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Tips for First Time Apartment Hunters

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Cal Poly chapter.

Being an adult is stressful enough, but on top of that, we have to find a place to live that isn’t our childhood bedroom in our parent’s house. Whether you’re in college or have graduated and are starting your life outside the warm embrace of your parent’s home, here is are some things you should do to avoid leasing a crappy apartment.

1. Do a tour

You should always do a tour of the apartments you’re intending to rent. You wouldn’t buy a new pair of shoes without trying them on, would you? Most managers will show you an apartment that’s already being inhabited but will later be vacant. These are the best kinds of apartment complexes because you can get an idea of how you’ll be able to arrange your bed, desk, etc. Some managers will show you apartments that they’ve designated as show apartments. Designated show apartments can differ in quality and upkeep from the apartments you’ll be living in to so in these cases, it’s best to ask a resident if you can tour their apartment to see what you’re actually getting yourself into.

2. Talk to current residents

The benefit of talking with residents who are currently living at the apartments you’re looking at is that they’ve already experienced what life is like in those apartments. Therefore, they can tell you all the ups and downs. Some things you might want to ask about are how easily you can hear the people in the apartment next door, how well management responds to maintenance requests, and if there are ever any problems with pests.  

Related: How to Cope with Incompatible Roommates

3. Check reviews

Treat apartment hunting like you’re looking for a delicious new restaurant. You’ve got to scour Yelp to find that gem! Reviews can be helpful when looking for things like nasty managers or negligent But just like when you watch out for salty student reviews for professors on Polyratings, take all negative reviews with a grain of salt. Is there a pattern in all the reviews? Do more than a couple people complain about being able to hear a fly fart through the walls? If there’s an abundance of pissed tenants, it’s a safe bet that you should avoid that complex.

4. Start your search early

Absolutely. Do. Not. Wait *claps for emphasis* to start your apartment search. You will be so stressed! But you will also have less and less to pick from and therefore will be more likely to end up with the crappy apartments no one wants. Housing is so very competitive in SLO so it is not an option to take your time.

Related: 8 Stages of Getting Ready to Go Out

5. Don’t be afraid to go all out for your inspection

Hey, you’re going to live there someday! You literally have the right to check every nook and cranny for your peace of mind. Hate weak water pressure? Turn on the shower and check that bad b*tch. Love a good toilet break? Sit on that toilet for 15 minutes straight to see if the toilet seat caresses your lovely bottom in a way that pleases you. But if the manager is in the apartment with you, don’t take forever because you don’t want your relationship with your future manager to get off to a bad start.

6. Drive around

If you can’t seem to find an apartment that you like, drive around! Don’t limit your research to the internet. There are tons of apartment complexes that don’t show up in a simple Google search for some reason or another. Drive around with your future housemates or a friend and take pictures of the names and addresses of apartments so you can look them up. You can also see if the manager is in their office so you can see if there are any open units and what the rent is. Bonus points if you make a good impression and they offer you a unit on the spot!

7. Know your rights

Know your rights as a tenant such as how much a landlord can charge for a security deposit or the right to repair and deduct. That way you can avoid places that aren’t in compliance or if you end up in one, what you can fight for. You should never feel as though your safety or health is in danger because of where you live. This website gives an easily digestible overview of California’s Landlord-Tenant Laws.

If you end up leasing a crappy apartment, dry your tears, it’s not the end of the world. You can make the best of a sucky situation by making friends with your neighbors so you can alert them when they’re being too noisy or to band together to put the heat on your landlord to do their job better. Happy apartment hunting!

Andrea is a Communications Studies major at Cal Poly SLO. She likes to spend the day chatting, reading, or exploring new places, and her favorite snack is a Caribbean Passion from Jamba Juice paired with fresh-popped popcorn. If you see her on campus, she'll most likely be daydreaming about traveling to far-away places or thinking about adopting another kitten.