Tips & tricks to finding a great apartment in a very short time frame.
Nothing can be more stressful then having to find an apartment within a deadline. You don’t want to settle with a subpar apartment but you also don’t want to break the bank finding somewhere to stay while looking for the perfect apartment. I moved on September 5th and had to be set up in an apartment by the 16th. If that isn’t a short enough deadline to begin with, add in that the 5th was the Saturday before labor day and shorten the deadline by three days and you’ve got a taste of the stress I was feelin’.
It all begins with…
Research, research, research
I think the most important part of apartment hunting is to research and have a plan. It will save you so much time! Below I listed the steps I took in finding my apartment, as well as dates that I did things so you can see how quickly it all happened.
First – I researched the city of Seattle and read different websites and blogs about suggestions on where to live. I figured I might as well trust the people who already live in Seattle. I learned about the several sub divisions of Seattle (examples: Belltown, Queen Anne, Cap Hill, First Hill, China Town, etc) and which ones people pegged as dangerous, pricy, safe, decent, cheap, etc… I also looked at maps to see which divisions and which categories were near my soon to be job.
Next – I calculated my budget to see how much I can even set aside for rent. This is so important! You need to calculate out the things you absolutely must budget for – rent, utilities, parking, gas, food/groceries, misc bills such as phone and insurance, etc. You also really need to budget out the things you know you will want to spend money on. Take your lifestyle into consideration, for example I knew that I would need to budget in some money set aside for coffee from a cafe or Starbucks a couple times a week and would definitely need to have a budget for wine.
Once you’ve worked out your expenses for each week, you’ll need to compare it with your income that is coming in (after taxes of course) so that you can see where you’re standing. (Tip: make a chart like the one below and fill in whatever applies to you)
If you don’t pay rent or utilities yet, those would remain blank, and you’d calculate everything else to see what was remaining. Then decide how much of that you want to set aside/save and there you have it! You have your budget for rent.
From here you can decide if you can afford to live alone or if you want to get a roommate.
Thirdly – I began my apartment search online and used different search engines. My favorites were http://www.apartments.com & www.craigslist.com. It is important to document the location, size, rent, phone number and certain amenities that you value. For example, it was very important to me that my apartment had a washer and drier in the unit. I used a chart like the one below to do my initial audit of places.
||1 BR 1 BA
||1 BR 1 BA
||1 BR 1 BA
||1 BR 1 BA
Compile as many places as you can – even if you think they’re out of your budget.
After that, I went on http://www.apartmentratings.com & I suggest you do to. All ratings need to be considered with a grain of salt though. Some things to keep in mind while you read the ratings… If every rating is horrible and there’s one really good one, it may have been written by people who work there. Also look at when it was posted – a few ratings I saw were horrible but they were from 2012 and since then the management had changed. I noticed that just about every apartment I looked at had some bad reviews so don’t let the reviews deter you from visiting, just read them to familiarize yourself.
Then you’ll want to call the apartments on the list you made. If you fill out the “check for availability” tab and request they email you it can take 1-2 business days for a reply. Quick tip is to call them, you can figure stuff out right then and there. Some places advertise their studio, 1 and 2 bedroom apartments but when you call you will find out which apartment size is actually available and when so you can better decide if the apartment is a good fit for you.
Once you’ve narrowed down the list to the ones that are available, then you’ll want to look up the addresses of the places you want to visit and map out a route that makes the most sense for your day of apartment hunting.
The day of apartment hunting, things to bring:
-list of places you made
-mapped directions/addresses of each one
-list of past rental history/ contacts (you’ll be ready to apply if you like it)
-checkbook (you’ll want to be ready to deposit for a place if you really like it)
Now when you go to tour the apartments, you’ll want to document everything (even if you think you already have it documented from your research because most places will advertise their best and biggest floor plan, and some have refurbished models for more $$)
Ask lots of questions! (examples: is parking included? How much are parking spaces? How much is garbage and sewage? When does the garbage go out/from where? How much are utilities? How much is the deposit? How much is the application fee? Are the appliances gas or electric? Is there air conditioning? Are pets allowed? Is there a pet fee? How much? Is there a washer/dryer in the unit? etc.)
Make sure to note all green lights and all red lights while visiting. If an apartment has a washer and drier in the unit (green light), free parking (green light), but the appliances are hanging on by a thread (red light), you’ll want to note it so that you can weigh the pros and cons of each of the apartments.
If you found one with no red lights then you definitely found your apartment. Pay your application fee, fill out the application and hope you get approved!
For me, it went much smoother then I thought. I spent one day researching and calling apartment complexes. Then I went out on Friday and went to 3 apartments before I found “the one.” I knew it was the one because it had no red lights for me. It was brand new, I would be the first tenant, it had a gym (so I wouldn’t need a gym membership), they had a special where if you signed a 12 month lease, you get one month of rent free! So when I moved in and payed a prorated rent for September, I wouldn’t have to pay rent until November 1st which was a huge plus for me. The whole apartment was super modern and aesthetically pleasing and the roof had a killer view and two grills for use and a firepit. It was perfect, so I applied, deposited and it was mine!
With a lot of research and a little determination you too can find your dream apartment.