Don’t even bother reading this post unless you’ve read the first one on preparing to move out. This is for those brave folks who faced your bank account and came out victorious. The rest of you need to step up your game or get the fuck out.
Step 1. Budget that Shit
Before you can do anything with an apartment, you need to figure out what you can afford. If you’re piss-poor, you’re going to be looking at shitty places. But at least you’ll know and can start with the shitty places instead of raising that bar too high and then having to rip out your heart when you can’t afford them. If you’re going to have a roommate, make sure to make a budget together, that way you know ahead of time if they’re a total deadbeat who will abandon you with most of the rent. Finding a good roommate is this whole other issue that I won’t even go into right now.
What you need to do is make a list of all your monthly costs, not even the stuff you’re going to start paying, but whatever you pay for right now. Gas, car insurance, health insurance (for the truly wealthy and privileged), phone bills, and whatever other shit you spend your money on. You might want to adjust your spending and stop buying so much crap. Remember, you need to pack and move that crap later. You’re not going to be so excited about your extensive Yu-Gi-Oh collection when that time comes. Now add in your estimated utilities. You can fucking google that on your own, because it’s going to be different for wherever you want to live. Absolutely do this if you plan on moving to a different town or state. If you plan on moving to Chicago, LA, or New York, I hope you’re a goddamned heiress otherwise you’re going to be living in a shelter three months from now.
I think this part is a little ridiculous, but this is how property managers are going to figure out whether or not you’re as rich as you say you are: divide your total monthly income by three. Hey, look at that, it’s my good friend Math again. Funny how he keeps showing up. Make sure the number of your expenses is less than the other 2/3rds, if it is, you can continue. If it’s not, get the fuck out of here.
Okay, now take another hundred or three out of that for play money or emergencies or whatever. This final low low number is what you can afford to spend on rent. If you see this number and think “I’m fucked,” you probably are and you should just stay in your parent’s basement for another couple of years.
Step 2. Stay Within the Budget
I’m so fucking annoyed that I have to put this step in here at all for all you shitheads who look at all these fancy-ass places and get turned down. You just figured out your MAXIMUM rent. Don’t go above that.
Go somewhere like apartments.com and before you do anything else, put your maximum into the maximum rent range. This shouldn’t be that hard. I’m sure even you can manage it.
Step 3. Know What You Want
Okay, once you know all your limitations, you can pretend you’re the boss and focus on what you want. But here’s the shitty part: you’re probably going to have to compromise. Yeah, it’s nice to have a washer/dryer set in the apartment (especially if it’s included already, but that’s a damn fantasy), but you might need to settle for a laundromat nearby. If you’re rooming with someone, ask yourself, is this selfish bitch going to hog the bathroom for two hours every morning when you need to get ready? If so, maybe try to find somewhere with two bathrooms. Also, be prepared to fight over the bigger bedroom. Go in prepared for battle (and maybe be willing to pay a tiny bit over half if you get the bigger one, unless you’re a complete asshole). If you absolutely need your pet with you, narrow your search to pet-friendly places BEFORE you get kicked out of somewhere because your little pomeranian barks too much and gives you away. If you own a great dane or anything larger than a fucking breadbox, I am so so sorry. This search is going to be hell for you.
Okay. Go ahead and put all of that shit into an apartment search engine. Apartments.com is probably the least sketchy, but hey, maybe you’re looking for a place to house your meth lab and sketchy works for you. I don’t ask questions.
Step 4. Do Some Fucking Research
You’re going to live in this place. You’re going to be so poor you’re going to spend most of your time in this apartment, so you better fucking love it. Look at all the floor plans once you find places in your price range. Actually think about what’s on it. Will your oven and fridge open into each other? Do you need a hall closet to split up your enormous hoarder-like shoe collection? How big are the bedrooms? Is your bathroom basically one of those horrific bathroom stalls in stores where you have to stand on the toilet just to close the door? You’re not going to put up with that kind of shit every goddamned day for the next year.
Look at some maps of the area. Is the nearest grocery store two towns away? Is it near your work, or are you going to have to get up an extra hour earlier to avoid rush hour? Do yourself a favor and make a custom google map. Yeah, google has everything. It’s going to save your life someday. Probably in the form of some sentient, unforgiving android, but for today, we’ll stick to maps. Put all your potential apartments on there and put your work on there and whatever other terrible places you visit daily. If you have a roommate, share the map so they can see how selfish you’ve been by making sure your commute is short and theirs is two hours.
You should also check out the maps on crimereports.com so you know if you’re living next door to a sex offender or something. This is good for the meth lab owners, too, because you don’t want to move in next to someone who got caught for that kind of shit. You don’t need to deal with that kind of competition.
If you’re really dedicated, and I hope to God you are, you can google the hell out of that shit. Find out everything you can about this apartment you’ve found. Wikisearch the town, read reviews on yelp, figure out which pizza places deliver past midnight.
Step 5. Narrow Down Your Choices
Focus on your top 10. Then your top 5. Then your top 3. Don’t go any farther than that (and don’t get rid of the research for the other 7 just yet). Create crazy complicated rating systems. Make an excel sheet or start putting stuff on your wall and connecting them with strings. Go full-on serial killer. Dedicate yourself.
Step 6. Visit
Don’t try to move in somewhere you’ve never even fucking seen. If you do, you deserve all the secret horrors that await you. Call or email the managers and try to pick a day to visit when they’re available. You don’t want to show up somewhere and find out they just sold their last place or they’re closed or something.
When you do visit, take pictures. Take enough pictures that you could use them to potentially break into the place in the future. But don’t actually do that unless you’re prepared to go to jail for it. But do take pictures, even of things you don’t think are important. Take pictures of the ceiling so you know if there’s any overhead light to illuminate all your past mistakes at 3 AM when you’re sitting on the kitchen floor eating a tube of cookie dough. You should also make note of how big the room is so you know if you can even fit what little you own. The same goes for the hallways or stairs or whatever exists outside the apartment on the way from your car. Could you get your mattress through all that shit?
You should ask millions of questions, by the way. I don’t care if you hate talking to people, you need to get over that and talk to this person. Apartments.com and My First Apartment both have lists of questions to ask. Or just google it like you do everything else.
Step 7. Get the Goddamn Apartment
When you figure out what you want and have gone through all the previous steps, you can work on getting the apartment. Call the leasing office and let them know what you want. When you actually show up, pretend you’re showing up for a fucking job interview. Let them know that you’re the best goddamn tenant they could hope for and you’re the picture of perfection, even though we both know you’re a total fuckup. Don’t let the landlord know that yet. If you ace this secret interview, the office will ask for a security deposit. Better have that money ready! This is one of those rare times in your life that someone might require a physical check. We have a post on that if you’re one of those ignorant fucks who can’t write a check. Then they’re going to run a credit check and you better know that shit ahead of time and be prepared to defend yourself if necessary. After a few days, the manager will give you a call with either great news or to laugh at you because you done fucked up. This is either the end of your search or the beginning of a new one. Either way, we’re done here.
This is by no means a complete guide, so if you have any specific questions, please let us know and I’ll do my best to answer them for you.