If you’re new to apartment hunting, the first thing you should do is set yourself up with a checklist of what you need in an apartment and a budget range.
This way, you’ll easily be able to navigate your online apartment search.
Start your checklist with the “must-haves”.
Start your checklist by writing down a list of features and amenities that you “must-have” in an apartment that you would happily consider renting. Features can include things like an in-unit washer and dryer (not just a washer/dryer hookup), vinyl-wood flooring or carpet, or new appliances.
Amenities are things like pools/hot tubs, gyms, or resident lounge. To me, these can be thought of a “nice-to-haves” but it’s totally subjective!
Does the commute to work matter?
Another detail that you may likely want to take note of is finding out how far the apartment complex is from your place of work. More often than not, people enjoy a short commute versus a long one.
Does it fit the budget?
Last but not least, you should determine a budget range that you can afford. As a guideline, Dave Ramsey recommends spending no more than 25% of your take-home income on this.
With the information above in mind, make a list of apartment “must-haves”, then the “nice to haves”, and finally, a set (realistic) budget before you begin your online search.
Here’s an example of what your checklist might look like:
- Does it have a washer and dryer in the unit?
- What internet/cable providers do they support?
- Does it have a gym?
- Do they allow pets?
- Do they have units with vaulted ceilings?
Be as thorough as you can with your list! As soon as you feel confident that your list lines up with your ideal apartment, it’s time to search the internet for your new apartment.
I recommend doing Google searches. Start by typing in your location (your city) and then the word “apartments”. A list of apartments in that area should show up. Scroll down until you see Google reviewed listings.
Here’s what that would look like when searching Google for “Orlando apartments”:
From that section, click the “More places” link at the bottom of the listing and skim through them to identify apartments with the highest ratings (4 to 5 stars) and the most reviewed apartments.
To keep things simple, pick out three different apartments, open their websites up in new tabs, and compare them with your list and with each other. From here, you should be able to filter out the ones that don’t fit your needs and the ones that have potential.
Keep reworking your searches until you’ve seen virtually every apartment complex’s website in the area. At this point, you should have a nice list of top choice apartments with some backups just in case.
Go see the apartment in person.
Congratulations! You’ve successfully narrowed down your search! You should be good about your progress so far. A lot of people, without doing proper research, find themselves obligated to stay in contact with an apartment that they dislike.
It takes a lot of patience to get to this point, but trust me, it’s worth it. You’ve got to handle your money wisely. Leasing an apartment is a big time and money commitment.
Think about it. If your rent was say $1,200 a month on a 12-month contract, that’s $14,400! (Not even including utilities.)
Okay, okay. End rant.
For real, it’s time to go see your apartment in person. During this time, it’s okay to get excited but try not to get too attached to the complexes as your tour them. Sometimes you’ll find unpleasant information about the complex only by touring the apartment and talking to a leasing agent.
These unpleasant factors can come in different forms like monthly expenses not listed to the website, noticeably noisy neighbors, or poorly maintained facilities.
I’ve visited quite a few apartments for myself and as moral support for friends and family. You’d be surprised with the stories I could tell comparing what the website’s pictures look like and what it actually looks like in person.
Not only is it a letdown, but it’s wasted time as well. It is for this reason that it’s important to be so selective in your virtual search first.
So, continue your in-person apartment tours until you’ve identified the ones you can see yourself in. It’d also be a good idea to run your checklist by the leasing agents just to get a verbal confirmation.
It’s time to sign the contract.
You’re in the final leg of the process, woohoo! At this time you’re at the contract stage of the apartment hunt. Be sure you read the contract, page by page, to understand the complex and it’s requirements better.
Doing this will also help you become more confident in your decision to rent at that particular complex. Later on, when you’re settled in and an apartment issue arises, you’ll often already know what to do from having read the contract. It’s also just important to know what you’re legally tied to.
After you’ve read the contract, it’s time to sign! The apartment hunt is over!
Congratulations on your meticulous research and patience throughout the undeniably stressful journey that is apartment hunting. It may have taken a while, but it was well worth the effort in safeguarding your own peace of mind.
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