Here's Your Guide to Apartment Hunting, from Someone Who's Been There

This article has been syndicated from Uniquely Mickie, an InfluenceHer Collective Member. Read the full post here

It's a pretty exciting moment when you realize that graduating means no more college dorms or college apartments. After my boyfriend and I graduated, we both felt like it was the perfect time for us to join the adulting world and get our first place together. TBH, it’s a little scary, but also very exciting because it’s a new adventure that we’re taking. 

Apartment hunting for the first time outside of college was definitely a journey. That's why I wanted to share my tips and advice that seriously helped me find the perfect place for not only our budget, but what we actually wanted in our first apartment. Here's how to make sure you score the apartment of your dreams post-grad.

Getting ready to move out to your first apartment? Use this guide to pick your first apartment on a budget! With these 8 tips, you’ll be able to find an amazing apartment that fulfills all of your needs and wants while maintaining within your financial budget.

Decide what apartment features matter the most

Before you start driving around town looking for apartments, sit down at home and create a list of apartment features that you want in your apartment. Create a list for items that are must-haves, a list of things that you want, but could do without, and then a list of your dream features. These three lists may include features such as locations, bedrooms, square feet, amenities, parking, elevators, on-site laundry, and so much more.

Timing is everything for real estate

“Adult” apartments are very different from college apartments when it comes to booking schedules. What I mean by that is in a college town, the busy seasons for rentals are at the beginning of August and the beginning of May because people are either coming in for school or leaving to go back home out of state. With an actual adult apartment, it’s pretty steady and unpredictable throughout the entire year, depending on the location.

That being said, you don’t have to plan a year ahead of time to get an apartment, like you have to with any college apartment near campus. You can wait until a month or two before you need a place to start looking and to sign a lease somewhere. You don’t want to call around too early or you run into the risk of the management staff not being able to tell you an accurate availability.

Get your finances in order and make sure you can afford the rental

If you are looking for an apartment for just yourself, then make sure you can afford the rental property that you are looking for. Most landlords want you to make 3-4 times the rent or have that much in your bank account. But if that’s not possible for you right now, then look into getting a few roommates to split the bill.

When you’re looking at your finances and your apartment budget, don’t forget to factor in all of the additional fees and costs that can accrue too. These can include:

  • application fees
  • renter’s insurance
  • utilities
  • pet fees
  • parking expenses if there is any
  • any deposits required
  • building fees (maintenance, water, and/or trash)

Start the searching process and watch for red flags

There are tons of websites out there to help future renters find their perfect rental spot so find one that works for you and your needs. When looking online though, make sure to really dig deep into your search and scrutinize every detail. Most of the pictures that you see on both websites are going to be of the model room, which of course is always going to look better than the apartments that people actually live in. So look at any pictures and the reviews to see what the apartment is really like. Feel free to dig deeper and stalk the apartment complex’s Instagram and Facebook page to see what past and current renters think about the units.

The apartment that we needed up choosing had good reviews, and we both knew people currently living at the complex who really enjoyed the place. We were also able to ask about the utilities and other questions that we wanted to ask a current tenant.

Ask questions

If a detail is missing or they forgot to answer a question you had, don’t be afraid to ask questions to the landlord or management staff. Forgot to ask during the tour? Give them a call! You want to know everything up front before you sign your lease that way there are no surprises during move-in day. Plus you might learn something that really turns you off about the rental (say that there’s no laundry in the unit or in the building at all) and saves you a big disappointment later on.

Here are some examples of some questions you might want to ask:

  • How long is the lease?
  • How long has this apartment been empty? How long did the last tenant stay?
  • What is the typical rent increase and how often does it occur?
  • Can I paint the apartment?
  • Is there an on-site maintenance person? If so, how quickly do they respond to a request?
  • Are there any late fees for a late payment?
  • How much is a security deposit?
  • Are there any specials or promotions going on right now?
  • Are there any limitations on what you can mount or hang on the walls?

Honestly, renting an apartment is such a cool and scary experience, but it definitely feels a lot better when you’re in control of the situation and not the other way around. Hopefully, these tips and pieces of advice that I’ve shared today help you find your perfect apartment with ease and confidence. You may have some bumps in the road and plenty of great stories to share later on because after all, you’re still renting an apartment through somebody else. But the best part about your first apartment? It’ll always be your first.

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