Finding your next apartment does not have to be a stressful or intimidating experience. In fact, it can be an exciting adventure that will lead you to a place you are happy to call home. Admittedly, finding the best apartment can be overwhelming, but following a plan will not only prepare you for anything but also put you in the best frame of mind for apartment shopping.
From setting a budget to understanding what you need most out of your next apartment, there are plenty of things to consider when starting to shop for apartments. This guide will break down everything regarding apartment hunting, helping you find your next perfect apartment.
Set a budget
Starting your apartment search knowing your budget is possibly the most crucial part of your quest for the perfect apartment. Why? When looking at the advertised price of an apartment online, other costs are often overlooked, including:
Monthly pet fee
Some apartments list these costs online, but a quick phone call to the leasing office of whatever apartment you are looking at will get you answers about every monthly charge associated with renting from that property.
The common advice when it comes to renting is that your monthly income should be, at a minimum, three times greater than your total monthly rent payment. If that amount is too high, you can always consider teaming up with a roommate to bring down the total monthly payment.
“Renting is often cheaper than purchasing a home, and there are many benefits to renting with someone else,” says Christopher Brown, the co-founder of Next New Homes and Next Real Estate Group. “For example, sharing the cost of rent saves money each month that could go towards paying off your student loans or putting away savings for retirement later in life,” Brown adds. “Make sure you know what kind of apartment works best based on how much time spent at work each day—if living alone means working odd hours so as not to have anyone wait up late after their television show ends, then look into shared housing instead!”
Location, location, location
One of the amazing benefits of renting an apartment is that they are positioned throughout cities so that there is almost always a handful of rental options located close to your preferred location.
Surprisingly, there is quite a bit of thought and consideration that goes into selecting the location of your next apartment. Some common considerations would be:
The proximity to work
Schools in the area (for you or your children)
Things to do based on your interests
The view of the surrounding cityscape from your apartment
“The first step to finding an apartment you'll love is finding a city you love first!” says Franklin Mendez, a New Jersey real estate agent and founder of the no-fee apartment platform, No Fee With Me. “A gorgeous apartment is not enough without great restaurants, scenery, and a community you can fall in love with,” adds Mendez.
Pro tip: pay attention to a building’s occupancy. It’ll help you score a deal.
“Luxury buildings base their prices on their occupancy rates,” Mendez continues. “If you find a building that is 85% occupied as opposed to 95% occupied, you will usually get a better deal in the form of a concession (one month or two months free even!) Newer buildings tend to give the best rates because they want to fill up the building as quickly as possible.”
Selecting where you want to move to is, after all, your decision in the end. You’re allowed to be picky or selective when considering your next apartment. The last thing you want is to choose an apartment with a great offer but doesn't bring you any satisfaction living there. In the end, you won’t want to be at home.
“One of the most important keys to a successful apartment hunt is preparing before starting your apartment search,” says Tomas Satas, CEO and founder of Windy City HomeBuyer. “Make it a buyer’s market by giving yourself adequate time to choose your new place selectively,” Satascontinues. “Put yourself in a position where you are able to walk away if you don’t think you’re getting a good enough deal, and don’t be afraid to straight up ask for a discount. After all, the worst that the landlord can say is ‘no.’”
Renting the perfect apartment for your needs should be fun and rewarding. Taking a free tour of the apartments you are interested in greatly helps you be more selective. Stepping into your next potential apartment on a tour reward you with the feel of the apartment community and an opportunity to observe everything going on behind the scenes that are not included in online photos of the apartment.
Watch for red flags
Unfortunately, every apartment property is not perfect. In the end, it is to your benefit to tour your potential choices to ensure that there are no major concerns or red flags that immediately pop up. If there are minor issues or red flags while you are on your initial tour of an apartment, chances are there are more under the surface that will come up after you have signed a lease agreement.
“Finding the right apartment that fits your needs can be a tedious task,” says Cristina Ortega, owner of Mrs. Property Solutions. “When you look at an apartment through rose-colored glasses, all the red flags just look like flags. Some signs that you may be rushing toward the wrong apartment include no credit check required (which could mean you’re in for noisy and inconsiderate neighbors) or being unable to view an apartment before signing the lease.”
It is best to be alert about your first impressions and your initial gut reaction to an apartment. If you have concerns or hesitations about a possible apartment, it is best to skip it and move on to examining your next possible apartment choice. Signing an apartment lease for a place you’re unsure of can easily lead to an anxious living situation, which is not ideal for finding your next perfect apartment.
“It generally takes two-to-three months before you apply for an apartment to move into,” says Scott Rubzin, CEO of Tiffany Property Investments, LLC. “The rest of the time goes into browsing through different options, touring the apartment, and then weighing the pros and cons before deciding to apply,” Rubzin adds. “If the rent is well below market value (for no apparent reason), the handyman is hard to contact, and the maintenance and general repairs have been overlooked, you may want to reconsider.”