Apartment Searching 101

One of my best friends has been tossing around the idea of moving in to the city for several months now. For a fun, active and single 20 something like her, living in the suburbs, though cheap, meant a long commute for work and for fun. So, for the past couple of months, we’ve been casually checking out places in her desired neighborhood and just last weekend, she signed the papers on her new apartment!

Helping my friend find her dream place brought back a lot of memories, tips and tricks that I learned during my own apartment search nearly two years ago. If you’re in the hunt for a new place or just considering a new location, read on!

1. Narrow in on a neighborhood. Moving to a new city can make finding your desired neighborhood particularly challenging. Before you start viewing apartments spend a weekend exploring neighborhoods you’re interested in, both during the day and at night. Take special notice to things like availability of parking spots, the kinds of people you see, local restaurants and shops and how you feel walking around.

2. Find your price range. If you’ve never lived in the city before, prepare to pay more and get less than in the burbs. Do some research online to see what kinds of places you can get in your favorite neighborhood for what cost per month. Once you can an idea of what rent could cost you, spend a couple of months putting away that amount in a savings account (minus the rent you’re already paying). This will help you narrow in on what you can actually pay per month and avoid getting in to a situation where you’re in over your head.

3. Make a wish list. Is neighborhood a top priority? Or does location not matter as long as you have a washer and dryer? Make a list of what is important to you and take note of the things you’d be willing to give up. For me, living in Northwest Portland was a non-negotiable. From there, it was hardwood floors, a historic building and enough space to be comfortable. You can’t know that you’ve found your perfect apartment unless you know what you’re looking for, so take the time to make a list, but be prepared to not get everything you want.

4. Don’t just rely on the internet. Around here, a majority of the available apartments¬† aren’t posted on Craigs List or sites like Rent.com. The only way to get in is to walk around and make calls where for rent signs are posted. Saturday afternoons are best for checking out available apartments. Landlords are prepared to show apartments on the weekends and if you’re diligent (and lucky) you can see several apartments in a single weekend.

5. Pay attention to details. When viewing an apartment, don’t forget to check out the little things. Turn on the shower to gauge water pressure, count the number of grounded outlets (trust me, you’ll regret it if you don’t) and ask about on-site laundry. Find out what isn’t covered in your rent (electricity, sewer, water, heat) and determine the terms of the lease. Also, don’t assume you can bring your furry friends with you without checking with your landlord.

6. Don’t discount location. The neighborhood you choose isn’t the only location you need to think about. Keep in mind what floor the apartment is on, what direction its facing and the number of apartments you share a wall with. Top floor apartments tend to be the quietest, since you’re removed from the street and don’t have anyone above you, but if your apartment is without an elevator, prepare to hit the stairs. First floor or garden levels are often a bit darker and are obviously closer to the street, so walkers by may get a view in to your place. Southern facing apartments get the most sun; Eastern facing get the morning sun and Western the evening. It’s easy to overlook, but if you’re a night-owl, you may kick yourself if your South-Eastern facing abode is filled with morning sun when you’re trying to sleep.

Good luck with your search!

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March 30, 2010. Tags: , , , . Life-in General.

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