any signs of leakage, water damage, or mold growth.
Keep an eye out for wall discoloration, bulging wallpaper, cracks, or bubbling paint, as these can all indicate water damage. If you notice a musty smell in these areas, it can be a sign of hidden moisture and molding issues which can impact your indoor air quality and everyday wellbeing.
10. Check Electric Outlets, Internet/Cable Outlets & Phone Reception
Ensure the electrical setup meets your needs. Test the wall outlets to confirm they’re functional and compatible with your electronic devices. Additionally, check for fibre internet, DSL and cable outlets to make sure your preferred internet providers will be able to set up access in your unit.
Try making a phone call and checking the internet while you’re inside the unit. Some buildings and apartment units have lousy reception which could lead to a long-term nuisance — especially if you work from home.
11. Look at the Seals on Windows, Doors & Ask About Insulation
Don’t overlook the importance of insulation and energy efficiency. Assess the windows and doors for any gaps that could impact temperature control and lead to elevated heating bills. Well-insulated apartments provide comfort year-round, keeping you warm in winter and cool in summer.
12. Make Sure It Includes a Dishwasher (If You Want One)
Details matter, and the presence of a dishwasher can significantly impact your daily routine. Confirm whether the apartment includes a dishwasher, saving you time and effort on dishwashing tasks. Overlooking this detail might lead to unexpected inconveniences.
13. Check the Bathrooms Have an Exhaust Fan
Proper ventilation in bathrooms is essential for maintaining a healthy living space. Ensure that bathrooms are equipped with exhaust fans to minimize moisture and odors. This seemingly small feature contributes to a more comfortable and hygienic environment.
14. Check Out Amenities like Gym, Pool, Laundry, Parking
Before you sign a lease and move into an apartment building with shared amenities like laundry, parking, a gym, or a swimming pool, make sure those areas are clean, well maintained, and what you’re expecting. The parking lot should be fenced off from public access with strong doors and security cameras. Check the doors and windows of the parking area for signs of forced entry like bent metal around the dead bolt plate, door frame, or a loose door handle.
15. Measure the Space for Your Furniture and Belongings
Avoid surprises on moving day by measuring the apartment space. Bring a tape measure during your inspection to accurately measure the room dimensions and make sure your furniture and belongings fit comfortably into the suite.
16. Ask if The Rental Unit is Pet-Friendly
If you’re a pet owner, confirm the apartment is pet-friendly before your visit. Discuss any pet-related policies, fees, or restrictions on dog size.
Ask if your landlord requires a pet deposit, and know that this can only be equal to half of 1 months’ rent in British Columbia.
17. Red Flag: Beware Scents During Your Visit
Pay attention to scents during your apartment visit. Unusual scents like strong air fresheners, incense, or diffusers may be masking underlying issues like cigarette smoke, mold, or pet odors.
Trust your senses and investigate further to uncover any potential red flags. If something smells off, be sure to investigate further — or move on to a different unit.
18. Take Photos of the Apartment Condition
Before you move in, perform an inspection and document the condition of the apartment. Otherwise, you could end up in a dispute to pay for damages you didn’t actually cause.
Take photos of each room, making note of wall scuffs, flooring & carpet stains, the condition of major appliances, outdoor fixtures (especially garden hoses which are a notorious plumbing issue in rentals), and test the smoke detectors. Make sure the windows open and close easily, seal nicely from the outdoors, and double check for water damage in bathrooms and underneath every sink in the house.
Having a detailed visual record can serve as valuable evidence in case of disputes and ensures you’re not held responsible for pre-existing issues when it’s time to move out.
19. Make Sure the Security Deposit is a Legal Amount
Know your rights as a renter and be aware of legal deposit limits in your jurisdiction.
In British Columbia, the security deposit can be no more than half of the first month’s rent. If you have a pet, landlords can also include a pet damage deposit, which can also be no more than half of one month’s rent.
Note that you should never prepay for several months of rent in advance. If your landlord is asking you to pay for the first and last month’s rent, this is a major red flag and a sign you should probably start looking elsewhere for a rental property.
20. Work With a Reputable Property Management Company
Compared to renting from a private owner, collaborating with a property management company offers numerous advantages for a smoother renting experience. Choosing the right property management company is paramount to ensuring a positive living situation. Opt for a reputable company with a proven track record of responsible management.
