Searching for a new place to live is no easy task (although, the actual moving is arguably even worse, but I digress). And as you assumed, there are also a lot of factors to consider when deciding where you are going to call home.
The most important one you ask? Location, location, location!
Whether you are living in a city or the suburbs, you should first begin your search around the places you frequent, such as work, school, your family, grocery stores, etc.
You should also take into consideration your type of transportation. Do you need to live near public transportation or do you have your own car to get you where you need to go?
Take a map and narrow down the area you want to live in. Once you have done that, you can locate the properties that fall within that area. Make use of online reviews to help you narrow down your selections — keep away from the places with a hefty amount of “do not recommend(s).”
The next step is determining your price range.
As a rule of thumb, divide your (and any contributing roommates) annual income by 40. This will let you know the very most you can afford to pay for rent each month. It’s also a good way to determine if you need to live with a roommate or not.
Once you know your rent maximum, start making those appointments to view different apartments. Do note, however, that many properties can only give you available unit and price information around a month before your projected move-in date.
And now, twenty-somethings, it’s time for the fun stuff!
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Viewing different apartments can be a blast — but don’t forget to take the time to be thorough.
Ask questions while you are touring the place and have a prepared checklist of things you are looking for. Jot notes and gather informational materials from each apartment building so you have them on-hand to refer back to when you are making your decision.
It also helps to take photos of the space! You might have questions later you haven’t though of yet and your photos can help answer them for you.
To help get you started, we’ve assembled a few lists (because we love making them) of things to investigate during your apartment hunt. After you’ve gathered the facts and made your assessments, you can rank them in order from the most important features to the things you’re willing to overlook. Smaller apartment with a great view? I’ll take it.
- Washer/dryer: location (in unit, on floor, in building) and cost
- Ways to pay rent: online, by check or certified funds
- Different layouts: open layouts vs. closed layouts, view all units in your price range
- Storage space: including closets, bathroom cabinets and kitchen cabinets
- Natural lighting: how many windows are there and where are they located
- Windows: floor to ceiling, size, window sills, insulation, etc.
- Proximity of surrounding buildings: next to another building or is the view clear
- Last replacement of: appliances, carpets, tile, fixtures, etc.
- Responsibilities: are you responsible for light bulbs, smoke detector checks, etc.
- Packages: how/where to send/receive packages and mail
- Staff: concierge, leasing agents, building maintenance, security, etc.
- Safety: security patrols, locked entrances, well-lit pathways, number of entrances, etc.
- Pet policy: fees, types of animals, weight limit, etc.
- Moving out: fees, deadlines, carpet cleaning, etc.
- Closest: grocery store, bus stop, park, post office, hospital, police stations, etc.
- Parking: availability, cost and guest parking
- What types of people live here: families, college students, singles, etc.
- Maintenance: how to put in requests, what to request, time to complete request
- Amenities: fitness center, pool, view all common areas and features
- History: inquire about when the age of the building, building materials
- Emergencies: alarm systems, fire alarms, fire extinguishers, carbon monoxide detectors
- Other: ask how often they do in-unit maintenance, i.e. vent cleaning
You should know, though, living in an apartment will cost you more than just rent.
Be sure to ask if utilities are included in the rent. If they aren’t, ask for the average cost of them and include that in your rent maximum.
You typically will have to fill out an application for each building in order to live there and, yes, there is almost always an application fee. Ask if there is any way to reduce or eliminate the fee – your building may have a list of preferred employers who’s employees receive discounts.
Most apartment buildings require you to have renter’s insurance. The minimum coverage will cost you around $150 for a year.
Security deposits, due when you sign your lease, can cost hundreds of dollars. Pro-tip: always ask about leasing deals and specials. Happen to find lower rent for the same size apartment at the building across the street? Present different offers from each building to opposing leasing staffs to have them compete for your business.
Another tip: Pay attention to how your leasing agent treats people who already live there. You don’t want to be sucked in by a super nice staff only to realize that, after you’ve signed the lease, they forget your name. Yes, that happens.
Apartment hunting can be overwhelming, but its also a lot of fun! Prepare yourself with questions and checklists ahead of time to avoid forgetting something crucial.
And even if you do leave something out, a helpful leasing agent is only a phone call away. Don’t rush into signing a lease for a place — take your time and find your perfect apartment!