Wow, so apartment hunting is NOT easy. I have been through a lot trying to find the perfect and affordable apartment. It was hard and stressful since it was my first time. I had very little time to look because I was told to start looking at a very short notice. I am new to the area so I don’t know where to look, and I am a first time renter so I had no idea where to even start! Because of those 3 things working against me this experience has been interesting and difficult. I have decided to sit down and write up a list of everything I have learned throughout this journey.
- Decide on a day that you will go and look at apartments. It is much better to set aside one whole day instead of taking 4-5 days to look at 4-5 different places.
- I suggest if you have a lot of apartments you want to look at or many different areas/cities you want to look at, dedicate an area to a day. So look at all the apartments in city 1 on day 1 and then the next day move to the next city etc.
- Before you go out driving around looking for apartments call them to see if they even have available rooms for you so you don’t waste gas and time driving somewhere that isn’t even available.
- Write down a list of questions you want to ask before you go out so when you get to the first place you can get all your questions answered and you won’t forget to ask anything.
- When you finally have the list of apartments that have availabilities for you made up, organize that list in a way that takes you to all of them in the shortest amount of time. By that I mean map them all out and see which ones are the closest and which ones are the furthest and pick which ones you’re going to first, second, third, etc. to make the distance traveled and time spent traveling short.
- Before you go anywhere decide what your budget is so you don’t pick a place that is too expensive or get talked into getting something you can’t afford comfortably. Make sure you include your other expenses when deciding your budget because your rent isn’t the only thing you will be paying. You still have phone bills, credit cards, wifi, cable, groceries, insurance, gas, etc. so keep all of that in mind when deciding how much money you can spend on an apartment.
- Use apartment websites to help you look at spots and prices. We used http://www.apartmentguide.com and it helped me SO MUCH better than driving around aimlessly in an area I wasn’t familiar with trying to come across complexes by chance.
- When you get in and start talking to someone always ask for their card and a list of everything on paper to take home with you. If they don’t have a paper with prices, deals, floor-plans etc., write the information down in your notes on your phone or bring a notebook with you so when you go home you can review the stuff from each place and have a number to call with more questions if you have any or to schedule another appointment to further the process.
- Start looking a couple months ahead of when you need to be moved in, not the week of. There are very few complexes that will have availabilities right away because usually people plan ahead. A lot of the places I looked at said they were booked 3 months out and I should have started earlier. So start early so you have more options to pick from AND when you do decide on a place you aren’t rushed to get paperwork in or get answers and qualified. You will have plenty of time to get pay-stubs together, residency verified, and to get your money up to move in!
- If you are viewing a show room take pictures of it! Especially if you are looking at a lot in one day. You want to do this so you remember what you looked at and so you can compare rooms and complexes. I suggest panoramas for good pictures of the rooms so you can get a look at it all in one picture instead of 4 pictures of 4 walls in a room.
- Start early in the day when you go out looking because offices usually close around 5:30pm or 6:00pm and you want to get as much in as possible.
- Never go with the first apartment you see! You could fall in love with it and ultimately go with it, but don’t go with it right away. Go look at others, go home and sleep on it before deciding because you never know what else is out there.
- Remember that moving in is always the hardest! You will have to pay an application fee (usually), a holding fee to secure your room so no one else takes it (usually), a security deposit that could be as little as $50 or up to twice the times of your normal rent, and also your first month’s rent, along with any other deposits you have to make with electric/gas/water companies when you switch those utilities over to your name. It is A LOT of money to get in and you will never spend that much money during you lease on a normal basis so don’t think you will have to keep paying that amount every month. But just keep this in mind and start saving early!
- Call the local police department to check up on the crime rates in that area because the apartment complexes will not tell you the truth. Always do your research!
- Go into the local grocery store if you’re curious as to what the people of that area look like. This gives you an idea of the types of people that are around and shop at a place you will most likely shop at. BUT, don’t judge a book by its cover and don’t judge a complex by the types of people you see. This just gives you an idea of what is around you.
- Be patient! Things will happen when they are supposed to happen and you will find the perfect place with time.
- If you are going to get an apartment with someone sit down with them before hand and talk about apartment expectations. This is kind of like a roommate agreement in college dorms. It is good because although you may think you know how things are going to go it is good to get things out in the open verbally. Know who is doing what chores, who is paying what portion of the rent, when things are going to get done, etc. Knowing ahead of time will prevent any discrepancies during the lease about those things that could cause serious problems. This way you aren’t forced to break a lease because your roommate and you can’t get along or figure things out because breaking a lease is very expensive and will show when you try to rent another apartment.
I hope some of these tips can help you if you are about to start your search but ultimately I wanted to write this for me to look back on in a year when I have to decide weather or not to renew our lease or change complexes and start the search all over again.
Good luck with the apartment search!