The search for a new place to live can be intimidating, overwhelming, frustrating, and a whole bunch of other adjectives on that same wavelength. It’s an important task; this is going to be your new home!
I very recently was on an apartment search myself, so I thought I’d share some tips I took away from my experience. Some of these things I had to learn the hard way, but hopefully this post will help save you from a lot of nonsense. If any of you apartment-hunting veterans have anything to add to this, please do!
Use real estate sites: In my opinion, Craigslist is always a viable option. Sometimes sketchy, but totally useful if you’re careful! This time around, though, I found Naked Apartments and StreetEasy to be incredibly helpful. These sites tend to have a good amount of photos, and allow you to filter your search by neighborhood, amenities (like elevator, garage, outdoor space), and even specific subway lines. They make it super easy to contact brokers and schedule viewings, and will also email you suggested listings (if you want) based on your searches. These two sites are specific to New York real estate, but if you’re looking elsewhere, I’m sure a quick search online will reveal similar options in other cities!
Know the neighborhood: Before you start searching, it’s really helpful to figure out which neighborhoods feel like a good fit for you. Take a day to get a lay of the land. Scope out public transportation, supermarkets, bars, cafes, and the general vibe of different areas. It may be a little time consuming, but it’s a great investment. Way better than taking the time to go see what seems to be the perfect apartment and finding out that its location is actually in the middle of nowhere.
Make a list of your necessities: It’s important to understand that deciding on an apartment may require some compromising. Maybe it’s not located in your 100% perfect ideal spot, or maybe the kitchen isn’t quite as large as you’d hoped. That being said, though, we all have our non-negotiables. Make a list of things you absolutely need to have, as well as a secondary list of what would be ideal. Keep these in mind as you’re doing your searche, and if you’re working with a broker, make sure he or she is aware – and understands the importance – of these things right off the bat.
Ask first: If something about a listing is unclear in the photos, just ask. It’s way better to know the answer beforehand than to wait until you see the place in person to find out that a certain aspect isn’t going to work for you. Brokers are generally happy to divulge any extra info you need – it saves time for everyone.
Take videos: When you go to see a place in person, it’s definitely great to take photos, but it may be even better to take a video! Videos provide an extra piece of information that’s extremely valuable: the layout. Do a walk-through video that covers the entire space, then use photos to capture the specifics. Especially if you’re seeing multiple apartments in one day – a video reminder is a little piece of heaven.
Negotiate: Although it wouldn’t be wise to bank on it, it’s helpful to know that rent and broker fees are often negotiable. Brokers and owners will sometimes list apartments at a price that’s slightly higher than necessary, just to see what they can get. Sometimes pet rules are negotiable, too! The listing for the apartment my sister and I are moving into originally said “no pets,” but when we mentioned we had a cat, they were totally cool with it. Be open and honest, and never be afraid to ask.
Have your documents ready. The real estate world can get really crazy and competitive – especially if you’re searching during a busy time of year. When that perfect apartment pops up at a great price, you don’t want to let it slip away! It’s really helpful to come to a viewing with all of your documents in hand. W-2s, tax returns, bank statements, letters of employment, and even a copy of your license – anything that proves you’re a working human who will be able to pay rent each month. Make sure everything is a photocopy, too – keep the originals for yourself! Most importantly, bring your checkbook. Putting down a deposit will give you first dibs on a place. Technically, once a deposit is made, the apartment should be taken off the market while the approval process takes place. Once you get approved, the spot is yours!
Searching for an apartment is certainly a lot of work, but when you find a place you love, it all becomes worth it. It might not be the exact dwelling you dreamed up in your head, but it has lots of what you’re looking for – most importantly: good vibes. And the fact that it took a lot of work to get it just makes that move-in day feel that much sweeter.
+ Let’s help each other out! Please add your own apartment-hunting tips below!