As you begin your apartment search, a little preparation can make your search go much easier and help you find the right apartment for your needs. This apartment hunting guide is designed to help you prepare for your search, look at apartments, and make smart decisions when you find a place to rent.
Before you begin looking at apartments, you should do some up-front preparation to make sure you have the information and resources you need for a successful apartment search. Taking a little time up front will make your search much easier, and help you make smart decisions when deciding where to rent and negotiating the lease.
Your Apartment Wants and Needs
First, make a list of what you want and need from an apartment. This will help focus your search, and to decide which is the right apartment for your needs.
A detailed article on listing and prioritizing your apartment features and needs is located here.
Establish Your Rental Budget
Establishing your rental budget is just as important as listing what you want in an apartment. You will need to balance your apartment living wants and needs with what you can afford. It is critical that you have a good idea of your budget before you rent an apartment.
A detailed article on establishing your apartment rental budget is located here.
Prepare Questions for Landlords
Once you begin looking at apartments for rent
, you will want to have a prepared list of questions for landlords, especially when you find an apartment unit that you are interested in renting. Not only does this give you information you need to decide if you want to rent the apartment, talking with the landlord also helps you decide if this is someone you can live with once you sign a lease.
A detailed article on preparing questions for apartment landlords
is located here
Apartment Renting References
Many landlords will ask for references, so it is important to line those up before you search. Having references ready when the landlord asks for them will save time, and may give you an edge when renting in a competitive market.
If you have rented before, ask your former landlords to write a short letter of recommendation. Ask them to include where you rented, the time period you were there, the landlord's contact information, and a short statement that you were a good renter.
You should also get a letter from your employer, on their letterhead, stating that you currently have a job. This should include your employer's contact information (either your boss or the Human Resources department). This will help speed the process if your landlord asks for employment verification.
Many landlords will check your credit once you apply to rent. It is a good idea to do a self credit check before you search for an apartment to be sure your credit is clean and there are no unexpected surprises. There are many online sources for credit checks, including www.annualcreditreport.com and www.freecreditreport.com.
You can also find out more about credit reports at the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) web site: www.ftc.gov.
Your Resources for Renting and Moving
As you begin your apartment search, you should think about the resources you have available for renting and moving.
Do you have furniture, dishes, utensils, linens and other things you will need when you move in, or can you afford to buy them? If this is your first apartment, you may need to borrow or rent many of these things.
When you move into your new rental, how will you move your stuff? Do you have friends to help, and can you borrow a truck or other vehicle big enough to move your things? Or, will you need to hire a moving company? See our DIY Apartment Moving Guide here for one option
When you move out of your apartment, there are some easy things you can do to make sure you get most of your security deposit back. Find out how the article on
Getting back most of your apartment security deposit here!
Do you have an interim place to stay and store your stuff incase you have to be out of your current apartment before a new rental is available? If your current lease is up at the end of the month, and your new lease starts on the first, you may need a place to spend a night or two.
Timing Your Apartment Search
As you begin your apartment search, it is important to consider the timing of your search and when you will need to move. If you have a set date for when you need to leave your current home, or when you need to have a new place rented, this can be critical.
In general, you will want to give yourself 4-8 weeks to find an apartment, from start to finish. This time can vary a lot depending on where you are looking and how competitive the market is (in some cities, it can take months!).
You should lay out a timeline for yourself, similar to the following (be sure to adjust this based on your local market expectations):
- Week 1: Prepare your apartment wants and needs checklist, and prepare your rental budget.
- Week 2-3: Check out neighborhoods and transportation options. Narrow down where you will be searching.
- Week 4-6: Focused apartment searching. Expect to spend time almost every day hunting for apartments for rent and looking at rental units.
- Week 7-8: Negotiating and signing the lease. Moving.
Many apartments become available on the 1st of the month, so it is important to align your timeline with that in mind. This can often be a challenge if you need to be out of your current apartment before the last day of the month!
Begin Your Apartment Search
Once you have considered and done the above preparation tasks for finding an apartment to rent, you are ready to begin your apartment rental search.
For more information on hunting for an apartment, see these other articles: