With 44.1 million households renting in the U.S., it’s safe to say you’re not the only one apartment hunting. Knowing how to apartment hunt the right way helps you find a space that’s a good match. The process can be especially difficult in housing markets where rentals are limited or rent prices are high and you’re on a tight budget.
Check out these apartment hunting tips to help you find your next home.
1. Set Your Budget
Calculating a comfortable rent amount helps you narrow down your search and ensures you can afford your new place. Set a maximum amount that you know you can afford comfortably.
How you calculate your budget can vary. One suggestion is setting your max rent at 30% of your gross income. Multiply your gross monthly income by 0.3 to get that rent cap.
Other sources recommend a 50/30/20 approach. Housing falls into the 50% category of your monthly income along with all other necessities. The 30% section includes discretionary and lifestyle expenses, and the remaining 20% includes your debt payments and savings.
However you calculate your rent budget, make sure it’s something you can afford comfortably. Not being able to afford your rent is stressful and puts you at risk of being evicted.
2. Narrow Down the Location
Zone in on a particular part of the city that fits your lifestyle and needs. Choose a safe neighborhood with low crime rates so you feel comfortable in your new home.
Consider how close the apartment is to work, your doctor, your favorite stores, and other place you visit often. If you don’t have a vehicle, look at access to public transportation from the apartment. If you do have a car, check out the parking situation, including availability and cost if parking isn’t free.
3. Prioritize Your Wants and Needs
Going into apartment hunting with a clear idea of what you need and want helps you identify apartments that don’t work for you. Crossing them off the list early saves you time on your search.
The size, number of bedrooms, and number of bathrooms are basic factors to decide early. Think about other features you want, such as outdoor space, laundry facilities, garages, or a community pool. You might have to compromise on some of those things, so ranking the features helps you prioritize.
4. Ask for Recommendations
Reach out to anyone in the area where you want to live for recommendations on apartments. Your friends, acquaintances, and colleagues might know of rentals available in their neighborhoods or apartment complexes. They might even recommend you to the landlord, giving you an easy in if the apartment market is tight in that area.
5. Look in Multiple Spots
Apartment hunting websites often have different listings, so it’s a good idea to visit multiple sites when apartment hunting. In addition to nationwide rental websites that let you search for properties in cities all over the U.S., you can also find location-specific websites for rentals. For example, if you’re apartment hunting NYC style, check out these sites for leads on potential apartments.
Look for local Facebook groups where people can post their rentals. Following major property management companies on social media can also help you hear about new rentals quickly.
Driving around the area where you want to live can give you some leads. Some landlords simply place a for rent sign in the front yard and don’t ever really advertise. This gives you a chance to scope out the outside of the property in person before you schedule a showing.
6. Inspect and Test Everything Thoroughly
Don’t get caught up in an apartment that looks pretty and forget to inspect it for potential red flags. Open doors, test water faucets, flush toilets, and look in every nook and cranny to hunt out any issues. Pull out your phone to see if you get good cell reception in all rooms of the apartment.
Take photos of the apartment when you visit it. You might think you’ll remember the details, but it’s easy to forget. If you’re visiting multiple apartments, you might mix up the details between the properties.
7. Consider Size, Layout, and Access
You can check on the square footage before you visit an apartment, but consider how the space is allocated and the overall layout when you look at the apartment. Take a tape measure and write down measurements for all of the rooms and the doorways. When you get home, compare those measurements to your furniture to make sure they fit.
Consider access to the apartment, especially in terms of moving in your furniture. Narrow, turning stairwells can make it difficult or impossible to move large furniture into the apartment.
If the apartment is on a higher floor, look at the stairwells and consider elevator access. It might not seem bad to walk up a few flights of stairs when you look at the apartment, but consider you’ll have to carry all of your groceries and everything else up those stairs.
8. Ask Lots of Questions
Good landlords include lots of details in their rental listings or on their websites to answer most of your questions. You can find out a lot more information when you visit.
However, you might still have some questions after touring the apartment. Make sure you know all of the requirements for renting the apartment and read over the lease thoroughly. If something doesn’t make sense or you’re unsure, ask the leasing agent.
Ask about anything that’s important to you, such as pets, utilities, storage, garages, laundry access, and how to pay your rent. Don’t rush into signing a lease until you fully understand what you’re getting and what’s expected of you.
9. Look for Reviews Online
If you’re looking at an apartment complex, look for online reviews for the complex. Look up the property management company as well to see if there are complaints about how they treat tenants or manage their properties.
If you can’t find much online, try asking in a local Facebook group or another online community. Hearing firsthand accounts from people who have lived there gives you an idea of what to expect. It can also reveal red flags that make you move on.
Follow Our Apartment Hunting Tips
With these apartment hunting tips in mind, you can find an ideal fit for your budget and needs. Using all of your resources and having a plan makes the job easier.
Find more helpful tips in our home section.