1. Visit the locations
Apartment websites will put their prettiest pictures taken with wide lenses from their best units. You won't be able to get a good grasp of what everything looks like until you go and see it with your own eyes.
2. See More Than Just The Sample Unit
If the apartment complex you are visiting has a sample unit that's great. It allows you to see how furniture would look and fit rather than looking at an empty unit. That being said, you should still push to see an empty unit, preferably the one you would be moving in to. Leasing companies are going to make sure their sample unit is in tip top shape and probably with the best and newest upgrades.
3. Hidden Costs?
Try to find apartments that include some of the utilities (sewer, free hot water, heat etc...) in the rent. If nothing is covered in your rent, remember that when budgeting!
4. Don't Cross Them Off Your List Just Yet!
Some apartments will be out of your budget but I don't think that necessarily means you need to walk away. Visit those apartments and keep an eye on any specials they may run. The apartment I live in now was an apartment originally that I could not afford but they ran a great summer special that fit in my budget!
5. Check for Outlets
Pay attention to how many outlets are in each room, bathroom, and kitchen. A room with a good amount of outlets has at least one outlet on each wall. This is especially important if there is no overhead lighting. I saw an apartment with no outlets in the kitchen. Where will my toaster go?!
6. Check for Cell Phone Reception
If you are visiting apartments check your phone to see if you have enough bars!