Hi! I'm a MBA grad, a business expert, an avid reader/writer/podcaster and journalist. I hope my tips will help in your apartment search.
1. Make Sure The Apartment Fits Your Personality
It is important to know exactly the type person you are and the kind of apartment that fits your personality. In other words, find an apartment that will positively enhance your lifestyle while at the same time matches your personality.
This may appear difficult to achieve, but it really isn't. In fact, from an early age, you may know the type environment that gives you comfort and peace of mind. For example, maybe you abhor loud noises that disturb you throughout the day and keeps you awake at night. You may want a quiet place that you can come home to relax, exercise, cook etc. or to just enjoy being home. There are lots of apartments available that fit the above criteria. However, you should look for an apartment that fits you as well.
2. Determine How Much Rent You Can Afford
Now that you know who you are and the apartment environment you prefer, the next step is to analyze your finances. You should know the finite details about how much money you spend, where you spend it and how much you have left for discretionary spending, if any at all. You probaby already know the approximate amount of money you can afford to pay for rent. Just make sure you allow funds for other rent related expenses such as electricity, water, trash pick-up, internet and other apartment incidentals.
If you find an apartment that suits you and the rent is higher than expected, you could consider having a roommate to share the costs. Be careful though... I've heard horror stories of roommate disputes, some which escalated out of control. If you decide to have a roommate for financial reasons, pick him or her based not only on their ability tp pay their share of the rent, but their mannerisms and way of living also.
3. Diligently Search For Your Apartment
Now it's time to search for your apartment. Start your apartment search with a general idea of the area you would like to stay. Remember the real estate mantra -- Location, Location, Location. Location is indeed important. As you know, there are lots of apartments you can find from apartment searches, including of course Willow, Facebook, Craig's list, eBay, Zillow and others.
Do not choose an apartment based on pictures online. If possible, actually visit the apartment complex in person. Visit at night as well as during the day to determine if the apartment and location meet your expectations. Be sure your apartment is in an area that you feel safe during the daylight hours as well as coming home at night.
4. Find Your Specific Type Of Apartment
Decide on the type apartment you want. For example, maybe you prefer a townhouse apartment, a tall high-rise apartment, mid-rise apartment, loft apartment, garden apartment or another type of apartment. Once you decide on the type of apartment you want, narrow down your choices, to maybe the top three. Do not waste your time looking at apartments that do not meet your needs or do not interest you.
The above being said, be flexible regarding your apartment preferences. You may have to compromise some of your apartment must-haves for other criteria. For example, if you have children, you may have to prioritize the numer of bedrooms you prefer in the apartment to the apartment being located near a good school for the children's benefit.
5. Check Apartment Reviews Carefully
Thoroughly check out apartment reviews online or whereever this information is available. It is true that many satisfied renters do not take the time to write apartment reviews and sometimes they seem to be only written by disgruntled renters. Regardless, consider both the positive and negative reviews.
Be wary if the apartment only has rave reviews which may have been written by the rental management and staff. Most of the time you may notice less than stellar reviews mixed with the positive ones, so weigh both the pros and cons before making a decision.
There is real value in checking out apartment reviews. Sometimes you can tell from the comments if the apartment will be to your liking. For instance, if someone comments that there are strange looking insects in an apartment and that they cannot wait to leave when their lease is up, strike that apartment off your list quickly. Even if this information is not true, why take the chance? However, if you really have your mind set on this particular apartment, you can also check it out yourself. Maybe this problem was resolved to the renter's satisfaction, but no follow up review was done.
6. Choose The Right Size Apartment
If you like a lot of living space, then more than likely a tiny apartment would not be a good choice for you. However, as I've mentioned previously, sometimes you may have to make trade-offs. For example, the size of the apartment may not mean much to you if there are other amenities you like about it.
For example, I've stayed in an apartment where the square footage was less than that of a small hotel room with a bed only. I sacrificed the size of the apartment for its safe location, its style, covered parking garage and I liked the fact the apartment was brand new and freshly built. However, after a year I moved out since I discovered I personally preferred more living space.
