I have become a professional at moving. In the past 5 years I have moved 6 times! It is exhausting but one part that I love is apartment hunting. It is so exciting to be deciding on a new home and picturing yourself somewhere new! First, you need to decide two things:
- Location – this is what you have to nail down first. Before I moved to Austin, TX I drove down there just for a weekend of exploring where I felt fit. Deciding on a specific location is pretty obvious but I wanted to point out that it is the first thing to be done.
- Budget – it is often recommended that your rent be 30% of your gross income. So if you are making $40,000 per year ($3300 per month), you should have a budget of $1000. I also always recommend working towards setting 3 months rent aside in a savings account for darker days.
Once you have your desired location and your budget nailed down you are off to the races! Now you can prepare for the fun part! Here are some tips and tricks I would share with first-time apartment hunters:
- When touring apartments, be sure to take a video of every unit you tour. Pictures often make you truly forget the size of the space but videos will remind you of the unit when they all start to blend together. If you can, start your video with a picture of the layout and make this your thumbnail so it is easy to remember.
- Most of the time people tour apartments during the day, but I believe you should always come back around 7 PM or later and evaluate the parking situation at that time. You can also get a feel for how well-lit the property feels and if you feel safe at night.
- Decide if you are a first floor person or a top floor person, but don’t be a middle floor person. If you are a middle floor person, you still have to take the stairs AND you deal with the potential noise of someone stomping around in the unit above you. You might feel safer on the top floor and like the view out the window or you might be like me and like the idea of not carrying groceries upstairs.
- Look for a unit close to your favorite amenities. My property is pretty large and living closer to the gym has actually made me go there more often. We also have a little convenient store right around the corner and I love that I can be there and back in less than 5 minutes!
- When touring units, always be thinking, ‘Do I feel at home here?’ ‘What is it going to be like to keep this unit clean?’ and ‘How much will I have to spend on furniture to fill this place?’
- When you are on your tour, notice the people around the property, do they look like they could be your friends? Chances are they probably won’t become your friends but it is a subconscious way to consider if you feel at home there.
- When researching apartments, always look to rent directly from the property unless you confirm with the management company that subletting is allowed. If you try to fly under the radar you are putting your home where you will live at risk.
- Get EVERYTHING in writing. Sometimes I would be tempted to call management offices and ask them my questions but with apartments you should almost always inquire via email so that you have everything they tell you in writing. I have had multiple instances where the apartment agent promises me I won’t be charged for X, Y, Z verbally and then once I have signed my lease they start trying to charge me for it.
- Consider how organized the management team is when working with you. If they are ready for you to arrive, have papers already prepped for you and are quick to respond to emails, you will likely also have fast maintenance service and management support when you are a tenant.
- ALWAYS ask about their rules for breaking leases. If you forget to ask this, you might get stuck in a contract you cannot buy your way out of if you decide you want to move for a new career opportunity or to be closer to friends/family. Often when we’re all excited about getting a new place we forget to ask about the potential of us leaving it so soon.
- If you need renter’s insurance you should check out Lemonade, it is the cheapest and easiest policy I have ever worked with (not sponsored, I swear it is great!)
- My last piece of advice is to always try to negotiate the rent. Rent prices are ever-changing. The worst thing that can happen is they say no, so why not give it a shot. Write a kind email to your agent saying you loved the place but you feel like you cannot justify the price over (similar lower priced property) kindly ask if they would be willing to match this lower rent. Remember, what do you have to lose!?
Happy hunting! I hope you find a new home!