Five Tips for Smooth Apartment Finding
From the Editor:
Nina Marranca serves as NABS Secretary as well as the NABS Outreach Committee chair. She studies psychology and criminal justice at Medaille College in upstate NY. She loves dogs, chocolate, and helping others.
This post was inspired by my own experiences as of late. I started apartment searching several months back, and I recently found the place I will soon call home. While nothing beats that sweet feeling of receiving your new keys, the journey wasn’t exactly easy. I’ll keep this post short and sweet, but I wanted to share what I learned from searching for an apartment. I can only speak to searching for apartments, since I have never bought a home, but some of these tips may still apply.
1: Don’t Trust Websites
Okay, if I’m honest here, I spent hours upon hours scrolling through apartment listings online. It felt like all of my free time (and maybe a little class time too) was spent searching for potential places, only to discover that the websites were inaccurate. Certainly use listings as a guide, but I found that I received the most updated information by calling. Email was hit or miss, so I’d advise anyone who hates talking on the phone to assign a limit of how many days you are willing to wait for an email response. Keep notes of any information given to you. I would write lists of places I was interested in along with the follow up status. Places can blur together, so keep clear notes for yourself. I was surprised by the call back from the apartment I now rent because I’d forgotten to write down that I called there in the first place.
2: Prioritize Desired Features
Anyone who knows me knows that I love lists, so it’s not surprising that this tip involves writing more things down. Make a list of anything that is important to you when searching for somewhere to live. My list included: close to bus route/businesses in walking distance, safe area, enough room for my dog to play, and laundry in the building. Rank your list from most to least important. Make note of anything you’d be willing to compromise on. For instance, I preferred a unit with utilities included, but if the rent fit my budget and other parts of my list, I would have been fine picking a unit that did not include all utilities.
3: Budget…. For Everything
I created a budget sheet using a prospective apartment’s rent and included expenses like groceries, utilities, Internet, spending money, etc. This might seem like commonsense, but what about everything else? Unless your apartment comes furnished, you will need to pay for furniture, dishes, small appliances, bedding/linens, and more. This also does not factor in expenses incurred by the physical moving of items. Don’t ignore this part of your budget. Roughly map out how much you can spend to furnish the place and move your things; going room by room may be helpful. When you pick an apartment for certain, rework your budget.
4: Ask as Many Questions as Necessary
I am someone who may feel bad for asking a bunch of questions in a given situation. I had to set this part of myself aside here. I opted to bring a family member along so they could examine the visual factors that I could not and to ask any questions I forgot about. I asked questions about everything from smoking policies, to laundry, to security measures. A landlord should be open to answering questions. Afterall, they want to make money off of the unit. Go with your gut. If something doesn’t seem or feel right, ask, and if after you get the answer, it still doesn’t feel right, don’t dismiss your feelings.
5: Speak Up About Inaccessibility
This is a tough one. Most apartment applications are done online, and these websites may be inaccessible. Let the owner know. This can be uncomfortable, but you should not be denied the opportunity to apply for places just like anyone else. I also would advise anyone planning on paying their rent online to inspect the renter’s portal prior to signing a lease. Finally, when touring I asked about the policy on labeling communal areas, such as my mailbox or the washing machines. Even if this feels awkward for you, it will make life easier to be upfront about your needs.
Apartment hunting takes a lot of determination and patience. These tips offer a great place to start. This process was made easier by those who offered great advice, which inspired me to write some advice down here. The relief of finding a place will be so worth it, trust me!