Hi! This blog is a life saver haha! I have a little question; I'm going to be looking for apartments soon and it's my first time ever being away from home,,, is there anything I should look out for in general? Thank you!
Hey I’m so glad I’m helping! I have been meaning to write a post of this nature for a long time, so thank you for asking. Here. We. Go.
Apartment Hunting 101
Overview: There’s no getting around it, apartment hunting is a stressful process. The waiting and wondering gets the best of everyone, so give yourself a break and remember not to be too hard on yourself. The more prepared and decisive you are, the better off you’ll be!
1. Step One: The most important step in this entire process is coming up with your list of “Need and Won’t”. This list can always be adjusted in the spur of the moment, but will act as a baseline to help you easily disregard impractical apartments. Before you even start your search, sit down with any roommates (SO or otherwise) and come up with a list. Here is my list:
- Need: Dishwasher, pet friendly, heat included.
- Won’t: First floor apartment, all or mostly carpeted apartment, no closet space.
2. Step Two: Decide your price range. The paycheck to paycheck life is not a great one to live, so try to find an apartment that still allows you to put anywhere from $100-$500 into savings every month. Figure out how much you make monthly, with taxes taken out. If you’re paid every other week, this is two paychecks. If you’re paid every week, this is four paychecks. Start with your total monthly income, and subtract the following expenses. Let’s say you make $1,000 with taxes taken out:
- Rent - Let’s say you’re living with a roommate, and your rent is only $500 per month.
- Electric - My electric expense is $60 a month for a one bedroom. Once again, you’re living with a roommate so let’s say that you pay half of that. $30.
- Internet - $30 a month internet only. Please don’t waste your money on cable. Just use your mom’s Netflix account.
- Travel expenses - I spend about $85 a month on gas. Let’s say you use public transportation and spend around $100.
- Food - Figure you’ll be spending $100 per person each month. So that’s another $100.
- Misc expense: Let’s just add an additional $50 worth of expenses on. Because you never know what’ll happen.
That leaves you $130 a month extra to put in savings or to use in the event of an emergency! That’s awesome. Substitute your own numbers in, and figure out how much you can afford for rent. Immediately disregard any apartments that do not fit in this budget.
3. Step Three: The best way to find dependable apartments is to consult with your fellow apartment renters. Consult with coworkers, friends, family- anyone who is currently renting in the area that you would like to rent in. Get the inside scoop on potential apartments, both their advantages and their pitfalls. If you don’t know anyone who is renting where you’d like to rent, here are some other apartment hunting options:
- Craigslist: Obviously
- Drive-bys: Literally drive around until you find a cool looking apartment complex. Find their rental office and go right in, this is how I found my first apartment.
- Your college: The Dean’s Office will have a list of apartment offerings to give kids who don’t qualify for on-campus housing.
- This Site: A list of the top ranked apartment hunting sites.
4. Set up an appointment: After finding a potential apartment, consult with the landlord or apartment representative to set up a date and time to see the apartment. Respond promptly to any email or phone call they leave for you. On the flip side, if they aren’t prompt in their response to you RUN.
The first apartment I ever looked at, my boyfriend and I showed up on time and the landlord wasn’t there. We called her and she said that she was running late, and told us that the apartment was open and we could show ourselves inside. Serious red flag, but we gave it the benefit of the doubt and went in. Long story short, she never showed up. She gave us a tour of the apartment over the phone and kept saying that she was five minutes away, but never came. We later found out that her rental office was two minutes from the apartment we looked at. Talk about flakey! We told her we weren’t interested, if she can’t even show up to show us the apartment, how the hell can we depend on her to fix any problems we might have? Because you’re young and inexperienced, some landlords will try to give you the run around. Your age is no concern of their’s, and has no bearing on how you will act as a tenant. Here are some red flags for flaky landlords:
- Not contacting you within one day of leaving them a message. Disregarding the weekends.
- Not showing up when they say they will.
- Repeatedly telling you that you’re “young” or “inexperienced”.
- Telling you that the apartment “is good for college kids” or “a good first apartment” (that just means it’s a shit hole).
- If they tell you that the apartment has a large turnover (people are leaving for a reason).
- If you speak with one person on the phone, and meet a different person who shows you the apartment.
- If they can’t or refuse to give you the exact rent amount.
- If they tell you that have to “run some numbers” based on your history. An apartment’s rent should be the same for everybody.
- If they can’t answer basic questions about service providers for the apartment.
- If you get a weird vibe from them. Listen to your intuition! This is the person who is going to be responsible for fixing all your apartment related problems, you will be dealing with them every month at least. If they seem unreliable, don’t sign the lease!
