I am sure most of you went through the grueling process of apartment or house hunting when in college; finding roommates, picking rooms, coming up with furniture and not to mention rent, is good practice. You will most likely be doing the same thing after graduation, but with more housing options and more problems that can occur.
House or apartment hunting in the city can be a different process. Multiple people might be fighting for your dream apartment, the location could be perfect but the rent out of your range so I have listed the steps to make your apartment hunting easier and more successful.
Two blogs inspired me to write this post. One, written by Laura Gaskill, contributor to Houzz.com (a website to buy everything you need in an apartment or house, and a blog for great design tips and suggestions) where she writes about trends, decorating ideas, home tours and interviews with designers and architects. Laura also has her own blog, Lolaline: celebrating the warm and cozy.
The second article came from the blog, Oh Happy Day (party and lifestyle blog based in San Francisco). Even though this post was based on apartment hunting in San Francisco, It is very relatable to almost any city and had great ideas for first time city renters.
I hope you find these ideas helpful and inspiring, please comment below and don’t be shy to give any suggestions and experiences you would like to share.
1) Establish a budget: It all starts with your monthly income. According to experts you should be spending between 25%-35% of your monthly income after tax on rent. Keep in mind the cost of utilities and which ones you will be responsible for paying each month, or if you will be looking for roommates to help split the cost.
2) Combine methods for the most effective searches: If you haven’t already found a favorite neighborhood or two, a good place to start is word-of-mouth. Nothing is better than hearing which apartments are the best than from people who have experienced them or know people who have. Ask everyone you know in the city or post to Facebook or Twitter; you are bound to find someone to give you great suggestions.
If word-of-mouth doesn’t work, walk around an area you like and see if anything catches your eye. Many landlords today rely on a sign posted on the outside of their apartment building or window; sometimes you can find flyers in restaurants or cafes in the area as well.
My other suggestions would be to check Craigslist– if you found neighborhoods you like, search in “map” mode; however, make sure the lists have well put together descriptions and a lot of pictures before contacting the owner.
3) Narrow Your Search: I love being organized and one way I do that is by keeping lists, lots and lots of lists! That is why I love this suggestion and one I recommend. Make a list of everything you would want included in your apartment; for example, a dishwasher, washer and dryer, good natural lighting, hard wood floors, the type of area the apartment is located etc. List them in order of importance so you can narrow down your top apartment findings easier. Download this checklist from Homes.com, or use it for ideas when creating your own.
4) Have questions ready: don’t be afraid to ask all the questions you want; you don’t want to sign an application or make a deposit not knowing you are completely satisfied with your decision. Some suggestions to questions you may consider asking:
- Which utilities am I expected to pay for?
- Are there any fees to use building amenities or parking?
- Are there cable hookups?
- What transportation is available to me in the area? – Note, transportation can be a big issue in a city; if you do not have a car available to you or chose not to use one, make sure there is an easy route to get to work or that bus stations or taxi services are close by.
5) Look for details: Paying attention to details will pay off! What do I mean by details? The things in an apartment that current renters or landlords could be hiding from you or you could find to be unpleasing. Things such as:
- Bad smells
- Loud noises
- Stains on carpets
- Rust in the bathroom shower or bathtub and sinks
- Storage space- this will be important because you will appreciate it in the long run- I like the website Apartment Therapy for storage and design ideas!
- Size of rooms and doorways- bring measuring tape to measure the width and height of doors and rooms. If you already have furniture, you want to make sure it will fit into your apartment.
- Look in closets to see how much room you have.
6) Stay organized: Touring multiple apartments in a short amount of time can cause them to jumble together. Along with your priority list, keep notes and pictures of every apartment you toured, put them in a notebook or binder so it is easy to sort through later.
Keep important information such as a copy of your photo ID, employee information, past landlords etc. also in your binder or notebook so if you need to fill out a standard rental application, you can.
7) Get things in writing and be ready to pounce: Multiple people might be looking at the apartments and if you fall in love with one, you do not want to lose it to someone else. That is one reason I suggested having the information handy to fill out an application on the spot and to have a check or cash available to give a down payment. However, don’t rush yourself to make a decision until you are completely satisfied; if you aren’t 100 percent, think about it longer and ask more questions.
8) Get everything in writing: My last suggestion is to get the promises your landlord makes, when signing an apartment, in writing. If a promise to fix something is made and it never gets done, you have the paperwork to back you up. Take pictures of stains or other marks that might already be in the apartment so you are not responsible for them when you are moving out, make sure the pictures have a date.
Happy apartment hunting!