Today in our “getting an apartment” series, we will be talking about the actual search process behind finding your ideal apartment. In my previous post, I covered budgeting for your apartment, deciding on where you want to move, and what you need in an apartment. Please check it out, especially if you are moving for the first time!
Searching – Where to Look
It will probably come as no surprise that Craigslist was the first place, and only place, that I looked at. Where I am located, this is the best resource for up-to-date listings; I would say there were around 5 apartments posted a day that we were interested in, and at least 30-50 new listings a day, especially on the weekends.
We decided to start our search on a Sunday, and I think we visited seven apartments that day. The easiest way to look was to filter by the max price, and normally I only looked at apartments with pictures. I didn’t really want to waste any time visiting apartments that were potentially a dump.
If Craigslist isn’t offering much near you (I know not every location is the same), then some other resources you can use are Padmapper, Trulia, your local newspaper, and social media! Don’t underestimate the power of asking.A friend might know of someone who is looking to rent out their downstairs apartment, and you get the added bonus of not renting from a complete stranger.
I had looked at Trulia a few times, but most of their postings were geared toward leased apartments, and some were a little outdated. Padmapper was similarly disappointing, as it basically aggregates apartments listings from various resources.
Searching – How to Look
As we looked at listings, I compiled a list that consisted of the necessary information: rent amount, utilities (if they were included or not), location and contact information.
I further divided this list into Brokers and non-Brokers. We really did not want to pay 3 times – the broker fee, security and first month’s rent – so we focused mostly on privately owned houses.
The few times we did try to reach out to a Broker, they seemed utterly confused as to why we were calling, as well as rude, so we decided after those incidents that we wouldn’t bother with them. Security + first months rent was a lot more manageable for us anyway. Definitely factor this in if you don’t want to pay too much up-front!
We went down this list, calling each person or emailing based on preference. We spaced out appointments as best as possible, so that we didn’t go crazy driving around, but that was inevitable no matter how much we planned.
I felt rushed anyway; the nicest apartments don’t stay on the market for very long, and chances are if you love one you see, others will as well. However, I like to weigh the pro’s and con’s of everything before making a huge decision, so I am not a proponent of jumping into anything, especially if you feel pressured. No matter what, this decision was going to take us longer than a day.
Factors We Took Into Consideration
I based a lot on the look and feel of the apartment, as well as how easy it was to get to and find. Some questions we considered: Did R fit (he is 6’4″ and some basement apartments aren’t very friendly to him), or did he feel cramped? Did we think all of our possessions would comfortably fit? Most importantly: would we be happy there? Could we picture ourselves living there?
Another huge factor was the landlord! If we met someone who seemed off-putting, would we want to deal with them for possibly a year or more? They hold power over us; landlord/tenant relationships are important to sustain, and we didn’t want to feel awkward or have any tension with them.
This is going to vary, but as R and I are both young, I took my mom along to most of these visits to kind of ease the skepticism that some people displayed. We had to go alone a few times, and the kind of reactions we got were disappointing.
One lady seemed very hesitant while showing us around, and finally let out a nervous chuckle and said, “you guys are so young though!” She then basically grilled us on whether or not we could afford it.
While the place was gorgeous, we didn’t want to deal with that kind of person, so we crossed it off the list. Would we be looking and wasting OUR time as well if we didn’t think we could afford it?
As a side note, sometimes having a deposit ready to go is beneficial because it shows that you are serious about the place, but only one person asked for it, and it was the same person mentioned above, so I have a feeling she was still questioning our ability to pay.
Respect the landlord
The biggest tip is to be honest. When at the start of a relationship like this one, it is important not to misrepresent yourself. Present the requested information and give people the whole picture.
I don’t want to make anyone’s life harder if they don’t want any pets living in their apartment. I heard several stories where landlord’s let their tenants have ONE pet, only to find three the next day. In some cases, they had no idea a pet was going to be involved, but didn’t want to go through looking for another tenant so soon.
In the PF community, renting out apartments is often the topic of discussion for extra income. Put yourself in the landlord’s shoes: you’d probably be upset if anything changed from what was originally discussed. Don’t leave something to be a nasty surprise for someone else.
Plus, in some cases, the pet can damage the place, which you will have to pay for, and an uninvited pet is not going to make people sympathetic. In some cases, people were also allergic, so it just comes down to being considerate.
Cliché: Looking for An Apartment Is Like Looking for A Job
Not even kidding here. I found myself thinking this more than once along the way. We would leave an apartment after giving references and proof of employment only to never hear back from anyone.
They are wondering if we are the right fit for them and vice versa, but someone with better
credentials income/stability/history might come along, who looks like the more attractive choice when compared to us. We trusted these people with sensitive information (sometimes a credit check application) and to never hear from them again seemed a little cold.
Obviously, you could follow up, but if you never receive an answer…well, that sounds familiar, doesn’t it? *cough*jobsearching*cough*
Overall, it was stressful (for me), and the best advice I have is to not get your hopes up. It’s like house hunting – don’t fall in love before you have it, because it might not be available the next day. I had a lot of anxiety wondering if my calls were going to be returned, if I was too late, what if nothing works out, etc. If you are 100% certain you want an apartment, GO FOR IT before someone else does.