Looking for a new apartment? Use the following tips as an apartment checklist to make sure you get the right place, and the best place for you and your family.
Looking for a new apartment can actually be a lot of fun sometimes, imagining you, your family, your stuff in a new environment, with new furnishings, rooms, storage, and amenities. But, when you have to seriously do some apartment hunting, it isn’t actually as fun, because you have to cough up some money on application fees, deposits, and of course moving costs, and hope that the apartment and its community are really as they were hyped up to be.
Lucky for you, I’m providing an apartment hunting checklist as part of my moving checklists for renters, full of tips and advice, so you can find a new apartment that is perfect for you and your family (or roommates).
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These tips for apartment hunting will be especially helpful for those looking to move to a new city they are unfamiliar with.
Get a Realistic Picture of Rent Payments
I’m so money-conscious. So, one of the first things I do when apartment hunting is figuring out what the average going rate is for the apartment size I need (3 bedroom, 2 bath, over 1100 square feet). Indianapolis is much cheaper than our new apartment home in San Marcos, Texas.
And I just have to accept that.
Or at least accept that if I don’t want to live in squalor, I will have to pay $150-250 more for rent each month than I did before. I hate it, but that is the reality of the housing market in the new area we moved to.
Getting a realistic picture of apartment rent can also potentially help you avoid getting scammed, as well as know if an apartment probably isn’t very nice. When it comes to apartments, you get what you pay for. But, also know how much rent will be too much for your household to comfortably afford each month.
Set a cap and then stop looking for apartments above that much or you may just end up hating your very nice, luxury apartment, simply because you can’t actually afford to live in it, and still pay for all your other bills and expenses.
New Apartment Checklist
What is on your new apartment checklist? What are you must-haves? What are your negotiables, but also what would you really like? Do you need a furnished apartment? Do you need flexible leasing options, like a 9-month lease? Does it have to have a pool and gym in the apartment complex amenities?
You know what your situation is and what would really make an apartment truly perfect for you. Just remember that to get everything you want often comes with a steeper rent payment or smaller apartment. Flexibility can often lead to finding the best deal on an apartment.
Here are some common things to consider and look for in your new apartment search:
- Number of Bedrooms
- Number of Bathrooms
- Square Footage
- Flat, Townhome, or Duplex
- How many flats/floors in a building? How many buildings in the complex? How many total residents and apartments?
- Heating and Cooling – Central, Swamp Cooler, Window A/C, wall heaters, or ceiling fans
- Utilities paid by tenant and average cost throughout the year.
- Cable/Internet readiness
- Washer/Dryer included, just the W/D Hook-ups, or only shared laundry facilities
- Over-the-range Microwave
- Ice Maker/Filtered water refrigerator
- Storage and Closet Space
- Overhead lights – will floor lamps be required?
- Windows – How many, size, blinds
- Flooring – carpet, hardwood, linoleum, or tile
- Bedroom Size
- Master Bathroom
- Covered Patio or Deck
- Wheelchair/Handicap accessible? Stairs only?
- Income Restricted? Age Restricted?
- Pet Policy?
- Family Friendly – Playground? Policy on unsupervised children?
- Parking – Garage, Covered Parking, Parking Garage, Number of cars allowed, Street Parking
- Gated community? Courtesy Officer?
- 24 Hour Fitness Center
- Hot Tub
You can easily keep track of these and compare them to other apartments and homes with this customizable and printable apartment hunting checklist.
Apartment Community Checklist
After you have done some apartment searches, know your rental budget, and what apartment amenities you really like and want, you still need to make sure the apartments you are looking into renting are indeed a great deal, that their show apartment isn’t really a big front.
You should be aware of the safety of the neighbors and neighborhood as well as check out things like the school district, distance to work, school, shopping, and recreational activities and places like libraries and parks. As well as see if they have sidewalks and crosswalks in that neighborhood.
Read through your contract lease carefully before signing.
- City-Data.com gives you an enormous amount of information on your new city. It’s pretty much everything you could want to know.
- Check Crime Reports for the neighborhood. I like the Crime Map on Trulia.com searches. But, look at SpotCrime.com and CrimeReports.com for a recent portrayal of incidents in an area.
- WalkScore.com – How easy is it to get around by foot, bus, or bike in your potential new neighborhood and what’s close by?
- Check out the assigned schools and districts and how they rank from sites like SchoolDigger.com (easy to read graphs) and GreatSchools.org
- Check reviews of the apartment complex online. I like ApartmentRatings.com‘s reviews as well as ApartmentGuide.com. Most apartment search websites also have reviews. I suggest googling the apartment complex followed by the word “review” and see what sites have ratings for it. However, don’t give too much heed to old reviews that were written 3+ years ago. Things can change a lot in that time frame. And also keep in mind that every apartment complex is going to have issues. Reviews will give you a better picture of what that specific complex’s issues are (the apartments are run-down, the maintenance and office staff are lazy, the residents are loud or scary, or the grounds are unkept).
- Use Google Street Views Map to see what local amenities, attractions, shopping, and parks are nearby, and what the community looks like – are the cars older models or beat up? Is it trashy looking? What shopping centers are nearby – Check Cashing Shops and Pawn stores, or upscale shopping centers? Are there sidewalks and bike lanes?
- Sex Offenders List – Will you have a neighbor that is a registered sex offender?
- Stop by (if you can) at different times of the day – After school/evening, mornings – and see what type of activity goes on.
- Get someone to check it out and take photos for you
- Talk to people who live there and ask what they like and dislike about living there.
If you want a handy printable to keep track of all the amenities and features of the apartments you find, pick up the moving checklists for renters bundle!
Finding an apartment that you’ll love and be the very best for you in all regards is hard. While this apartment hunting checklist isn’t all-inclusive, it can help you make a much more informed decision before you sign. The good news is, if you hate it, you can always move after your lease is up.
Where to Find New Apartments
Depending on where you are relocating to, different websites and resources will be more valuable then others. Some sites are more for rental homes instead of apartments.
While you may not be buying a home, several local real estate offices manage rental properties, so you might want to consider checking those out as well. And in some states, like Texas, you can even enlist, for free, an apartment finder, who can hopefully get you started in the process of finding your future apartment home.
Often the best resource, however, is simply talking to people who live in the area. If you are relocating for work, talk to your boss or supervisor for some references, or ask if she can acquire some for you. Ask about what parts of town are better suited for your lifestyle and needs (family vs single vs retired).
As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it is really easy to call up the local bishop or Relief Society president in a new area and ask about apartment references, and they are always eager to help. The good thing about searching online for apartments is that sometimes you can a special or discount they have going on, which you can then make sure to ask about when you call for more information.
The following is a list of some websites and resources for your apartment search:
- Ask Employer/Work for recommended neighborhoods and complexes (and which ones to avoid)
- Call Churches/Ward/Bishop/RS President for area and apartment recommendations
- Look for apartments on Google Maps in your desired neighborhoods
- Craigslist.org – Love their new map feature
- Rent.com – You can score a $100 Visa Gift Card for leasing a property listed on their site (I’ve done this before)
- Local Newspaper Classifieds
- Local Real Estate Offices
If you need help staying organized, I highly suggest The Dating Diva’s Moving Organization Kit! It will help you move without completely losing your mind.
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