5. Step Five: Find your appointment buddy! Never, ever, EVER go to look at a potential apartment by yourself. I don’t care how friendly Wendy seems online, she may be a serial killer. There’s no way to tell. Here’s a list of people who can accompany you:
- Your older brother
- Your boyfriend/girlfriend
- Your Aunt Meredith
- Your second cousin
- Your friend who can scream really loudly
- Your Mother
- Your Step Mother
- Your old nosey neighbor who smells like cats
- Literally anyone you can trust
Bribe them with chocolate, I don’t care. Take someone with you! If you absolutely cannot find anyone to go with you, then you need to take additional precautions. Here are some options:
- “Share My Location” on your Iphone
- Pepper Spray
- Posting to Facebook the address you are going to and when you are expected to arrive and leave.
- Rescheduling your appointment to a date and time when you can be accompanied
A mental checklist is good in theory, but will you remember it when you’re actually at the prospective apartment with your Aunt Meredith? I think not! Make a physical list of some of the following points, and feel free to add your own. my list is super extensive, but that’s just who I am. I am detail oriented.
Tuck this list in your back pocket and consult it when the person showing you the apartment is not looking.
- How much is the rent?
- Is the rent just the rent, or are there any amenities included? Some apartments include heat, hot water, or electric expenses.
- Is hot water included (if the apartment has a washer/dryer in it, then the water is probably a separate expense)?
- What Internet service providers are available?
- What electric service providers are available?
- Do I have to pay for garbage removal?
- What is the average electric expense that other renters deal with?
- Ask when rent is due. Find out what the rent check procedure is.
- What type of heating/cooling is provided?
- What appliances are in the kitchen? *If there is no oven or fridge and you are required to buy your own then run*
- What is the apartment complex turnover rate?
- Do you have a choice of carpet vs. hard wood floors?
- Will window blinds be provided? *If the apartment complex won’t pay for something as simple as window blinds then the landlord is a cheapskate and can’t be trusted*
- Is there a “curfew”? Most apartments have a time of night when all the tenants are supposed to be quiet. This is generally not enforced.
- What will your address be?
- Is any furniture included?
- Is there a Laundromat in the complex? If not where is the closest one?
- Similarly, is the Laundromat in the complex card operated or quarter operated? Do you have to pay a fee for the card? Is there a quarter dispensing machine?
- Will you be given a free parking permit? *If parking is not free then run*
- Ask about local shopping and gas stations.
- Ask where your mailbox will be.
- Ask what their pet policy is. (some apartment complexes charge an fee)
- Ask what their policy on repainting/decorating is.
- Ask what their maintenance request policy is.
- Ask where the nearest dumpster is.
- How often does the complex loose power?
- Is there a nearby police station or fire department?
- Check all cabinets (for bug infestations or mouse droppings or that they open properly).
- Open all the windows and check to see that there are screens installed. Especially important for us cat owners! If there are no screens- are they going to install screens before you move in?
- Check that all the light switches work.
- Check that the water turns on.
- Flush the toilet.
- Check all the closet space (for size, mold, and water damage).
- Check how all the doors are set (some apartments will put doors in incorrectly and they’ll never close properly).
- Check the outlets (bring a phone chord and plug it in).
- Check any balcony access.
- Take a look at the paint- is it chipped? Is it stained? Will they be repainting?
- Knock on the walls to see how hollow they are (hollow walls require studs if you want to hang anything up).
- Open up the oven and make sure it’s clean. If it’s not clean make it clear that it should be cleaned if you want to move into the apartment. It’s not your job to clean up after the previous tenant.
- Check that none of the floorboards are sticking up/creaking.
- Check for nails and screws in between hardwood floor, tile and carpet (I’m not even kidding).
- Check your phone to see how much cell service you have.
- Can you hear any neighbors? Could you hear them in the hallway?
If the apartment you visited fits all your criteria, feel free to tell the landlord that you’re interested in pursuing this apartment. This way they can advise you of the next steps. Before you sign ANYTHING, visit the apartment complex twice more to make sure that everything is kosher. Do NOT tell the landlord that you will be coming by.
- During the day: Do a drive-by of your prospective apartment to see what it looks like during the day. Is it safe? Are there lots of people standing around outside? Is it loud?
- During the night: Come back another night to check the safety of your apartment. Ask yourself- would I feel comfortable taking the trash out late at night? Having friends over? If the answer is “no” then run…
Apartment Setup: My post that briefly outlines locating, checking out, and setting up a new apartment. Also has some next steps that I’m not going over in this post. It’s pretty good if I do say so myself!
Apartment Hunting 101: A list of helpful resources all relating to locating and checking out potential apartments. Some of the links aren’t set up correctly, so you will need to copy and paste them into a new browser.
NYC Renters: This post is designed for NYC Renters, but the points are still valid even if you’re not renting in NYC. A must read!
Stuff Nobody Tells You: I love love LOVE @hipdomestic so much! They haven’t posted anything recently, but this blog is an incredible resource. Check out this post that really goes into depth about apartments.