When you’re apartment hunting, one season of your life is ending and the next is beginning. It’s a transition time that should be fun and freeing. This is your chance to find a home that suits the newest version of you.
Finding the perfect apartment shouldn’t be like searching for a needle in a haystack, but sometimes it can seem that way. Setbacks and disappointments are common, and that’s okay.
Some of these problems can be avoided, though, if you know what to watch for. Use these tips to make apartment hunting easier:
1. Know Your Budget
Before you start shopping, get real about what you can afford. Remember, there are a lot of other expenses that you need to be able to cover besides rent.
Look at your budget. In addition to rent, account for things like:
- Internet and cable
- Pet fees
Call or email each place and find out what’s included in the rent, then do the math to see if it’s within your price range.
Knowing this beforehand will limit your temptation to go outside of your budget if you see something you really like.
2. Narrow Down Your Search Area
Pick potential neighborhoods based on where you spend time. This is your shot to decrease your windshield time going back and forth to your job, gym, daycare, etc. You can also reduce your fuel budget. Win/win!
While it might be tempting to search only in one main area, if you widen your radius, you could find better deals and nicer homes.
Of course, you can also check on your social media networks to ask about the area before you decide to move there. What kind of grocery stores and gas stations are around? Are there any must-try restaurants or places to shop?
When you narrow down your search to your final preferences, take some online tours on Google Street View or Bing Maps to learn more about the area.
3. List Your Must-Haves
Just as when you’d shop for a home to buy, you need to get real about your needs and wants. Sure, you might want a fancy place with high security, classy neighbors, and a big pool. But do you need all that?
More importantly, are those things in your budget?
Make a list of all the features your next home has to have. For instance, if you have children or a pet, then pet-friendliness and age restrictions are essential factors to consider. Another must-have might be the proximity to your job or your child’s school.
Then, make another list of features that you would really like but aren’t a make-or-break. These could include things like an on-site gym, laundry facilities, a pool, etc. Think of this list as the luxury items that will make your life easier but aren’t necessary for daily living.
As you research potential apartments, you’ll see more features you might not have thought about. Put them on the right list and keep searching!
4. Check Reputable Apartment Rental Sites
Platforms like Facebook and Craigslist often list rentals. However, there are many complaints and concerns from people who have been scammed on those sites. And unfortunately, there’s little-to-no protection available.
To protect yourself and your money, look at sites that verify rental properties before listing them, like:
On these sites, you can customize your search to narrow down apartments with your preferred criteria.
Search by relevant factors like price and housing type or those with images only. Cut your search down into the requisite number of bedrooms/bathrooms and pet or child-friendly options. Then, get more specific by including a request for only the most recent postings and those within a certain distance from a zip code.
Now, you have a list of reputable places to look into further!
5. Get Your Paperwork Together
When you’ve narrowed down the apartments that fit your budget and have the must-have features, it’s time to call for a tour.
On the phone, find out what the facility requires for lease approval. Every complex or individual rental location has their own expectations, but here are some of the most common ones (so you can get them together early):
- A copy of your driver’s license
- Proof of employment (recent pay stubs, last year’s tax return)
- A list of everyone who will be living in the home
- A list of your prior addresses and landlords
- Reference letters from someone vouching for your character
Don’t be surprised if you also have to pass a credit check and background screening. Wouldn’t you want to know if the person you’re renting to has a good payment history and will take care of your property?
There’s a lot of bad hype that goes with apartment hunting. But, most of those complaints could be avoided if people did their legwork ahead of time.
When you’re prepared and your ducks are in a row, it’s easy to find an apartment without endless searching.
Keep your focus on things in your budget and location preferences. Then, narrow down your search systematically using these tips. Your perfect apartment is waiting for you!
Adam Marshall is a freelance writer specializing in all things apartment organization, real estate, and college advice. He currently works with Reserve Carrollton to help them with their online marketing.