How to Find an Apartment
Whether you’re new to a city or relocating to a different building or neighborhood, it can take a great deal of time and effort to find the perfect apartment. To find the ideal place you will need to think about your finances, your lifestyle, and the rental market in your town. Then you will need to do a thorough search and stand out as an applicant. If you follow these handy tips, your dream apartment may be closer than you think.
Considering Your Housing Needs
Create a realistic budget.Decide what you can afford in rent, including monthly utilities and other expenses.Typically, a person should pay no more than 30% of their income in rent.While this is not always possible, especially in high-priced cities, it is a good amount to shoot for.
- Don’t look at any apartments out of your current price range. If you are seduced into an apartment that is too expensive for you to afford, it only sets you up for failure.
- Many real estate agencies require proof of monthly income to secure an apartment; additionally, higher-priced locations may only accept candidates who make above a certain income.
- If the amount you can afford to pay each month is too low to get your own apartment, consider sharing a place with a roommate. That way the rent, and utilities, can be split in half.
Make a wish and need list.How many bedrooms do you need? Do you need to be near public transportation? Do you want a balcony? A pool on-site? Do you want to live near bike paths? An adults-only apartment building? Figure out your wants and needs, and then create your list.
- While it's great to have a wish list, chances are you won't get absolutely everything on your list. Prioritize your wants from most important to least important. This will help you weigh each feature against the others when you are actually looking at apartments.
- You may want to add a few things that you absolutely don't want as well. You may not know what these things are at first but as you start looking at apartments, feel free to add to your list and make note of the things you can't live with.
Find your ideal neighborhood.Drive or walk around different parts of the city where you might like to live. Then look at apartment listings in that area to see if you can afford to live there. Also consider commute times, your lifestyle needs, and local conveniences when picking a neighborhood.
- There are websites, like and , that can help you get a feel for the safety, cleanliness, demographics, school zoning, and local amenities of the neighborhood.
- It's a good idea to have a couple neighborhoods in mind when you start looking for an apartment. This will give you more options to look at and, hopefully, a wider range of prices to choose from.
Searching For an Apartment
Hire a rental agent if that is standard practice in your region.While searching for an apartment in a smaller city or town may not require the help of a professional, you will need someone to help you in a large city, such as New York. In a large city, with a hot market with lots of competition, a rental agent can help you with the huge amount of work it takes to find an apartment. A rental agent should be hired if you need their assistance and their expertise.
- It may cost you quite a bit to hire a professional rental agent. Some agents may charge around 10% of the rent you will pay in one year on the apartment they find you. Some will simply charge you one month's rent.Don't forget to figure this into your budget!
Use the Internet.The Internet is one of the best resources for zeroing in on your dream apartment. It can give you a clear idea of what’s available before you actually go out looking for it. It can also give you an idea of the price range in your town or city.
Use your Smartphone.With the latest advancement in mobile devices you can use your phone's GPS to display apartments that are nearest to your location while walking around a neighborhood that you like. Download one of the apartment search applications available for your Smartphone and use it to search anywhere at anytime.
Be diligent with your search in a tight rental market.Consider buying the newspaper in the morning. Low priced units rent fast so find the new ads quickly. Call the owners early in the morning. By being the first to look at the unit, many owners are more likely to rent to you and possibly you'll pay lower than market rent.
Shop and compare.This apartment will be your home, perhaps for years, so ensure peace of mind by comparing prices, options, and locations before taking the plunge. In a tight rental market you may have few options, but if your town has a lot of options, take your time to decide on what's right for you.
- Many times you will be weighing different aspects of various apartments against one another. If you are having a hard time making a decision, try making a comparison graph. It could help you make a decision to see the pros and cons of each apartment next to each other.
Deal only with a reputable company.Dealing with a larger apartment management company has its advantages as well as drawbacks. One can find convenient solutions through larger companies, but one should also be careful about companies' claims regarding tenant needs, red tape, reliability, etc. Consider reviewing other renters' opinions on property management review sites (but, as with any review site, take any gripes with a grain of salt.)
Contact the landlord or manager of a potential apartment as quickly as possible.This is especially important if you are looking for an apartment in a city with lots of competition. You want to be the first to respond, so that the person in charge gives you first crack at the apartment.
- However, if you are not first you still have a chance of getting an apartment. Don't skip applying for the perfect place just because you're not first!
Inspecting a Potential Apartment
Do a thorough inspection and take notes.Keep a record of each apartment you visit. Note what features are extra or missing. Take measurements of the rooms and doorways to ensure furniture fits on moving day. Turn on light switches, look inside closets, check water pressure, visit the laundry room, walk the grounds, and ask neighbors what it’s like to live there.
Ask lots of questions.Who controls the heat? Are appliances included? Is smoking allowed? Are pets allowed? When is the apartment available? Will they paint before you move in?
- Also ask about vacancy rates. If an apartment building has a large number of vacant units, chances are the building is not being managed well.
Look around the neighborhood.Make sure that the neighborhood is agreeable by wandering around it. Also visit the area at a variety of times of day. What is a quiet neighborhood early on a Saturday morning may be hectic on a weekday evening.
Understand the lease.Your lease should clarify the rent, terms, and duration of your agreement. Read it carefully and negotiate terms before signing.
- If you give a deposit, get a receipt. You want documentation of any and all payments you make, so there is no question about it later.
Being an Appealing Rental Applicant
Have your documents ready.When you go to visit a place you really like and will most likely choose, remember to bring your checkbook so you can put down a deposit. This is especially important in a tight rental market, where the first one to pay the application fee may be considered first.
- If you need to move within the next week or two, or you are looking for an apartment in a tight market, you can speed the process along by compiling your two most recent pay stubs, your last year's W2, your credit score, and printouts of your current bank account balances to bring with you to viewings.
Dress neatly when turning in your application.Whether you are turning in your application to the owner of the apartment or a hired manager, it's true that first impressions can really influence your chances. You don't need to dress super fancy but you also don't want to call into question whether you can pay the rent by the way you dress. Convey that you are responsible and serious through the way you are dressed.
Be pleasant to deal with.Once again, first impressions can influence your chances of getting the apartment of your dreams. Whether you are dealing with an owner or a manager, being pleasant to deal with can go a long way. Remember, when an owner or manager is picking the newest tenant for their apartment, they are probably considering what it will be like to deal with that person in the future. A difficult interaction to begin with may not bode will for future interactions.
- You can search for and watch apartment videos. Search online for property specific addresses of the property you are interested in. See if there's a property video or virtual tour you can check out online. Watch and learn more about the apartment, condo, or house rental you're interested in. This will help you not to waste time on apartments that are not the right fit.
Video: 5 Tips for Finding Your First Apartment | NICOLEPATROL
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