When you are looking for a new place to live, all of the factors that go into finding a new home can be extremely overwhelming. We’ve compiled answers to some of the top questions apartment hunters have when looking for a new place to live.
What are you looking for?
Before you even start your search for an apartment, you need to ask yourself what you are looking for in order to narrow your options. If you are simply looking for the best location and you don’t have a lot of specifications, your search will be easier. If you are on a very strict budget and need a one bedroom, your search might be a little more difficult. This is your time to ask yourself if you want to live with roommates, if you’re willing to move into an apartment with someone you don’t know well, how many bathrooms you will need, if the value of a studio apartment is more important than what you’re willing to pay for a one bedroom, and more. This leads us to, what are you not looking for…. or
What are your deal breakers?
Deal breakers are important to address prior to committing to an apartment because you do not want to be locked into a year long lease in a living situation you are not thrilled about. Here we will address common deal breakers that apartment searchers mention.
Rent increases: Chances are, if you are looking to live in an expensive and desirable area (big city, beach, mountain area, etc.), you will often face rent increases annually. For many cities and especially desirable busy locations, the legal cap of rent will range from 3-5%. Therefore, if you’re renting an apartment for $3,000 a month, it is common that the next year you may be looking at a $90-130 monthly increase or higher depending on the city ordinance. Here is an article that helps define the way that rent increases work in the city of Los Angeles as a reference. A good way to address this issue upfront is to ask about rental increases when you are meeting with the leasing office staff or, if you have the capability, ask a tenant currently living at the location what their experience has been for them.
Walk-ability level: Depending on where you are looking to live, one huge factor for many residents is the area you are in and what is close by. A great idea is to map how far the desired apartment is to your current job or favorite spots in the city. That way you won’t be surprised at how much time is added to your commute or how long it takes you to get to your favorite workout class once you have already moved in. In big cities like Los Angeles or New York, you either don’t have a car or you try to avoid driving at all costs – an important factor could be gauging how accessible public transportation is to your location. It may be important for you to live close to fun night life, nice restaurants, a grocery store, a park, and more just depending on what your priority is. It can be fun to explore the area by foot after an apartment tour to see what is realistic and to picture what your life would be like to live in the region.
Safety & Security: This is an especially important topic for individuals who live alone or families that have small kids. Many people would be willing to pay a bit extra for added security for their home. Prior to searching for apartments, do some research online of the neighborhood, there are many websites, Facebook groups, and apps you can look at to see what the crime is like and what you are getting into. To see how safe a neighborhood is, check out CrimeReports.com, AreaVibes.com, and Family Watchdog. Other factors to look for in the apartment building is ground floor access and whether the unit has a balcony or not, if your unit is in a building with added security or standalone, the lock system on the doors, possible alarm systems installed, and on-site gate and building security members. These are all aspects you can ask about when touring or inquiring about the facility with the leasing agents.
Amenities: These are either really important to people, or not too important at all. Do you want to pay a little extra for the amenities that your complex could provide? It’s becoming more and more common to see apartments for rent that resemble all-inclusive resorts. Do you feel like you would use an apartment gym, pool, tennis court, dog park, rooftop, guest parking, movie theater, or spa? If the answer is no, then I would stay away from the extra costs that living in a facility like this would afford you. However, one benefit of these all-inclusive and staffed facilities is that they tend to have leasing agents working every day to help with any issues you may have and consistent and fast-acting maintenance staff to fix anything in your apartment. Many of them even have 24 hour security personnel who walk around the premises to keep you safe. On top of apartment complex amenities, do you have the features in your apartment that you need as well? There are things like dishwashers, laundry machines, or even parking spots that are not provided by the complex. In busy metropolitan areas, not having a designated parking spot could add 20-30 minutes to your drive time every time you come home and having guests over would be a nightmare.
Community: This can be difficult to get a feel for prior to living in a new apartment. A sense of community and a neighborly atmosphere are very important to some people. Can you trust your neighbors with a spare key? Are you new to the city and want to make friends fast? Some apartment complexes make this easier than others. The large buildings discussed previously with all of the amenities tend to make it pretty easy to make friends in your complex due to the inclusiveness of their nature – like meeting someone at the pool, the gym, or the events thrown by the leasing office. Another important part of the community aspect is the general age of the facility you are in. If you are young and fresh out of college, you may not want to live in a facility with many young families and babies if that does not match your current lifestyle. Similarly, if you are older, have young kids, or you appreciate your quiet time, do research and look for a more mature apartment building. Do not move into an apartment that may be associated with a nearby college if that is not what you are looking for. Many apartment complexes are all-age and it’s just the luck of the draw. Remember, it never hurts to politely ask the leasing manager about the tenant age make-up of the facility.
Cost of living: At the end of the day, if you are moving to a new neighborhood, state, or even country, you want to be sure that the cost of living matches your budget. Budget out the cost of driving (if you need to) and having a car, how expensive the area is, and if you can make it work. Nothing is worse than that sinking feeling every time you make a purchase and constant strain to make ends meet.
Where to begin the search?
So now that you have narrowed your search and defined the living situation that you want, where do you begin to search? There are many online resources that you can use to find places to live like Apartments.com, Westside Rentals, or even Craigslist.org (be extra cautious when using Craigslist, and always do research before meeting up with strangers at their place of living). Many online resources have digital tours you can take of properties if you are moving long distance. It always helps to do a basic Google search of “Apartments for rent in ‘zip code’” etc. While the internet makes it easy to search from wherever you are, I believe that one of the best ways to truly find a great place is driving around the location that you want to live. Sometimes you can find the best places by stumbling across an apartment building with a for rent sign that may not even be online anywhere.
Always be weary of your timeline. Set dates for the last possible day that you can move or the date that you start a new job and move from there. Different cities present different timelines to finding an apartment. In metropolitan areas it can be very difficult to plan ahead for apartments since apartments are in high demand. Unless you are paying for the rent, many places will not hold your apartment for more than a few days. Therefore, many people are forced to look for a place really close to their move in date or even crash with friends or at a hotel. Many people do not want to pay double rent, so ensure that the timeline of your current living situation aligns with your new one.
What to do when you’ve found the place?
The best way to really, truly see yourself in an apartment is to go tour it in person. Often times the apartments will be staged so you can get a look and feel of how it will appear once you live in it. This way you can also bring a tape measure to see if your favorite loveseat will fit in the corner of your potential future family room.
Either way, once you have found the place you love, the next steps differ depending on where you are applying to live. If you know that you are very interested in an apartment, check online or call ahead and have the leasing office email you instructions for the application for the apartment and anything you may need ahead of time. Like a job application, an apartment application requires certain documents. Show up to the tour with valid identification, the apartment application, a list of past apartments and landlord contacts, pay-stubs or the contact information of your employer, bank statements, a recommendation letter from your past manager, social security card, and cash or check in case you need to make a security deposit on the spot. While this list is extensive, many apartment complexes have a very competitive application process. If there are enough candidates applying to the apartment, the leasing agents may even ask for an interview, credit check, or background check before committing to you. To have the best shot in the application process it is best to come over-prepared, that way if you love the apartment, you can rent it right then and there without losing your potential place to someone else.