If you hadn’t already noticed, I’m a bit of a perpetual mover. I’m coming up on one year in my current apartment (how did that happen already?!) in August and I’ve started to passively apartment hunt over the last few weeks. Fortunately, my lease goes month to month after one year, so I can either stay or move whenever I want, I won’t be locked into another year-long lease. As much as I love my place, there are still a few more items on my wish-list and future life events that require a different building/apartment.
On this recent round of apartment hunting, I’ve picked up some new tips, tricks and advice to share. This is not a fully-comprehensive list, but I’ll continue to post everything I’ve learned over the next couple weeks and months. There are a few tips here that are similar to my moving series from last year (primarily phase one and phase two) but I’ve also added a bunch of new content. Spoiler alert: I have not yet found a place because I’m: a) taking my time and b) incredibly picky. Stay tuned… 🙂
- Take your time: some people have already looked at me like I’m crazy for starting this early, but frankly, I don’t care. I’d rather visit a ton of places and get the best deal and find the best apartment at the end of the day and know I made the right decision rather than trying to scramble and find something at the last minute.
- Make lists: before even starting your search or visiting apartments, know your deal-breakers, favorite neighborhoods, wish list (if possible), and then make a list of pros/cons for each place you visit.
- Read the fine print (or ask for it): additional fees, rent controlled or not, negative reviews of the building or management online, utilities included or not, deposits (refundable or non-refundable), pet deposit and/or rent, income requirements, how long they can hold the apartment for you.
- Pay attention: to the floor plan, square footage and layout, especially with small apartments. Compare it with where you’re currently living and determine if it’s more or less than you need. Walking into an empty apartment or viewing a floor plan can make a place seem huge, but you really need to know the square footage to determine if all your furniture and belongings will fit. The same can be said about layout. Even if it’s an adequate size, a weird layout or shape of the apartment can be a huge hindrance.
- Make appointments: don’t just walk in. This will save you a lot of time. Even if they say they take walk-ins, try to insist on making an appointment. This is already a time-consuming process, so you don’t want to spend an extra half hour waiting behind other walk-ins to view an apartment.
- Be realistic: don’t bother visiting places that are way out of your price range or that have multiple deal-breakers (building is not pet-friendly, etc). You’ll set yourself up for disappointment and waste time if you love the place but can’t afford it.
- Be observant: of your surroundings: neighborhood, building residents, noise level, noisy or view-altering construction nearby, etc. If you’re in a densely populated city, try to avoid apartments above restaurants or anywhere that serves food. The likelihood of bugs and rodents dramatically increases. The same can be said for bars, if they are directly underneath or next door, the noise level at 3 am can get old really fast.
- Follow up: if you liked the building, location, etc but there wasn’t a unit available that met your needs, follow up with the leasing agent to see if other units become available later.
Here’s a quick recap of just a few apartments (I’ve lost count already of how many places I’ve been to… the list is a bit staggering) along with pros and cons for each.
Dream kitchen: (but it comes at a price): not my favorite neighborhood, less total square footage than I have currently, giant hotel construction directly in front of the building (years of noise and likely blocking the view in the future). Realistic apartment: Better priced, decent square footage, great original hardwoods, high-ceilings… However, it isn’t in my ideal neighborhood, does not have a balcony, kitchen and bathroom are outdated. Bizarre shape: that would make furniture placement inefficient and nearly impossible. It did have a great balcony with a view and the building was exceptional, however, there was almost zero natural light- the only window/light source in the unit was one panel leading out to the balcony. Perfect location: and neighborhood, but the unit was too expensive and way too small and the building has negative reviews about incredibly noisy residents and street noise.