Searching through all the options and available apartments out there can be very intimidating. Find an apartment that fits all your needs, is within budget and feel like home can get very overwhelming very fast. Not to mention having to factor in the availability of your dream apartment once you find it (we nearly lost ours to this #thanktheapartmentgodswedidn't). And there is nothing worse than moving into what you think is your dream apartment, only to discover a few months later it is the 10th circle of hell (been there too). To help make things simple, I've broken things down into five easy steps you can take to find your perfect apartment.
This step is the most important if you want to be fully aware of your options, and have the ability to select exactly which one of those options you would like. Melissa and I began our search as soon as we decided we would be moving once our lease was up. This means we started researching and touring apartments as early as the end of last summer, when we wouldn't be moving until the following Spring.
Starting your search as early as possible will give you the luxury of truly taking your time exploring the many available options. Instead of trying to cram in 20 apartments tours the month before you move, you can tackle the apartment hunt spread out whenever you have the available time. With the extra time available to you, it will also reduce the stress of apartment hunting, and can truly become enjoyable.
Giving yourself the time you need will also reduce the risk that you find your dream apartment, but someone has already rented it and you need to move out like NOW. Since Melissa and I had decided on our dream apartment way back in December, we were able to watch the prices and availability fluctuate, and jump when the timing was right for both those things. Having that added bit of control can mean the world in something as precarious as apartment prices and availability.
Having plenty of time will also help you make a smarter decision. By giving yourself time, you can explore your options, figure out exactly what does and does not work for you in an apartment, until you are finally confident in the decision you've made for your new home. Rushed decisions are always stressful, and may lead you to move into an apartment for the wrong reasons.
Budgeting is always important, but it is especially important to be in the know of your financial situation when thinking about moving. No one wants to move into an apartment, only to realize a month later they really couldn't afford it after all. That's why it is a great idea to use your budget to aid you in your search.
Knowing exactly what you can afford will help you know exactly what you can't. When Melissa and I were searching for our next apartment, we had a range of rent we would like to pay. If we found a beautiful apartment that fit all our needs but was over our budget, we didn't even consider it. This helped save time and narrow down our search. We also knew that if an apartment was on the upper end of our preferred price range, it better have some features to make it worth the higher price.
Having a low end on your budget range can also be helpful. If you can afford to pay $1500 a month for rent, do you really need to waste your time considering the $700/month apartments? When setting your budget range, I would aim to give yourself about $200-300 wiggle room, so you can explore a range of pricing options, without giving yourself too many unnecessary options that will eventually get crossed out.
Knowing what you need and what you want out of your new apartment is going to be the meat and potatoes of your apartment search. Every apartment is going to have some amazing perks, and some drawbacks. Coming into the search with your own list of requirements and wishes, will help from getting distracted by the amenities that may not actually matter to you.
Apartment needs are things your new apartment absolutely must have. If an apartment does not have all your needs, don't waste your time considering it. Here is the needs list Melissa and I came up with, to give you an idea:
- Dogs allowed
- Gas stove
- Two bedrooms
- Nice area
- Within budget
- Washer/dryer in unit
Apartment wants are the things that will truly make your dream apartment shine. Once an apartment meets all your needs, the number of wants it boasts will help it stand out from the rest of your list. If both apartment A and B meet all your needs, but apartment A only has 3 wants whereas apartment B has 6 of your wants, you'll obviously go with apartment B right? So going in with a specific list of things that will truly make an apartment wonderful for you, will be what makes a good apartment into your dream apartment. Here is the want list Melissa and I came up with:
- Walk-in closet
- Separate dining room
- Third floor apartment
- Upgraded fixtures
- Energy efficient windows and doors
Once you know what you need and wants from your new apartment, it will truly be a breeze to narrow down all your possibilities to a few top contenders.
One of the best resources I have found for apartment searching is the internet. Big surprise there. Using websites such as Rent.com (my personal favorite) you can explore apartment pricing, layouts, features and more before stepping foot in a leasing office. You can even plug in your needs and wants lists into the search feature, and the website will generate a list of apartments that fit all your requests!
Whenever I am preparing for a move, my first stop is always Rent.com to make a giant list of all the apartments that could possibly work for me based on my needs. This gives me a concrete jumping off point in the beginning of my search. Once I have compiled my list, I can start getting picky, and cross apartments off based on my more specific wants.
Another great resource is people. Anyone and everyone you know can be a resource in your apartment search. Friends, family, co-workers, you name it. For this apartment search, it turns out a few of my parents' co-workers had lived at our dream apartment. Before we had been completely sold on our new apartment, we talked to them to get their experience in the community.
Previous residents always know the inside scoop about apartments, and can point you towards a gem or steer you away from a possible disaster. If you don't personally know anyone who has lived in an apartment you are considering, try a quick Google search for resident reviews on the community. But make sure to take these with a grain of salt, as people may be more likely to write a negative review than a positive one on these forums.
Once you have narrowed down your list to a handful of potential dream apartments, now is the time to start touring. Visit the leasing apartment, and ask for a tour of their model apartment. When touring the apartment, make sure you ask a lot of questions. This is the time to get the most information about a place as you can.
Model apartments tends to be the most upgraded version of the apartment they offer. So do not assume the apartment you rent will look exactly like the model. Some things that frequently vary in apartments are kitchen cabinets, appliances and light fixtures. If you see something you do or don't like, ask if that feature is available in all apartments. They will tell you if it is standard, or only available in upgraded apartments (which will cost more). You can also request to tour a currently vacant apartment, to get more of a feel for the state of a 'typical' apartment in that community, but it will vary place to place whether they will allow you to do that.
You will also want to privately tour the complex. Take a drive or a walk around the community and get a feel for it. Melissa and I try to do this at least twice before choosing a new apartment, once during the day, and once at night. We were lucky enough to tour both the model apartment and the community multiple times since it was so close. We even headed over there on a snowy day to see how long it took them to plow their parking lots (same morning!). The more you know about your future home, the more confident you will be when it is finally time to pull the trigger and make a decision.
If you follow these five simple steps, you will be well on your way to finding your own dream apartment! It may be overwhelming if you're in the beginning stages, but once you start making your lists and crossing off apartments, your new dream home will find you before you know it! Happy hunting!
Is anyone else in the process of apartment hunting? Or have you also found your dream home, and are now waiting impatiently for move in day? What do you include on your needs and wants list? Anything else you like to do to make apartment hunting easier? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!