So your current lease is almost up, you’re finally saying goodbye to your dorm, or you’re leaving Mom and Dad for your first apartment. What now? Apartment hunting is an incredibly long and time-consuming process that most people will agree really sucks. However, it doesn’t have to be difficult. Take a look at my 10 commandments of apartment hunting and your search will feel much more manageable!
1. Thou shalt take reviews with a grain of salt
I’m not saying you shouldn’t read reviews on buildings and management companies, you absolutely should. However, you have to remember that people are much more likely to leave a review for a bad experience than a good one. When reading reviews of a building, look for patterns. Did one person have issues with plumbing or did five? Single-case incidents are fine, but back away from a place with several of the same incident.
2. Thou shalt ask property managers ALL the questions
When touring a potential apartment, do not shy away from questions. Did a particular review worry you? Bring it up. See a fixture in the unit that might be a concern? Bring it up. Here are a few standard questions that you should always ask at a showing:
How are maintenance issues reported and handled?
Is the building/unit pet friendly?
What is the property’s smoking policy?
Can holes be drilled/nailed in walls?
What kinds of people live in the building? Students? Families?
3. Thou shalt not forget about utilities
Most apartment listings do not include utilities in the price. Always, always, always ask if they are. If not, ask which are paid through the building and which the renter is responsible for. When setting your budget or search criteria, aim lower to account for the added price of utilities. You can find average utility costs by city or state online to help your estimates.
4. Thou shalt explore many different listing sites
There are so many sites and apps to help you search for listings, which is incredible but also pretty daunting at first. Not all sites are created equal and everyone has their own preferences. Play around on a few at first to figure out which you like the best, but don’t lock yourself into just one. And don’t forget about your local Craigslist! Here are a few sites to start your search:
5. Thou shalt be wary of listings with no pictures
A listing without pictures is always a red flag for me. It says that there’s something about the apartment that might put people off in a picture or that the property isn’t managed well and no one can be bothered to take pictures. Now this doesn’t have to be a hard and fast rule. If the description or specs of a listing look great to you, schedule a showing! But don’t make any decisions without some sort of visuals.
6. Thou shalt take roommates into consideration
If you’re moving in with roommates or a significant other, everyone should be doing an equal share of searching and calling. Don’t let one person shoulder the burden. Before you even start your search, you should sit down and make a priority list for your ideal apartment. Write down things that everyone agrees are “needs” followed by a list of “wants.” This will make the search much easier and ensure everyone is happy with the result.
7. Thou shalt start thy search early
This is an important one. You never know how long the apartment hunting process will take. You could stumble on the perfect place in a week or you could be searching and touring for weeks. If you have the luxury of knowing the exact date you need to have a new place locked down, start searching two to three months in advance. More and more listings will be posted closer to their date of availability but if you already have a good idea of what you want, you won’t be nearly as rushed when the time comes!
8. Thou shalt do research into the neighborhood
This especially applies to bigger cities. You might feel like you know an area really well but you should always take a walk or drive (or both) through the neighborhood and surrounding area of a property before making final judgments. Figure out what your commute to school or work will be, find your nearest convenience and grocery stores, and visit the area both during the day and at night. You’ll be glad you did.
9. Thou shalt not gloss over the tiny details
There are so many things to consider when searching for a new apartment. Stay organized and make notes about the places you’re considering. Take into consideration the laundry facilities, property policies, past rent increases, and anything that may affect you now or down the road. Most lease time frames start at one year so you should be 110% sure that a unit is right for you now and will continue to be right for you for the next year.
10. Thou shalt not give up hope
Apartment hunting will never be easy and most of the time, won’t even be very much fun. When it starts feeling hopeless or yet another possibility falls through, I recommend starting a collection of ideas for your new place: a Pinterest board of decorating ideas, a list of the fun things you can buy to make your rental feel more homey, anything that will keep you motivated towards the end goal. Stay excited, take breaks, and don’t give up. You’ll find your new home.
I hope these tips make your next apartment search much easier! The task doesn’t have to be nearly as terrifying as it can seem at first. Happy apartment hunting, collegiettes!