Hunting for a new apartment is never easy, but with the right tips in your arsenal, you can improve your chances of landing that dream spot. Use these seven tips to get started.
Finding The Perfect Apartment
Consider Your Situation
Before you start browsing for apartments, you need to understand your financial situation. Affordability is essential for finding the right apartment, so get a handle on your budget. The U.S. Census Bureau suggests that your monthly rent should not exceed 20% of your monthly income. Create a spreadsheet or use an online service like Mint to track your income and expenses, including bills, car payments, student loans, groceries, entertainment, and shopping sprees.
Use Your Resources
Start researching apartments three months prior to when you want to move. Go beyond Craigslist and use trusted websites such as Zillow to search for available listings. Make a list of the features that matter most and filter your results to narrow down your search. Be wary of listings without pictures, and remember: if something is too good to be true, it usually is. Some popular neighborhoods might not list their property online, so drive around to find “For Rent” signs. If you’re a fan of specific complex, ask someone you know who lives there for any vacancies or to put you in touch with the landlord.
Scout the Location
When considering locations, there are several basic things you need to keep in mind. Safety is among the chief concerns, so look for neighborhoods with low crime rates. Convenience matters, and the closer your apartment is to work, grocery stores, and amenities such as laundromats, the easier your life will be. If you’re without a car, look for apartments within close proximity to public transportation. For apartments in urban areas, take note of street parking availability. Check the neighbors to avoid settling into an apartment with disrespectful residents. If you have children, be sure to research school districts and community parks.
Find Lower Rent
If you’re on a budget, check all the ways you can find lower rent. Looking outside an urban area with a commutable distance to work can save a lot of money—or give you more square footage at the same price tag. If you do live in an urban area, take advantage of public transportation to shed costs on gas and car maintenance. Research the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to see if you qualify for any subsidies that may reduce the cost of rent. Remember that roommates can slash the price of an apartment in half, and negotiation is always an option.
Run a Credit Check
Most landlords will run a background check report, but it’s a good idea to run a report for yourself. By combing through your results, you can prepare explanations for any potential roadblocks and contest any errors you might find. All three credit reporting agencies are obligated to give you one free report a year, and you might be able to provide the landlord with this free report instead of paying the cost they charge to run their own credit check.
Ask the Right Questions
Talk to past and present tenants to determine whether or not you want to live in a property. Ask about living expenses in the area, especially if you’re new to the neighborhood. Tenants can give you an idea as to the average cost of transportation, utilities, and entertainment. They’re also your best resource for recommendations on where to eat and the best local amenities.
Do a Walk-Through
Once you’ve found your ideal apartment, be sure to do a walk-through before signing on the dotted line. Even if you’re happy with the property, landlord, and location, a walk-through will prevent you from being responsible for any maintenance issues or damage caused by previous tenants. Turn on lights, faucets, and included appliances to make sure they function properly. Flush the toilets and double check the locks on doors and windows. If you do find any damage, document it by taking a digital photograph and show them to the landlord to ensure there’s no discrepancies in the future.
While apartment hunting can be fun, it can also be stressful. Refer back to this guide to help you find the dream space to settle into.
Today’s guest writer, Adam Pepka, is a real estate doyenne and finance guru currently residing in Tucson, Arizona. His real estate investments in several states keep him constantly on the go, and his passion for writing has found him penning pieces with unique insights on everything from landlording issues to investment advice.
What’s your best apartment hunting advice?