Here’s why you should consider this option:
- Reputation Matters: Property management companies have a reputation to uphold. Selecting one with a positive standing in the industry increases the likelihood of a reliable and professional rental experience.
- Experience in Maintenance: These companies are accustomed to handling repairs and maintenance efficiently. This ensures that issues are addressed promptly, contributing to a well-maintained living environment.
- Local Presence: A local property manager means there’s always someone available during business hours to address your concerns. This immediate accessibility enhances communication and the timely resolution of any problems that may arise.
- Avoid Absentee Landlord Issues: Working with a property management company eliminates the risk of dealing with absentee landlords who may be unresponsive to your concerns. This proactive approach minimizes the need for tenants to invest time and money in dispute resolution or arbitration.
When it comes to securing your new rental, opting for a reputable property management company adds an extra layer of assurance, making your renting journey more efficient and worry-free.
Looking for a rental property in Kelowna, BC? Vantage West Property Management is an award-winning property management agency with 2 consecutive Consumer’s Choice Awards for excellence in rental property management. With 4.7 stars on Google, we’re also one of the top-rated agencies in town. Check our rental listings or contact us for help finding a perfect rental in Kelowna.
21. Familiarize Yourself With Lease Terms and Conditions
Beyond the rent amount, thoroughly read and understand the fine print of your lease agreement. Take note of terms like security deposit, maintenance responsibilities, and any potential penalties. Being well-informed prevents misunderstandings and ensures a smooth living experience.
Beyond the excitement of finding the perfect apartment, dive into the details of the lease agreement. Understand every clause, from rent terms to maintenance responsibilities. Being well-versed in your lease ensures a smooth living experience and minimizes the risk of misunderstandings with your landlord.
22. Get Renter’s Insurance
Protect your belongings by investing in renter’s insurance. It’s an affordable way to safeguard your possessions in case of theft, fire, or other unforeseen events. Most landlords require you to have tenant insurance in BC to limit their financial risk in the event of any damages requiring repair or replacement.
In BC, tenant insurance will cost you around $300 to $400 dollars per year. Research different policies to find one that suits your coverage needs and budget.
23. Establish a Communication Plan
Ensure you have clear communication channels with your landlord or property manager. Know how to report issues, whether it’s a leaky faucet or a malfunctioning appliance. Prompt communication helps resolve problems swiftly and maintains a positive landlord-tenant relationship.
24. Understand Maintenance Procedures
Ask about the maintenance procedures in place for your rental apartment. Know who to contact for repairs, how to get in touch, and understand the expected response time. A proactive and responsive maintenance team contributes significantly to keeping your living environment comfortable and in working order.
25. Know Your Rights as a Renter
Familiarize yourself with tenant rights in your area to make sure you’re treated fairly throughout the duration of your lease.
Knowing your rights can help you address any potential disputes or concerns effectively. Local tenant associations or online resources can be valuable for this information. In British Columbia, the Residential Tenancy Act details the rights and responsibilities of both tenants and landlords.
26. Save for Unexpected Expenses
Create an emergency fund to cover unexpected expenses. If you accidentally damage the rental unit during your tenancy, you could be on the hook to pay for professional repairs or replacements.
To give yourself peace of mind, be financially prepared to replace things around your home like furniture, kitchen items, curtains, or bedding.
27. Keep a Record of Documents
Maintain a folder with all essential documents related to your lease, contact information, and communication with your landlord. Having organized records makes it easier to reference important details and can be valuable in case of any disputes.
When you get a quote for the apartment, request it in writing or in print. This precaution ensures that you have documented evidence and can avoid misunderstandings or unexpected increases in rental costs.
28. Stay Informed About Local Services
Research local services such as garbage collection, yard waste, recycling, postal services, and emergency contacts (hospitals, medical clinics, police non-emergency, fire). Knowing the basics of your neighborhood helps you settle in quickly and feel safer at home.
29. Network With Your Neighbors
Building a good relationship with neighbors can make your living experience way more enjoyable. You might need an extra hand moving furniture, collecting packages while you’re at work, or boosting your car battery some day. If you’re on good terms with your fellow tenants or neighbours, they’ll most likely oblige the favor.
Be cordial, exchange contact information, join community groups, and participate in building events to build your network.
30. Embrace Your New Community
Get involved in your new community by exploring local businesses, attending local events, and joining clubs or groups, or by volunteering. Feeling connected to your surroundings helps you establish a sense of belonging and improves your overall living experience.
Here are some community resources in Kelowna, BC: