10 Things to Be Mindful of Before Signing the Lease!

Ever since I was young, I had always dreamed of having a whole place to call my own! The thought of having my own furniture, decorating however I wanted, and having my own huge space fascinated me! I have been so thankful to have lived in the same house essentially all of my childhood, and my parents are still married so my life has been very great. My first ever move was to my dorm at the University of North Dakota (Go Hawks!) and it was such a strange sensation to me. I was so used to chatting with my mom and dad before bed and my sister sneaking into my room to hang out. I had to have the TV on the first night I was there because it was too quiet.


I won’t lie, it took me about a month or so to get adjusted and I ran into the biggest case of home-sickness. My mom was an angel and made some pre-made soups, jellies, and some other of my favorite foods! Once I met my fiance, we knew that after a year together, we wanted to get our own place. Little did he know however, I had a little secret.


Instead of having to pay for so much new furniture, kitchen supplies, and bathroom necessities, I asked my mom to save onto the things she didn’t use or was replacing so I could have them for my future place. I started saving stuff when I was 11 I believe, and from the first bowl, I knew I would have a whole place together by the time I needed to move. That statement was actually true!


It’s been 2 years in the same apartment and although we love it, there are a few things we wished we looked into before signing a lease. If you are moving into your first apartment and stumbled upon this page, congratulations! If you are still looking and need a little advice here’s a comprehensive list of the things you should look for before signing that lease! You will want to check around before and see if an apartment, town home, or anything else is best for you, but this list can be used for any of those places! Many of these ideas my mom told us before we moved in, so I need to give her so much credit! Anyway, here is a list of stuff that you should know before you say yes!

1) Always Check for Drafts

Living in northern North Dakota we have two different weather extremes! It can get cold like -60 Fahrenheit and today it was 101 Fahrenheit. Living in a place of such extremes, having a draft can drastically increase our electric bills! I don’t know about you guys, but I like saving money!

When you tour the apartment for the first time, bring a lighter with you and hold it up to the windows, patio door, etc. If the flame flickers, there’s a draft. I held a light up to every window, and thankfully there were no drafts. If you want the apartment bad enough and have the deposit down, they will more than likely fix it up for you! As you can see in my picture, the flame didn’t move like crazy so there was no draft at our window!

Lighter Draft Apartment Blog


2) Take a Deep Breath When You Enter the Building

You may have visited previous apartments where it smells like a toilet and weeks old fish. You may have visited a friends or families apartment and you want to find the nearest exit immediately. With so many different people living in these complexes, it’s crazy the smells that mingle with each other.

When you first enter the building take a good sniff as to what the building itself smells like. Does it smell like pie and daisies (probably an air freshener they sprayed before you entered the building) or like a turkey farm? If you are fine with the smell of the apartment, great, if not run. Now I know there are some extenuating circumstances where somebody may have burned the burgers or someone let their trash sit too long. Touring the apartment twice helps as well so you can get a better feel of what it will smell like.


3) Talk to Other Renters

If you are comfortable with it, you can try to talk to others that live in the building! If people have lived there for a while, they can tell you what the building is like, how maintenance is and so much other useful knowledge!


4) Look at the Existing Appliances and Fixtures

If your apartment comes with appliances such as an oven, fridge, and other appliances. Open the fridge and see if it’s clean and is running. Open the dishwasher and see how it loads. Also check the cabinets and see if that is adequate cabinet space, if they are loose or squeak, and things related to that! If you are paying for that space, you want to make sure it’s perfect! While you are there, check and see if random things like the toilet lid is loose, the fridge doesn’t fully shut, and other things like that are noticeable. If they didn’t take the time to fix it up to show people, why should you think that they will fix it when you move in? I didn’t notice this cupboard was crooked and wouldn’t close, and yes I spilled rice but thought I got it all, but guess not so cleaned up right after I took that photo (whoops). While it is a little annoying, this is an example of something you should be on the lookout for when touring the place.

