Finding a new apartment can be a exciting endeavor, but at the same time a frustrating process. Here are a few tips to ensure that your apartment search is fast, efficient and fun!
1. Do your research: It took me about 6 months to find my perfect apartment, but when I did, I had a great understanding of the rental rates in each of the areas I was searching. When time came to sign the lease, I knew that the apartment I had chosen was below the average rental rates in the area and that I was getting a bargain.
2. Start your search early: Starting your apartment search a few months prior to your move in date is a good way to ensure that you're not leaving it to the last minute. There's no worse feeling than the pressure of knowing you only have a couple days to find an apartment and that most of the best apartments have already been rented. A good rule of thumb is start to the process at 90-120 days prior to your move in date.
3. Choose your amenities: Make a long list of amenities (10) that you absolutely must have. Then be prepared to cut that list in half. Finding an apartment that meets all of the items in your wish list is probably not going happen, so be prepared to cut the amenities that are least important to you. A pool sounds like a great idea, but if you can live without it your options will increase.
4. Don't wait, act fast: Once you've found the apartment of your dreams, be prepared to sign on the dotted line because chances are there will be numerous other people behind you ready to do the same. Great apartments can be hard to find so don't let them get away, call the landlord directly and try to avoid emailing the rental office. More often than not, the email response times are like molasses on a cold day.
5. Do your neighborhood research: If you are moving into a new neighborhood then make sure you know what you're getting into beforehand. There are a few useful Apartments For Rent resources that will actually give you average rental rates, driving distances to nearby cities, employment information, things to do and attractions to see. It's much easier to do the research online than to visit each hood in person.
6. Know your budget: Sure you'd love to have that Melrose Place type of apartment with two pools and a hot tub. But is it really worth the money you'll be spending. For me, apartment living is a temporary lifestyle. My long term goal is to eventually move from renting to owning. Every extra dollar that I spend on rent, results in less money that I will save for my future home. My rule is that if it's something that isn't absolutely necessary, then don't spend the extra money. It's much better off in your pocket than someone else's. A good rule of thumb is planning to pay around 25% of your income to rent.
7. Safety first: If you're moving to a new city or even a new neighborhood in your existing city, be sure that the area is safe and the demographics are a match. Check out the crime rates and demographic information that will inform you as to the average age, income bracket, gender and even marital status. If you're a young couple looking for a bit of excitement, the last thing you want is to move into an area where the average age is 54! The crime rates are also available and will give you detailed analysis on everything you need to know. Do your research first, so there are no surprises.
8. Prepare your documents: Most landlords are looking for well organized, responsible tenants. Being prepared when you tour the apartment is a step in the right direction and creates a good first impression. Bring your credit report, bank statements, proof of employment and references. Having all these documents at your disposal will go a long way in securing your new apartment rental.
9. Special offers: Although many respectable buildings do offer special offers like rent discounts, upgrades or even free gifts, watch out for the buildings that offer these extras because they have real trouble filling their buildings. If the offer is too good to be true, do your due diligence to ensure that the building is up to your standards. Many buildings offer free gifts simply because they cannot find anyone to rent in that building.
10. Speak to a current resident: This may be the best piece of advice. Current residents will offer the best possible feedback about the quality of the building and amenities in the area. Knock on a few doors and ask residents what they think of the building, the landlord and the area in general. It will also give you a good idea who your potential new neighbors will be.
That's about it. These are the tips that I followed on my search and I'm now living happily in a great apartment at a fantastic monthly rate.
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