Renting an Apartment “Sight Unseen”

sight unseenFinding a new apartment can sometimes be challenging.  What’s more challenging is if you are unable to view a unit before signing a lease for it.  Whether you are unable to get off work during the available showing hours, you live out of state, or you are moving from another country, we have a few tips for you when it comes to signing for an apartment “sight unseen”.

What does “Sight Unseen” actually mean?

When you rent an apartment and aren’t able to view it prior to signing the lease, you are signing it as “sight unseen”, or as MPM likes to refer to it, “site unseen”.

Tips before you sign “Sight Unseen”.

We recommend viewing the apartment if at all possible prior to signing a lease.  Most lease terms in the Madison area are one year contracts.  The last thing you want to do is rent an apartment without seeing it, only to move in and find out it looks completely different than you imagined.  If you are unable to view it, here are a few tips to follow to make sure you are making the right decision when signing for a unit as “sight unseen”.

  • Use a map.  Look up the exact address on a map.  Check out google maps and use the Street View or the Earth View on the map.  Check the surrounding areas.  Do you need to be close to a bus line?  Where is the nearest convenience or grocery store or the nearest gas station?  Does the apartment need to be close to school or work? Check the walking, biking or driving distance to and from the apartment and work or school.
  • Check the crime rates in the area.  We’ve found two different online crime report sites for the Madison area that will be very useful. Plug in the address and it will show you any incidents happening in the area over the past 6 months. and an interactive map at
  • Have someone else view the unit for you.  Ask a friend, coworker, or family member to view the unit for you.  If you don’t have a friend, make a friend.  When moving for school or work, find someone that may be able to help you. If the unit is vacant, have them face time you or take a video of the unit. Keep in mind, if the unit is occupied, you most likely will not be able to take photos or video without the permission of the current tenants.
  • Look at the online listing.  Take a good look at the floor plan and check the images on the online listing.  Ask a rental agent if the photos are of the current unit, or of a model unit.  In most cases, the photos/description will state if it is a model unit, however some companies or landlords may not specify, which can be misleading.  If they are not the current photos, ask a rental agent if they are able to get you any recent photos of that specific unit.
  • Check online reviews.  With management companies, like Madison Property Management, the units are owned by an owner and managed by the management company.  Some owners may have more say in the property than others.  This mainly pertains to maintenance of the property, therefore checking online reviews of the specific property may help you in your decision to sign “sight unseen”.
  • Look for a short-term lease option.  This way, if you do not like the unit, the surrounding areas, or if you end up finding another place you like better, you are not stuck in the same place for too long.  Most management company websites will have an option to view short-term leasing options.  Search MPM’s website here.

When doing your research, if you come across something that is a red flag, then you probably want to move along to another property in a different location. We hope this helps when it comes to not being able to view a unit before signing a lease.  Just follow these tips, do your research and be smart and you’ll be just fine!



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