Whether you’re a renter who has been out of the game or a first time renter, apartment hunting can be a frustrating and time consuming ordeal. As someone with renting history, I’ve constructed my most important tips to finding the right place for you. Let’s get straight to it.
- ESTIMATE YOUR BUDGET
No seriously, sit down and go through all of your current expenses and add in your projected expenses. You typically need a security deposit, first month’s rent, last month’s rent, and an application fee. If utilities are not covered, expect to pay “activation” fees. Then, make room for unexpected costs because they do come up (and frequently in my opinion). And whatever you expect to spend, remember to give yourself some upward wiggle room. For instance, if you expect to spend $100 on gas a month, estimate a little higher just in case. That way, in case you go a little above your budget, you are not unexpectedly strained.
- PRIORITIZE YOUR NEEDS
What do you really want from your housing situation? It usually comes down to safety, size, location, and price. Be prepared to sacrifice something nice for something you can’t live without. Is the kitchen island worth the 20 minute commute? Yeah, you’re 3 minutes from everything but is it worth having no money left over at the end of the month? Okay, so you can afford this location but all that fits is half of your mattress and a nightstand, is that fine? It’s up to you to decide where you are willing to sacrifice. Unless you’re rich, in which case, you can do whatever you want.
- MAKE A GOOD IMPRESSION
Take a shower, put on something moderately nice, and show up on time.
You would not believe how much a first impression stays with people. Don’t let this make you nervous though, people’s opinions are fickle and ever changing. Landlords are secretly assessing if you can maintain the property, pay rent on time, and if the other tenants will hate you. So use your best people skills and make a good impression. If it comes down to you and a bunch of other prospective tenants, they might like you better and bump you up the short list.
- STAY AWAY FROM HOMEGOODS AND IKEA
No, you do not need a $79 glass lamp. Sooner or later, you will feel the itch of interior decorating. This usually includes a lot of nice things that are WAY out of your budget. Do not give in to this urge. Buy used and save up for the stuff you refuse to compromise on. When you’re on your own, you realize how much vacuums cost. There are a ton of expenses you won’t predict but seem like no brainers when you need them. Spend money on that, not luxury monogrammed hand woven towels. Don’t worry, things will come along in time.
- OMG ROOMMATES
If you don’t get along with your roommates, you might smash a few plates over someone’s head.
Some of ya’ll are leaving on your own, give yourself a pat on the back you lucky bastards. For the rest of you, roommates are a part of the deal. If you can, meet your roommates before you sign your lease. You need to get a feel for how compatible you are. If you get along with your roommates, they can be lifelong friends. If you don’t get along with your roommates, you might smash a few plates over someone’s head. Set boundaries and rules before you even move in together. Not all people do things the way you do so it’s best to have an agreement of how things get done before you both lose your minds. And for the love of The Most High, do not be passive aggressive. If you have an issue, deal with it straight away. Do not let resentment build for months and months when problems can be easily resolved. It might be uncomfortable but just know it can be dealt with now or later, but it will be dealt with.
- DOCUMENT EVERYTHING
Men lie, women lie, and landlords lie.
Unfortunately, not everyone is looking out for your best interests. Before you move in take pictures of every part of the apartment, even if it’s not broken or in need of repair. If something is shoddy, take note and speak with the landlord about having it repaired before you move in. If they seem flaky about it, take that as a sign of what dealing with management would be like if you sign a lease. All agreements should be in writing, verbal agreements mean nothing. Record or detail any conversations you have with your landlord. Make sure the apartment that you are being shown is the EXACT same as the one you would be renting. Landlords love to play this trick. They show you a “show apartment” and if you ask, they’ll tell you everything is the same. Demand to see the actual apartment or get the hell out.
- DO YOUR RESEARCH
Check online reviews, sometimes that’s the only way tenants can get their complaints heard. Talk to tenants that live there currently. Get comfortable with local rent, square footage, and other important details. Call ahead and ask your questions ahead of time to save time. When you’re starting out, schedule a bunch of showings. This will help you get comfortable with what you’re really looking for and asking the right questions.
- READ, READ, AND READ AGAIN
Take the time to thoroughly read the application as well as the lease for the apartment. This is where they get the little guys. Unnecessary restrictions, hidden fees, and strange requests might be found in a lease. If you find something you don’t like, speak with the leasing office or landlord BEFORE you sign your lease. Sometimes they are willing to make changes and other times they are unmoving. It’s up you to decide what you are willing to settle on. Know your rights as a tenant. So many people have been illegally screwed over by rental companies and landlords over things they should not be doing. Don’t let them take advantage of you.
- LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT
Let’s say you found the perfect place in a nice neighborhood with a price you can afford. First off, stay cool and keep your composure during the showing. No matter how beautiful the place might seem, ask all of your questions and cover all your bases. If it all checks out, move quick. There are usually more than one prospective tenants looking at an apartment. Make sure you have all your paperwork and fees ready in advance.
- TAKE YOUR TIME
Be choosy when you can afford to be.
Most leases require a 12 month commitment. A year is a long time to be in a place you hate. So make sure you take your time looking for the right place. Sure, an apartment can grow on you but why take the chance? Compromise willingly not uncomfortably. Don’t let anyone talk you into doing something you don’t want to do. After all, it is your name on the lease and you will be the one who has to live with it. Be choosy when you can afford to be.
BONUS TIP: Find a place with google fiber! Centurylink and Comcast are quite possibly the worst companies in the world.