Apartment hunting can be a chore in itself, but the task becomes even more difficult when the apartments in your price range are long ways away. If you are planning a long-distance move to a different city or state, the internet will be your best friend in your search for your new apartment.
The first step to finding a new apartment for rent is to determine where you want to live and build a list of apartments that suit your needs. Consider using a website like MyApartmentMap.com to help you narrow down your search, weeding out properties outside of your price range or lacking the features you need. For instance, if your longer list contains properties that only have studio apartments but you need a one-bedroom, two-bedroom, or three-bedroom apartment, My Apartment Map can help you thin out the more undesirable rentals. This way, you can spend more time considering the apartments on your short list.
Next, make a list of all your resources. If you have friends or family living in the city you want to move to, ask them for their opinions regarding the properties on your short list. Have they heard bad things about that building? Is the neighborhood undesirable? Have they heard of any other apartment listings in the area that may be better options for you? Residents tend to have better ideas of what to expect, so ask around if you can. Friends and family can be your greatest resources.
Do as much research from a distance as you can. Look up the apartment buildings that caught your eye on Google or another search engine to find photos, videos, and floor plans from apartment rental websites. If the apartment complex has a website, browse to see if the apartment rentals they offer suit your needs. By looking for visual references before you travel to see potential apartment rentals yourself, you may discover that some properties do not have the room or exterior that you had hoped for.
If you are unsure about the neighborhood, use Google Streetview to get an idea of what you can expect. This can help you narrow down your short list even more. If you are moving with roommates, consider sharing important documents online as you go. Applications like Google Docs can help you share information collaboratively, usually pictures and cost of living information. This can help everyone involved in the move a suitable apartment in everyone’s price range.
At some point before your move, you will need to see the properties for yourself. Set aside a weekend and travel to your new city so that you can see all of the apartments on your short list with your own two eyes. Pictures and opinions from friends and family can be great resources, but you should trust your own judgment. Remember that this trip is not a vacation and plan accordingly. Call ahead and schedule tours for all of the apartment buildings and spend your time there asking questions. Get all the information you can because you may not have the opportunity to travel out again until moving day.
Preparation is the key to a long distance move. Do your homework, narrow your list, visit as many of the rentals as you can, and organize all your information. Building a plan of attack is important; never go in without a strategy. Know your budget, consider your roommates if you have them, weed out the undesirable rentals, and make time to see the apartments before you commit to signing a lease.
Searching for an apartment to rent can be an exciting time in your life if it will be the first place you’ll live on your own. It also can be intimidating, even if you’re an experienced apartment dweller who has moved a number of times. There are tips and tricks experienced apartment hunters have learned that you can use to make the search process as efficient and stress-free as possible.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK
You may be tempted to jump right into apartment hunting without doing any kind of preparatory work. That would be a bad idea. At the least, you’d be wasting your valuable time. Even worse, you could find yourself locked into a lease in an apartment you don’t like at all. It’s important that you first do some homework before you start your search.
You’ll need to provide information on rental applications about your previous residences. Gather information on your previous residences, including the addresses, the names of landlords if applicable, and the length of time you lived there. Often applications require you to provide information for the past five years. Applications also request your employer’s name, address, and your salary or wages. If you have all this information handy, filling out the application will be easy, and you’ll look efficient, too.
Many rental applications today require a credit check. Some experts recommend supplying your own credit report, while others say it’s the responsibility of the rental agency to get the report. You’ll have to decide whether you want to have a copy of your report available to give to rental agents or landlords.
An essential step in looking for an apartment is determining the kind of apartment you need and want. Do you need a 1, 2, or 3-bedroom apartment? What’s more important to you – a gourmet style kitchen, or large bedrooms? If you have children, is the immediate area safe? Make a list of the features that you have to have, and those that are negotiable. Then you can start searching for apartment listings that meet the criteria you’ve set. Online sites can help you narrow down your potential choices by location or other features such as pet-friendly places, off-campus student housing or lower-priced apartments.
Of course, apartment’s monthly rent is an important factor you will need to consider too. A rule of thumb is that you should pay no more than 30 percent of your take home pay in rent. Some experts recommend including utilities in the 30 percent figure, while others don’t. Your best move is to do some figuring with online calculators, plugging in different numbers until you’ve determined the amount of rent and utilities that best fits your current budget.
CONSIDER THE LOCATION
The old real estate adage, “Location, location, location,” should be a consideration when you’re apartment hunting, although it may not be the most important factor. You’ll need to think about how far away from your job you want to live, and how far you’re willing to commute. Location can also be a factor when the apartment is in an area that sees high traffic volume during rush hour. Think about how far the apartment is from schools and shopping. Also, is it close to public transportation?
The neighborhood’s personality is another thing you may want to consider. Perhaps you love older neighborhoods, or downtown areas with a variety of restaurants, shops and cultural attractions. Or maybe you want to focus on an apartment in a more suburban area with growing families.
INVESTIGATE APARTMENT MANAGEMENT
A good landlord or apartment management company is worth its weight in gold. A landlord or management company takes the concerns of the residents into consideration and works hard to meet their needs. Check with friends and coworkers, or even online, to see if there are any comments, positive or negative, about the landlord or management company. There are a number of online sites, such as MyApartmentMap.com, that can guide you in finding an apartment with a responsive landlord or management company. When you look at an apartment, ask about the policies to report difficult neighbors, maintenance issues, and other problems. An apartment perfect in every other way can prove to be a harrowing living experience if the management is unresponsive or difficult.
LOOK AT THE BUILDING
As you start to inspect potential apartments, look at the buildings themselves as if you were planning to buy them, rather than rent. This is a good time to ask questions about the age of the building and recent or upcoming planned repairs. Carefully check out the appliances and fixtures. Look at the condition of the kitchen and the bathrooms, the floors and the walls. Units with bad flooring and unpainted walls, crumbling bathroom fixtures and poorly maintained appliances should be avoided if possible.
Another consideration many people forget about is the insulation between the units. Good insulation makes good apartment neighbors. Whether you’re the complainer or the offending party, difficulties resulting from thin walls or floors can make life very difficult in an apartment. Ask how thick the insulation is between the walls, and under the flooring.
Once you’ve finally found the apartment you’d like to rent, you’ll need to get answers to some questions. How long is the rental period? How much notice do you need to give when you plan to move? How much notice does the landlord need to give before inspecting the apartment, or showing it to prospective renters? Can you make cosmetic changes, such as painting the walls or laying tile in some rooms?
Now is also a good time to ask if you can do some maintenance around the property in exchange for reduced rent. Perhaps you can mow the lawn or shovel snow, or maintain a flower bed. It never hurts to ask.
TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS
If it’s possible, talk with current residents or people who have recently lived in the neighboring apartments about their experiences. Check online for information about the safety and security of the neighborhood. Has it been in the news lately, due to increased crime? Or has there been a positive report on how the neighborhood has worked together to solve a problem or build community?
Finally, the most important thing you need to do when looking for an apartment is to trust your instinct. If something just doesn’t feel right, walk away, even if the apartment seems perfect. Your instinct is that quiet voice that tells you something’s wrong, even if you can’t yet identify what the problem is. When it comes to deciding where you’ll live for months or even years, listen to it carefully.