Apartment Hunting 101

Every year in college (with the exception of freshman year in the dorms), I moved into a different rental each year. The first one, I absolutely hated (I’ll go into why in a moment), the second one was fun but overwhelming, and my final apartment ended up being the perfect fit. One thing I think everyone can agree on is that moving sucks, so I’ve compiled some tips on how to to find the perfect apartment that you’ll want to call home on the first try:

Start your search online

My search engine of choice is Apartments.com because of their map feature and their amenities feature. Most people are partial to Zillow, however you can only really put in your price range and number of bedrooms you require. If you want to look for something specifically with a parking spot, a gym or that allows dogs, choose Apartments.com for your search.

Narrow it down to 5 apartments or fewer

Write down a list of your absolute must haves. If you live in a university town especially, there is likely more than enough on the market that should have what you are looking for. For instance, your list of must haves might look like:

  • Covered garage parking spot
  • Washer and dryer in the unit
  • 3 bedrooms and at least 2 baths

These are your non-negotiables. This should not be a long list. This should be your baseline for what goes into your online search. Pick your budget and your non-negotiables and this will help you from going dizzy looking at hundreds of apartments. Choose the top 5 (or less) apartments you could best see yourself living in and call/email the management company to set up a tour.

Take a tour and bring the decision maker

The biggest mistake I made during these years of renting was not going to see them in person. I was usually busy and trusted my roommates’ opinions. This landed me in a nightmare of an apartment with the layout of a Motel 8 my sophomore year. Totally unsafe, entrance from the exterior door, shoebox-sized living, no parking, the list goes on for this apartment of horrors… I could not wait to get out of there.

Always go on the tour. Plus, if you’ve narrowed down your list of apartments, then it’s much less time spent looking and a whole lot less overwhelming. If you have a parent who is either paying or needs to co-sign the lease for you, consider bringing them along so that no problems in arise in the future from their end.

Ask these 10 questions

  1. What utilities are included in the rent?
  2. How much can I expect to pay for utilities?
  3. What is the parking situation and how much does it cost?
  4. Is there someone to call for maintenance/other emergencies?
  5. How much is the deposit?
  6. Is it possible to sublease should I need to move?
  7. What is your pet policy?
  8. Do you require renter’s insurance?
  9. How secure is the building?
  10. Are there any other monthly fees I might incur?

I hope that this advice leads you to the apartment that is perfect for you. Happy hunting!

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