Tuesday, April 7, 2015
The Reality of Apartment Hunting | Tips & Tricks
It's that time of year (at least for us college students) where you have to figure out where you'll be living for the summer, or the following school year. If you're staying where you are, take a seat. This one isn't for you, you lucky... thing you! For the rest of us, this means apartment hunting. There are so many factors to consider, and so many choices out there. It's easy to get overwhelmed! Since I've done this a few times before (and am going through the process again) I have some tips to share with those of you who may be new to the game.
Don't Stress. It's so easy to stress out about move in and move out dates, signing a lease before anyone else snaps the place up, and the rest that comes along with apartment hunting. You have time. You don't have to have everything figured out months and months in advance. It might seem nice, but slow down a bit.
Don't Jump. I struggle with this. I'll jump on the first apartment that I like. There will be some things that don't work for me, or I might get a weird vibe from the landlord, but I so desperately want to have everything done and taken care of that I'm ready to sign the lease as soon as I walk through the door. If you do this, you're going to miss out on tons of other better properties, and once the rose colored glasses come off, you'll probably find a lot of things you don't like about the place. Make sure you look at tons of options, and see at least 3 properties before you even consider signing a lease. If that means you wait a month after seeing a property to sign, then so be it.
Make your wants/needs clear from the get-go. When you are talking to an agent or the landlord, be upfront. Don't worry about feeling awkward or blunt. If you have a pet, talk it through with them. If you think lawn maintenance should be included in rent, let them know. Question everything.
Read the lease at least 4 times. So many landlords will take a generic lease, stick your name and property address on it, and have you sign it. This can get you in trouble later on. Just because the landlord says something, if it's not on the lease then it doesn't mean anything. If they say they will make repairs (for example if the dishwasher breaks) but in the lease it says you are responsible, then you're going to end up forking over cash, or losing your security deposit. Make sure you pick the lease apart and have them draft and re-draft until it's specific and makes sense to you.
Be Realistic. You are not going to find an updated, 2 bedroom apartment with a view, pool, gym, and large rooms in Manhattan for $400 a month all inclusive. Friends definitely lied to us about some things. On the flip side, paying out top dollar and having a very strict and limited budget so you can have an apartment with amenities you'll never use, and features that don't really matter all that much (granite counter tops anyone?) is just not going to work. This is an apartment, not your dream home. Get what you need, and what you can afford.
All Inclusive vs. Not. If this is your first time out on your own, you might feel better renting a place that is all inclusive. This means the landlord pays for water, heat, electricity, internet, etc. That is definitely a luxury, but a lot of the times it can be cheaper if you pay the utilities on your own. A lot of people freak out thinking it will be much more expensive, when really it's not! Plus you can decide how much your are going to use, and therefore pay. Asking the current tenants what they pay is always a good idea!
Become One With Craigslist. I've always had awesome luck finding apartments off of craigslist. You obviously have to be careful and always bring someone with you to a showing, but it's a great resource! Not only will you find tons of listings, you can also see what the going rent is for the area, and what most places are including/not including for utilities. Other sites to check out are Zillow, and if you are looking for an apartment complex, google will give you tons of listings.
Apartment hunting doesn't have to be painful! Just remember not to be as picky as some of the people from House Hunters on HGTV, and you'll be fine. Good luck dolls!