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I’m doing my first walk-through, what should I look for?

Congratulations and welcome to your new apartment!

The important thing to remember about a walk-through is you want to be slow and systematic. Many people bring a list (known as a “punch list”) and just check things off — or you can just answer the questions below (which may be overkill, but at least you newbies know what to look for):


* does the toilet flush completely without running afterwards? are there leaks or sweating around the base of the toilet?

* is the tub free from scratches? Does the jacuzzi work? Do both the cold and hot water run easily? Is the drain stopper in place? Check for loose tiles, especially on the wall where the faucet is. Is the grout between the tiles clean and unmildewed?

* Is all the hardware (toilet paper holder, towel bars, shower doors or shower rod, robe hooks) installed? (I had a friend who bought a Harlem condo and she was away so I did her punch list. Her tub was unscratched — I’d made a little mark on my list — but her towel bars weren’t installed. When the contractors put up the towel bars, they dropped a wrench or something, and scratched the tub)

* Do the vanity cabinet doors and drawers work? Is the medicine cabinet level? Is the sink top free from scratches? Is there sweating or water pooled around the faucet? Does the faucet work?

*Do the bathroom lights work? If not all the bulbs work, move a live bulb from socket to socket. Are there covers on the electrical outlets?

*Are the walls, for the sake of a better word, flat? And painted? Is there water damage on the ceiling?*Are the floor tiles in place? Is the saddle (the strip of marble between the bathroom and the hall) in?

*Do the doors closely fully without effort? If there are locks, do they work?*Does the bathroom ventilate, either because there’s a window that slides on its tracks easily or because the exhaust fan works?

*Look up, are there water spots or discolorations that might indicate previous leaks on the ceiling?


*Does the entry door feel “flat” — i.e. unwarped? Do the knobs turn easily, and do the locks work (check from both sides). Is the peephole installed?
*If there’s an entry light, does it work? What about the intercom to call the doorman?

*Is there a smoke detector and a carbon monoxide detector (both legally required) in the apartment? Check that the smoke detector works by lighting a match.

* Is the floor un-nicked, and appropriately finished?

* Are the walls flat, and painted? The paint, especially if new, should have an even level of coloration and “sheen” — a patch where the luminosity is different could indicate a bad repair.

* Is the ceiling even, and painted, and without signs of discoloration?

* If there’s molding, does it lie flat to the walls? Do the corners meet evenly?

* Does the hall closet open easily? Is it painted? If there’s a washer and dryer, are they hooked up? Try (ask the realtor first) to turn them on. Are closet hangings (rods, shelves, etc.) installed? Does the light work?

* Are there covers on light switches, cable outlets, thermostats ?

*Check out your windows. Do the sashes raise and lower? Do the windows lock? Are all the panes of glass whole and uncracked? Are there child-guards (required for kids under 10)? Visually inspect the caulking — If you put your hand near the edge of a closed window, do you feel an obvious draft?

*Legally, every New York City apartment is required to have two fire exits. Your entrance door is one. Find the other (window fire escape or separate fire door) and make sure it works.

* Is the floor free from dings, and appropriately finished? Prod one of the planks or tiles, and make sure it doesn’t pop up (oh, how I wish I had done this in my first apartment)

*Are the walls flat and does the paint have an even sheen?

*If there’s molding, does it lie flat to the walls? Do the corners meet evenly?

* Are light fixtures hooked up as they’re supposed to be? Do they work? If there need to be ceiling medallions under them, are they installed? Are there holes in the ceiling near the light fixture?

* Are switch covers and outlet covers in place?

* Visually make sure you have air-conditioning and heating units in place, and check that they work. If you plan on installing a window air conditioner, make sure that you have an appropriately upgraded outlet (what an electrician would call a “box”) to handle it. Make sure your air conditioner is braced so it doesn’t fall out of the window. Make sure your heating system has whatever radiator covers or duct covers you feel should be there.

*Is the ceiling flat, recently painted and free from signs of discoloration?

* Do the closet doors work? Is the closet hardware/shelving you expect in place?


*Is the cabinetry installed? Are the cabinets level? Are the handles and door pulls on?

*Are the countertop edges finished (beveled or polished or otherwise set up so they don’t slice you)? Is the countertop itself sealed (granite will stain if it’s not)

*Is the stove hooked up? Turn on each individual burner to see if it works. Inspect around the burners for little black dots (mouse droppings, not uncommon in new construction)

*Is the dishwasher hooked up? Does it work? (again, if you can, turn it on rather than just getting a verbal assurance)

*Does the kitchen ventilate? Does the range hood above the stove work? Is there a smoke detector in the kitchen? If there’s a window in the kitchen, does it open and are all the panes uncracked?

*Does the sink work (check both faucets, the sprayer, and the garbage disposal)? Open the cabinet under the sink. Where the pipe leads into the cabinet there will be a hole — the size and finish of this hole will give you some indication of the quality of the construction. Also check in the bottom of this cabinet for our friends, the roaches.

*Is the refrigerator in? Is it a few inches away from the back wall to allow air to circulate so it can actually work properly? Do both the refrigerator and freezer work?

*Check the kitchen floor for flatness and blemishes, especially where it joins the floor cabinetry.

*Is there a microwave if you expect there to be one? a wine cooler?


*Does the apartment smell funny? An old mildewy smell, cooking odors from a nearby restaurant, or the smell of natural gas are all red flags.

*If there are steps, are they level?

*Ceilings not discolored or warped? Floors flat (there’s a little tilty spot on my beach house, but it’s eighty years old — you shouldn’t get this with new construction)

*New construction must be handicapped-accessible: are doorways wide, are there grab bars in the bathroom?

*Once more, with feeling: do you know where your fire exits are? Do they work? Does the place have both a carbon monoxide detector and a smoke detector? Do the child guard windows work?

Posted in For Buyers and For renters 13 years, 10 months ago at 8:20 am.


3 Replies

  1. Dick Kriger Apr 16th 2007

    This is so rigorous and complete.

    As a certified “nerwbie,” thank you.

  2. J. Mead May 17th 2007

    I know a 69-y.o. woman who is “walking through” apartments for the first time in her life, (her husband had always done it for her), and when I saw this list, I immediately emailed the link to her. It is wonderful for beginners, and pretty darned good for seasoned hunters, too. Thank you.

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