Apartment hunting can be a stressful experience, and with good reason. Not only might it require much of your time, but the process can leave you feeling frustrated, disappointed, desperate, or even overwhelmed. For your search to be as effective as possible, you need to try your best to keep stress out of the picture.
Fortunately, this isn't as tough as it sounds. Here are six tips to help you find the right apartment without the stress:
1. Know what you want. Before you venture out there to look at apartments, take the time to decide on what you want in an apartment. Ask yourself questions such as:
- How many bedrooms and bathrooms do I need?
- How much closet space do I need?
- How important is size?
- How important is location?
- Are any features -- such as a good view, crown moulding, an updated kitchen, or built-in shelves -- important?
- Will I need a place to park a car, or a building where people who visit me can easily park their cars? Will I need to keep a bike in the building?
- What amenities are important to me? Do I need a doorman, laundry in the building or on the floor, or a fitness center?
- Do I need a building that allows pets?
As you ask yourself these questions, decide what your limits are. For example, if you need to live within walking distance of where you work or go to school, look at a map or actually take a walk around the area so you can decide just how far away you'll look.
Also, think about whether there may be acceptable alternatives for meeting your needs. For example, say you need a lot of storage space. A building that offers a basement storage area to each tenant would perhaps be ideal, but it may not be necessary. If you don't need to access your stuff often, renting space in a nearby self-storage facility might do the trick.
Once you're set on exactly what you're looking for in an apartment, go hunting while keeping all your criteria in mind. Don't waste time checking out listings for apartments that won't fit the bill. For instance, if you must live with your dog, then ask a potential landlord whether she allows pets in her building, or communicate your needs to your broker early on.
2. Stay focused and don't get discouraged. When you start feeling frustrated with your apartment search, don't despair! Instead, stay focused and keep your eye on the prize. Remember just how excited you were when you started your search, and try to visualize how happy you'll be once you find the right place.
Many apartment hunters also get discouraged when they find what they think is the right apartment only to lose out to someone who beat them with an earlier deposit. If this happens to you, tell yourself that it wasn't meant to be, and just keep at it. So many people have stories about how they missed out on their "dream apartment" only to wind up with something even better. Just think that you'll have such a story to tell one day.
3. Set realistic goals and expectations. It's hard to find tenants who can tell you that they found the perfect apartment without much effort. Don't expect anything different for your search, and you won't be disappointed. This way, if you find an apartment immediately, great. If not, you'll just take it in stride and know that it's just a matter of time until you reach your goal.
4. Create a plan of action with your roommates. If you're looking for an apartment with a roommate, discuss what your plan of action should be. If you're both too busy to see every listing together, decide how you'll divvy things up. Perhaps you'll alternate the days each of you look at listings, or you'll each be responsible for dealing with different brokers. If only one of you sees an apartment and it passes muster, you can both return to see it again. If you're in a hot market where good apartments tend to go fast, you may decide to go together to visit the ones that strike you as the most promising.
5. Stay organized and take good notes. Once you start to see more than a few apartments, it's easy to get them confused. Stay organized by taking good notes about your apartment hunting efforts. For example, make a chart (by hand or on your computer) that lists the following:
- an apartment's address;
- the broker, owner, or tenant and their contact information;
- the number of bedrooms and bathrooms;
- the pros and cons;
- any promises that were made; and
- additional notes.
Use an accordion file to hold any brochures, advertisements, floorplans, listings, photos, or other printed material you have.
6. Ask questions. Choosing a place to live is a serious matter, so don't be afraid to ask questions. If you don't like the answers you hear or you suspect that your broker or a landlord isn't being honest with you, move on.
If you visit an apartment with a broker and the current tenant is home, take advantage of the opportunity. Ask the tenant questions such as the following:
- Does the heat really work?
- Does the apartment get too much or too little sun?
- How much are the utility bills and other expenses each month?
- Is noise from neighboring apartments a problem?
- Do you think the building and the neighborhood are safe?
Hopefully, you're already feeling less stressed just from having read these tips. If you keep them in mind as you search for your next apartment, you can look forward to a more pleasant path toward finding that perfect place you'll soon call home.