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First Time Apartment Hunting Advice

Kaitlyn Hackett
By: Kaitlyn Hackett
Nov 4, 2020 • 6 min read

First Time Apartment Hunting Advice

Apartment hunting can be a very daunting and overwhelming process the first time around. Whether you are looking to move in by yourself or with a roommate, there is no need to stress. The right apartment will come along eventually. Don’t be disappointed if you can’t grab up the first one you fall in love with…or the second. The foundation for a good apartment hunting experience is keeping your mind open to new possibilities and not get to hung up on the apartments that either don’t fit your budget or are already rented.

apartment hunting

Where to Start?

There are tons of ways that you can rent an apartment today. Anywhere from a Facebook posting, Zillow finds or reaching out to a realtor directly. The options seem endless to simply look at the apartments available. But how do you know which method is best? The answer is whichever one gets you an apartment! In all seriousness, there are pros and cons to the different ways of finding an apartment.

Use a Realtor 

A realtor can be a stress-free way to go because they will find apartments that fit the criteria you set. Meaning this process can be sped up without having to research every apartment. The downside is that you may be missing out on ‘better’ apartments if you only look at one realtor’s listing. To be on the safe side, you should also research a few different realtors in your area to choose one that will work best with you and your apartment needs. In some areas, like Boston, there is something called a ‘brokers fee’ that may be an added cost to your apartment down-payments.

apartment hunting

Hunt By Yourself 

Searching for yourself on Zillow can be a fun but overwhelming process. Zillow lists all the apartments in your desired area with your set criteria. The upside is you have many options to choose from, and you can reach out to more properties all within the app. The downside is that it can be hard to narrow down an apartment you want before the apartment is rented.

Leverage Social Media 

Facebook Marketplace can be a hidden gem for apartment hunting, especially if you are looking for a short term rental. Many students are looking to sublet their space for short periods if you are in college or a recent grad looking for in-between lodging. Realtors will also market places on Facebook/Facebook Marketplace and can also be helpful during your search.

apartment hunting

Communication is Key

Communication is incredibly important from start to finish in the renting process. You want to be transparent with everyone in the process about your budget, timeline, ‘need-to-haves,’ want-to-haves,’ and availability. This is good to share with potential roommates with your realtor or potential property manager. The process can become overwhelming very quickly if everyone is on a different page. Keep up communication via phone call and email with everyone involved. Try to stay in close contact with the realtor/property manager that is going through the process with you, do not be afraid to ask all the questions you may have. The more knowledge you have will help make your decision easier and give peace of mind that you are confident.

Prepare for Down Payments

Be prepared! Apartments normally ask for first, last, and security deposit upfront before moving in. The security deposit is commonly the amount of one month of rent, and it will be returned upon the end of your lease agreement *if* there are no damages/issues with the apartments’ condition. Three months of rent upfront can be costly, especially if you move to a bigger city. The down payment is a high cost in addition to moving costs, new items for the apartment, groceries, and other monthly expenses. Try to plan and budget around the costly upfront expenses.

apartment hunting

Needs Versus Wants

The need versus want discussion is crucial when you are looking. It is smart to write down or talk about an apartment’s needs and wants with your potential roommates (or yourself). An apartment will rarely have all your wants and needs, but you may find something close if you are specific about what you are looking for. If you are working with a realtor, they will ask for your needs/wants to find the best apartment for you. Be honest with yourself about what you are and are not willing to compromise on.

Example of Needs: Less than a 40-minute commute to work, parking included, pet-friendly, in-unit laundry.

Example of Wants: Recently renovated, close to the grocery store, big kitchen, wood floors.

Pros & Cons

If you are between two or more apartments, make a pros and cons list to make the decision easier. Refer to your needs versus wants list and choose the apartment that checks off more of your needs than your wants. At the end of the day, you want to be happy with the space you choose, but more importantly, you want it to be affordable and accessible to your job, etc.

apartment hunting

Read the Lease Agreement!

Reading any type of contact thoroughly should go without saying, but here is another reminder just in case to read, read, read! It won’t hurt to get another pair of eyes on the document, either. There may be ‘hidden’ rules or stipulations in the agreement, and it is always better to be prepared. In the case that you find something within the agreement that does not align with the previous conversation with the realtor or property manager, reach out in an email to clarify the document before signing.

Separate Rent Account

This is a bonus tip that can be useful if you are worried about budgeting and managing your finances when getting your first apartment. Create a separate rent account with your current bank. This account is only to be used to pay rent and should not be used for anything else. This will ensure that there will never be an overdraft fee and will help you spend based on what is available in your remaining checking account since your rent money is stored elsewhere.

apartment hunting

You Got This!

You’ve made it this far! Get excited about the process despite the overwhelming feelings that you may have. Moving into your first apartment is another chapter of adulthood, and you should face it head-on! Happy apartment hunting!

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