Cabinet Photo Apartment Blog

5) Check Out the Neighborhood

When we moved into this apartment, we talked to a few natives about the area we were planning to live in. With a few schools, as well as beautiful parks surrounding the area, we knew this was our place to be! We also did a crime search on the building, just to make sure nothing too crazy happened. The area is also surrounded by beautiful apple and oak trees! We toured on the day of the storm and it still looked gorgeous! The picture down below I took recently because the colors of the trees seemed so vibrant! The only downside was it was on the third floor. Once we got the air conditioner replaced and all the furniture moved up, we forgot about it. In fact, it’s actually a wonderful leg exercise! I don’t think my calves have looked better!

Neighborhood Photo Apartment blog

6) Find Reviews Online

If you aren’t comfortable talking to other neighbors about the building you can always look up reviews. I personally don’t trust reviews because everyone’s opinion is always different no matter what. They could have one bug fly into their house and blame the land lords. I wouldn’t recommend this personally. If you are interested in checking out reviews, try to see what else that person has reviewed. Some people only leave negative reviews so try to use your best judgement when deciding if it is a trustworthy review,


7) See What Utilities You Have to Pay

This can be truly a make or break thing when deciding on a place to live. Generally if the rent is low, the utilities you have to pay are high. Our rent  runs around $700 total (which we split). In utilities, we pay internet, electricity (heat and cooling) and that’s pretty much it! We also do pay our laundry bill. We do have laundry in our building but it doesn’t work the greatest, so we usually have to run to the laundromat. Having washer and dryer hookups would save us so much money, so that is something that you will have to think about before signing that agreement! We don’t have to pay water so that having hookups would be best!

8) Check Out Other Amenities (gym, laundry, etc)

Apartments and town homes that have added amenities such as a gym, laundry room, patios, heated garage, etc., ask to take a look. Knowing that you may live in that place, seeing everything that comes with it! If you are moving into that apartment just because of the gym, check out the gym PLEASE! It may smell terrible and the equipment might be second rate, so you will ALWAYS want to check it out!

When looking at the amenities as well you will want to see if it costs extra to use something like the gym or if it is included within your rent. You can usually find out by calling the main office, or checking out your rent breakdown.


9) Proximity to Grocery Stores, Work, Gym, etc.

If you don’t have a car this may be the most important section for you. We live in the perfect section between the business, shopping, and downtown district of Grand Forks so it’s the perfect setting for us. Before living in Grand Forks, I never lived in a hugely populated city, so being so close to everything was so new to me. Although it was wonderful not driving 20 minutes to get flour for the cookies I want to make, there are a few downsides as well. Living so close to Walmart and Target have made me spend more money because of the mindset “it’s on my way home from picking up my fiance, let’s grab a few things”. I have been trying to shorten my trips to the grocery store by only going once a week or sometimes, once every 2 weeks.


10) Is the Space Big Enough for Your Needs?

When my fiance and I decided to move in together, we knew we wanted a two bedroom apartment with a big kitchen. The two bedroom was a must because I love having family over so having that extra bedroom helped tremendously! I also use it as an office to do schoolwork and write my posts, and my fiance has foam panels up to do voicework for some roles!

I am also a food lover so I knew that having a big kitchen was a must. The kitchen we have is great, I do wish however we had more cabinets. We have a lot of cabinet space, but they are deep cabinets that lead to Narnia. Before you move into a specific place, think of all the furniture you will have in there, if you are going to have roommates/constant company, how much space you need in the bathroom, etc. Knowing the space you need may be at the bottom of the list, but it is definitely one of the most important.


This is all I have for today! I hope these few tips and tricks help you out when deciding on an apartment or town home! Did I miss anything or have another tip? Let me know down in the comments below! Do you want more articles like this or can’t get enough? Give me a follow on here or follow me over at Instagram: sunshineandseasoning.


Thanks for reading!


-Bre 🙂

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