Remember, sometimes apartment living is for a short term, so depending on your circumstances, you may elect to stay in a small apartment temporarily. However, if you plan to stay longer than a year, be sure the living space is adequate for you.
7. Inspect The Apartment Before You Sign The Lease
If possible, physically inspect the apartment before you sign the lease and move in. By the way, inspection includes the noise levels in the apartment. For instance, be sure to test the thermostat fan noise. Just turn the temperature gauge off and on (if the apartment has one). Is the apartment still quiet, or does the air conditioning or heat make continuing, irritating buzzing noises? If the noise does not bother you, then there is no problem. If the noise does bother you, you may want to rethink choosing this apartment.
Sometimes you have to weigh the pros and cons. For example, maybe there is an annoying air conditioning noise, but the apartment has other features that you are satisfied with such as being located in a gated community, designed with stylish high ceilings, etc. Your decision to rent the apartment would be based on whether or not you are willing to make tradeoffs.
Before you sign a lease, always thoroughly inspect the apartment you will actually rent. Be aware that you may be told the apartment is not available because the current residents have not moved out yet. Still be sure to look at your specific apartment after they have moved out and before you sign the lease if you can.
Inspect your apartment thoroughly after you move in, especially if you want your security deposit back or charged for already existing damages. Complete the rental inspection list, or you can make a list of your own of anything that is not to your liking. Make sure the landlord receives your inspection check list.
Do not rely on verbal affirmations that everything is fine when you move in your new apartment. Have it in writing and be sure to have some type of rental documents specifying damages, etc. before or soon after you move into your apartment.
8. Adhere To The Pet Policy For Your Apartment
Lots of people view pets as part of their family. As such, if they plan to move or search for a new apartment, they check to see if the apartments allow pets.
More apartments are allowing pets, even though there may be a limitation on the number of pets one can have. If you have a pet, be sure to check the apartment complex's pet policy. Many times, there is an additional fee to have a pet and of course there are pet rules that one must follow.
Under no circumstances should you try to hide the fact that you have a pet, especially if there is a "no pet" policy. If the landlord does not find out, I'm sure it will not be long before one of your neighbors finds out and your secret will be out of the bag. You will not only lose your apartment, but probably your security deposit since you will probably have to break your lease and move out of your apartment.
If dogs are allowed, follow the apartment leash rules religiously. If there is a lease rule, your dog should be on a leash from the moment you leave your apartment until you return. This does not mean taking the dog off a leash once you are in the hallway or pathway leading up to your apartment door. Keep your door leashed until you have stepped back into your apartment. Doing so will not only help you keep your apartment but it is also being respectful for the safety of your apartment neighbors.
It goes without saying to always have a dog scooper at hand to use when you walk your dog on a lease.
I focused on dogs here, but be sure pet rules are followed according to the specific pet you may have.
9. Take Into Account Your Commute Time
Currently with the COVID-19 virus prevalent, many people are finding themselves working from home and avoiding the commute to and from work. Consequently, the daily commute to and from their apartments to work are not an issue for them.
However, if you are not working from home, another consideration is the commute to and from work-- whether you drive yourself, are car pooling, riding the bus, etc. A short commute, in addition to saving you time, will also save you money in gas and upkeep to your car.
Conversely, some people prefer apartments located far away from their work place and do not mind the commute. This is especially true for people who may be nearing retirement. They know that the commute is only for a short time until they either retire or maybe find another job that may be closer to their apartment.
Last but not least, the safety and security of you and your family is of the utmost importance.
10. Be Safe At Your New Apartment
Last but not least, the safety and security of you and your family is of the utmost importance. If you do not feel safe in your apartment, I implore you to find somewhere else to stay if you can. Trust your gut instinct. A common mantra is to always put safety first, which holds true for apartment livig as well as any other type of residence quarters.
I could probably write a book on apartment living, but will stop here. The main takeaways (in a nutshell) are to choose an apartment that fits you, your living preferences and your budget, and one that is above all safe for you and your family.
Enjoy your new apartment!