Normally I wouldn’t write about something so basic and mundane, but I’ve been spending the entire month of July preparing to move and clean. I personally enjoy apartment life but I absolutely dread the move out process because there’s usually an overwhelming amount of work to get done, especially if you’re trying to avoid damage/move out charges. Maybe I’ve just lived in picky apartment complexes since my entire apartment-living experience has been in a college town, but it certainly can’t hurt to try and leave your space in better condition than you found it.
Packing is certainly one thing that I just get done however I see fit. I have no issues admitting that for this move, I have been the farthest thing from organized. Since I’ve been moving essentially within the same neighborhood, I’ve had the luxury of moving things over as I can instead of having to take it all in one trip. The cleaning is what I’ve been focusing on most, and since I’ve done it 3 times in the last 5 years, I’m starting to feel like somewhat of a pro.
Cover up holes. Admittedly a bit of a basic reminder, but ya know, I was charged for two holes left in my living room wall in my first apartment, so it will come back to haunt you if you don’t get some spackle and cover them up, especially if there’s drywall showing from nails/thumbtacks or anything along those lines. I tend to go overkill with the spackle, but better than safe than sorry, right?
Clean the walls + baseboards. Magic Erasers are my best friend come move out time. Everything from the walls to the baseboards to window sills, handrails, etc. Just try not to scrub too hard on dry wall because the paint will come off and look patchy, which might result in some charges if you don’t paint over it.
Paint. If you have a lot of holes that got covered or marks on the wall that don’t come off with the Magic Eraser, then there’s no shame in giving your walls a fresh coat of paint. You have a couple options here – I know in my area, if you go into a Sherwin-Williams and say you need the color for your apartment complex, they can mix it up for you – but sometimes they say you need to be “with the apartment,” or they usually charge a little more than hardware stores. So, another option is you can chip some of the paint off the wall and take it in anywhere that will color-match. If the piece you take isn’t large enough, you can always compare it to the color swatches the store provides. It just might take some time to find the right match. Just know that sometimes the color will be off just enough that you might need to plan to paint corner to corner instead of simply spot-painting damage/dirt spots. It’s a lot of work, but I know I’d rather pay $15 per bucket of paint than $50 a wall that a vendor has to paint.
Freshen carpets. I have a dog so I like to freshen the heck out of carpets to be sure that there’s no lingering pet odors. In my first apartment I had Arlyn in, my roommate and I rented the Rug Doctor machine to help steam out some of the dirt, but I’ve found that copious amounts of carpet deodorizer and Febreeze can work equally as well if you’re just trying to freshen it up versus deep clean. It just depends on the state of your carpet and what you think is necessary.
Clean appliances. Food waste is easily one of the biggest and nastiest pains, but it must be done if you want to avoid the charges. Be sure to check your fridge, freezer, microwave, stove top (including burners and drip pans) and oven. Some ovens have a self-cleaning feature that will help make this easier. I also like to run the dishwasher with a measuring cup full of vinegar-water to help disinfect. It doesn’t smell great, but at least the complex will know I did something. On the same kind of topic, though, make sure you clean the bathrooms. Countertops, toilet, sink… but especially the tub/shower. I would use a tub/tile cleaner or an all-purpose cleaner with bleach, let it sit on the sides/bottom of the tub for a bit, and then use some water to scrub down on the dirt and grime. I’ll tell you – your tub might not look dirty, but as soon as you let that cleaner sit and start breaking up that dirt, you’ll find more than you bargained for. Basically, when it comes to cleaning, at least according to my complex, any biological substance or food waste would require a cleaning crew to come into the apartment and result in a cleaning fee.
Submit maintenance requests for anything that looks like it needs fixing before you go. Depending on the nature and the severity of the damage (ie, a hole punched into the wall) it might still technically constitute as a charge, but if there are any blinds that aren’t looking 100% or anything that hasn’t been functioning properly, better safe than sorry to submit a request and try and have it fulfilled before you go so it doesn’t count as a “damage” after the fact.
See if your front office will do a courtesy walk-through. This will likely vary by complex, but it can’t hurt to ask if someone can do at least a courtesy walk-through with you and point out anything you might want to look into fixing/cleaning up before you go. It helps to be able to talk to someone in management about things as you’re getting into the cleaning process than to play the guessing game about what is or isn’t important.
Who knows if I covered anything you hadn’t already thought of, but these have come to be the main things I focus on whenever I’m moving out of a place I’ve been renting to try and keep any charges to a minimum. It’s a lot to get done in addition to packing and the actual moving, but it helps me to know I’m limiting the amount of over-priced move out charges and help save my money for other things.