For the past seventeen or so months, I have been apartment hunting. I learned a lot about the process, from tours to budgets. Earlier in the month, I finally found the apartment that won my heart over. I signed the lease and the paperwork, and I am excited to announce that I will be moving in the fall! Here are fifteen things I learned during the process, which are tips for fellow apartment hunters. These tips can help people find a place that makes them feel happy inside.
#1: Look at your budget. Be realistic. Consider how much money you expect to spend on groceries, mobile phone bills, and insurance bills in addition to rent, amongst other expenses. It might be tempting to tour places that are out of your budget, but I don’t recommend it. If your budget indicates a studio apartment in a complex built in 1988 is the most affordable option, it’s better to look into that than a newly-built complex with luxury appliances and features. Who knows? You might even find a cute, renovated apartment that is on budget, too!
#2: Do a drive-by. I’m the kind of person who gets an aura from buildings. In my opinion, it’s a good idea to drive by some buildings and see how you feel. If you feel like the complex is wonderful based on the drive-by first impression, feel free to schedule a tour.
#3: Try touring on a rainy day. Interesting tidbit: my sister and I toured three apartments over the summer months. All three days, there was rain. Looking back, this probably was a good sign. I feel like it was a sign of making sure the buildings and outdoor features are safe in the rain. Knowing that the infrastructure complex where I will be living handles precipitation well makes me feel secure.
#4: Always do an in-person or scheduled virtual tour. While some people feel okay just looking at pictures or doing a virtual tour, I still think doing an in-person tour is a good idea. Some complexes offer the option of doing a virtual tour with a staff member. Either way, it’s a great way to get a good feel of the apartment and ask detailed questions.
#5: Ask about move-in specials. Don’t feel shy asking about these. Move-in specials will help you get the most bang for your buck. These can range from a waived application fee to a discount on pet rent. Who knows? These might lead to finding the apartment that makes you the happiest!
#6: Ask about additional expenses excluded from the lease. The lease includes expenses, but there are some expenses you will have to pay by yourself. You will want to ask the apartment staff. This goes in with being realistic. If additional expenses are going to put you over your budget, it’s best to check out different complexes. It’s a bummer, I can say from experience. However, you will want to be able to afford to support and take care of yourself.
#7: If the complex includes community laundry, ask about that. Some complexes have in-unit laundry, which can make or break a deal. However, some complexes have community laundry in the lowest level of the buildings instead. It’s a good idea to ask the complex staff about laundry room protocols, such as accepted payment methods and etiquette expectations.
#8: Discuss renter’s insurance requirements and company suggestions. Even if renter’s insurance is not mandatory for the complex where you will live, it’s always a good idea to have it in case something goes wrong. Talk to the complex staff about whether it’s needed and what companies they recommend. They can get the wheels rolling on insurance brand research.
#9: Ask about safety and security. You definitely want to feel safe and sound in your apartment. Be sure to ask questions about the safety measures taken to keep tenants secure. In addition, check with staff to see if protocol allows or prohibits tenants from installing their own security systems. Big important point: if you don’t feel safe or comfortable during the drive-by and/or tour, that’s a sign to consider a different place.
#10: Make sure that you and any future roommates are on the same page. Your acquaintance might want to live in a brand-new townhome in the heart of the larger city, but you’d rather live closer to your graduate school campus in a medium-sized ground floor apartment. Your two best friends adore the idea of a cozy, renovated 1990s apartment, but you’d prefer something newer and more luxurious. If you will have others living with you, make sure you can find common ground on everything, from price point to protocols.
#11: Look at proximity to businesses that you frequent. Is there a restaurant that you like to enjoy with family and friends on special occasions? What about grocery stores that carry foods that work well with your dietary needs and preferences? Do you visit a mom-and-pop coffee shop six times a month? Take businesses that you visit on a regular basis into consideration when apartment searching.
#12: Check out the reviews. Do people like the promptness and professionalism of the maintenance crew? Have many people expressed their disapproval of how they were treated by staff and neighbors? What about apartment quality? Reading reviews will make sure you will be happy where you live.
#13: Ask about parking. Are there assigned parking garages? What about surface parking? Is that first-come-first-serve? Or are parking permits needed? Get ready to learn about parking protocols. You’ll want to be prepared, so you’ll know if you want to use public transportation or bring a car.
#14: Ask about income requirements. Are there income restrictions? Do you have to make a certain amount of money each month to be able to afford the rent? If you will be living with others, how much will everyone need to make and how will the bills be split? These are good questions to ask yourself, the staff, and your potential roommates-to-be.
#15: Be prepared to compromise. What things are deal breakers? Are you okay with a two-bed, one-bath apartment? How about community laundry? Do you prefer on-site fitness, or are you okay with going to a community center or gym at a different location? Finding the right apartment is all about being within budget while enjoying where you live, so you might have to compromise on some features.
How was your apartment hunting experience? Do you have any other questions or concerns about searching for a new place to live? Let me know in the comments below.