Looking for a new apartment?

Apartment hunting should be taken seriously.  The apartment you pick is where you will scramble your eggs, watch movies and sleep in on Sundays for a while. Make sure you like it.

Finding the right apartment for the right price can be difficult, especially if you don’t have much time or are in a different city.  However, there are many ways to increase your chances of finding a gem.

Choose Leasing vs. Subleasing

If you don’t have a job, you might find it very difficult to locate a landlord willing to lease to you.  Additionally, you might be reluctant to commit to a year’s lease without set income.  Fortunately, you can sublease or rent month-to-month.

  • Subleases are leases where you rent from the renter, not the landlord.  Often they are just for a couple of months, providing you with flexibility to move elsewhere once you find a job or a more-permanent place to live.
  • Month-to-month leases only guarantee a month of rent, though they can be continued indefinitely.  They, too, can provide you with some flexibility.

Finding a Good Spot

Pick a Neighborhood

Before searching for an apartment, you should know where you want to find an apartment. Driving through neighborhoods is very effective, but it’s also time consuming.  For a more efficient search, do some research and pick out a few neighborhoods that interest you.

  • What are your options? – Run some basic Internet searches to identify the different neighborhoods in your city.  Also, try to get a map of the city by running an image search, such as “neighborhoods in San Francisco”.
  • Use what you know – If you know of city landmarks or famous areas, see what neighborhoods they are in.
  • Read up on specific neighborhoods – Read the local paper to find some events and see where they’re taking place.  If you have a neighborhood in mind already, see if it has its own newspaper or website, and check Wikipedia, which could tell you about demographics, events, places of interest and the general vibe of the neighborhood.
  • YelpYelp allows you to search for places by neighborhood.  If you have something that you need in your neighborhood, like a dry cleaners, check Yelp to see which neighborhoods have it.  If you already have a neighborhood in mind, check to see what’s in that neighborhood.
  • Crime maps – Almost all cities have crime maps, which can be found through the local law enforcement agency’s website.  Newspapers often have such maps as well.  Use these maps to gauge how safe a neighborhood is.


Check Out Some Apartments

Once you have a neighborhood or two in mind, start checking out apartments.  Here are some resources for finding apartments:

  • Craigslist – Many landlords advertise on Craigslist.  It will let you narrow your search by neighborhood, price and size, so that you can quickly find what’s available that suits your needs.  And it’s free.
  • Apartment services – There are websites that collect apartment advertisements.  They cost money to join, but they can be of great use, especially as a complement to Craiglist.  They allow you to narrow your searches based on price, location and type.
  • Hire a realtor – You can pay a realtor to search for you.  This can be especially helpful if you are moving to an area that is competitive for good rents and locations.  A realtor can be an advocate that gets your application to the top of the pile.

Make sure you check out numerous apartments so that you can get a general idea of pricing.  You can also use Rentometer.com to help identify what a reasonable price for an area is.

Pick an Apartment

Once you have a few options in your price range, think about which one is best for you. Among other things, consider the following factors:

  • Location
  • Transit – to work & shopping
  • Parking
  • Appliances – washer/dryer, stove, fans, air conditioning.
  • Furnishings

Do Some Investigation

Before pulling the trigger on an apartmenr, make sure to check out your landlord and the place itself.

Landlord background check – There are a lot of rental scams out there, especially in big cities.  Before giving your landlord any money or personal information, get some references and conduct an Internet search on his or her name.

Once you meet your landlord and feel comfortable going forward, see if you can talk to any current or past tenants about their experiences with the landlord.

Investigate the apartment – Don’t sign the lease without checking out the apartment to make sure that it’s what you want and what the landlord purported it to be.  Check each room for damage.  Also, walk around the neighborhood, and observe it during the day and at night.

If you’ve found a good apartment, it’s time to make a moving budget.

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