Top 11 things you should know about Apartment hunting

By September 15, 2016 Housing No Comments

Ok, so you’re super excited to be moving to a new city or out into your first apartment!!! Maybe your lease is ending in 3 months and you’re simply super excited to be living on your own or in a new area or space?!

Either way, there’s more than 30 days out before your new move so here’s some tips to maximize your dollar.


1. First things, first.  Ask yourself, what is my true budget?   Like seriously, what can you reasonably afford and still have the life you want.  You may find that renting a closet is doable because you’re never at home.  Maybe your Id is screaming granite countertops, stainless steel backsplash, hardwood floors, olympic swimming pool, fitness center, and view of the hills, but when you open up your wallet, it’s Terry Crews coughing, “It’s dry and dusty in here!”  Think about the life you truly want to live and ask if it’s in line with the new apartment costs.  Experts recommend spending 1/3rd of your budget on housing.  This may mean roommates or renting a room.  It’s not permanent if you save and work towards a promotion at the gig.  So swallow your pride for a year or two and take the cheaper place until you can afford the ocean views.


Terry Crews Money Hack


2. How much do you have on hand for moving costs?   This will also play a factor in your decision.  If the apartment you’re looking at is luxury/new, you’ll need your application fee, security deposit, first months rent and furniture or moving costs in additional to current monthly expenses.  If it’s older and more affordable, you may need up to 3 months rent, and moving costs.  I know, I know.  I don’t make the rules.  Private landlords really don’t think proactively about their markets and often have high evictions because they never thought about depleting someone of their life savings to have an affordable space.   Smaller, Private landlords rarely think about their local economies, only protecting their investment which always leads to the worst possible outcome.  If you’re a private landlord, we have solutions for you to actually have tenants that match your market and reduce the likelihood of eviction – contact us.

3.   After you’ve determined your budget and lifestyle preference, find your top 3 areas within your price range.   I know you’re wondering why pick area third and not first.   Well, when you’re renting unfortunately, not all areas match your budget.  If you think area first, you could miss out on sweet deals that’s just a few minutes from your desired pocket.  :-)   The area you decide on should be a reflection of your desired lifestyle.  Is it a guest house in walking distance to the job because you’d rather not commute?  Is it a room in a suburban mansion because you want to live in a big house?  Is it a remodeled apartment built in the 70’s with retro charm, but everything you’ve wanted in the new luxury building but for 25% less because you love the charm of the up and coming neighborhood, but the new apartments are well out of your reach?


4.  Once you’ve got your top 3 areas.  Spend a few days in each after or before work, try to visit each on the weekends.  DON’T look at apartments yet.  This should be done about 60 or more days out from your move.   Do what you would normally do if you lived in the area.  Check out the grocery store, visit a local bar/restaurant,  surf the net at the local Starbucks, go to the bank, etc.   You may not capture a full snapshot, but your gut will tell you if you could live there or not.


With friends going local in Austin


5.  When you’re about 45 days out, if you are still good with all 3 areas, gather a list of your top 5 apartments in each area based on ads or curb appeal from searching the area.  When I search for apartments, my best finds always came with beating the pavement and driving the areas I liked.  Now that it’s harder, I rely more on sites like Craigslist,, Zillow, and there’s these things called the Classified Section in the local newspaper.  😉  It’s always good to have a subscription.

6.  When looking at apartments, remember 2 things – 1.  Don’t look at luxury buildings if you’re more than 30 days out.  They often have lease specials that you will lose if you can’t move within 30 days.   You will lose these specials if you come too soon!   2.  You’re renting so don’t go in with any fancy ideas or requests outside of painting.  Any improvements you place into the apartment belong to the landlord and because the apartment belongs to the landlord, s/he may also not be too keen on your new flooring selection.  Be happy with what you get and don’t expect the landlord to do major overhauls to impress you.  Yes, fixes to security, health, and safety are imperative.  This does not include new tile in the bathroom because the pink tile is giving you anxiety or central air because you don’t want an A/C unit.  This does include mold, rusted items, and broken windows/floorboards.  If you can help it, don’t sacrifice your long-term health for immediate cost.

Moldy apartment

Moldy apartment


7. Utility costs.  Ask for an estimate.  Places with Central air may cost less than places without.  Same with gas vs. electric stove.  Many times, these costs may be nominal in difference, but if you can have some general ballpark, it will help you calculate your monthly living expenses.  Be sure to ballpark high and bank the difference each month.

8.  Now that you’ve seen your top 5 in each of the areas you’ve selected.  Narrow your list to your favorite three.  Many times, there will just be that diamond.  If you find the diamond, seize the day! Get the particulars worked out (application fee, security deposit, rent, lease term, move-in date, house rules, etc.)  Negotiate if necessary (maybe a longer lease will give you a lower price?  Maybe they are asking too much for the market?) and apply immediately!  Put down your holding deposit and set your move-in date!

9.  If you have credit problems, some landlords will allow you to move in if you pay a higher deposit.  My recommendation is to use what you would have put down for the higher deposit into repairing your credit.  This is two-fold.  The first is that good credit will get you a long way and the second is that you’re giving up an extra month of rent for someone to hold in the event you damage the property.  Be responsible and don’t damage the property, but also go further and use those funds to have a better financial impact for yourself such as investing, repairing your credit, protecting your income, or saving for a rainy day.  Rent a room or a sofa for a few months.  I know this is not for everyone, but if you can, this is the best route.  If you’re ready to pay the extra security deposit, so be it.  Bad or poor credit is the only hurdle that can potentially be overcome when renting.  It is also the only one that can prevent you from having the affordable place of your dreams.


10.  Pay your rent on time.  Things happen.  Many landlords will allow up to a 3-5 day grace period with no late fee.  After that, I’ve seen late fees go up to $50 per day that you’re late.  Most apartments will send you to eviction on the 10th day of the month after failing to pay rent (not a guarantee – always communicate with your landlord or property manager as to why you are late and when you will pay).  Check your lease agreement for the rules and fees.  Side note:  If a landlord files for eviction, there are your late fees to pay plus court costs.  While no one lives with the intention of ever being late on rent, life has taught me, never sign a lease that has a penalty that tough.  If you’re late with rent, it is because there was a financial emergency and to tack on up to $500 in the event it takes me a week to pay is absolutely frightening.  There are things you just don’t foresee and the last thing you want to happen is to be evicted. An eviction will go on your record for up to 10 years and hinder you from living almost anywhere except hostels and room shares.  A lot can happen in a decade.  Imagine getting promoted at work, getting married, having kids and finding out that you can’t live anywhere besides the room you rent.  Imagine being married and unable to go on a lease because of your eviction and then your spouse being evicted because you were living there without being on the lease!  Imagine the quality of life your kids will have entering the world. The only good that comes out of an eviction is getting rid of unwanted advances – Tell someone who you’re not attracted to that you have an eviction and watch them scurry away!  Unexpected things happen to good people all the time and this is part of why we do what we do.  You can always Contact us to protect yourself in the event you won’t be able to pay rent because of a drastic life change such as disability or illness.

11.  You have rights going in.   Be sure to Search your State’s tenant rights rules.  If you’re unsure of anything, feel free to contact them regarding your landlord/residence.  😀

These are my top 11 tips for Apartment hunting.


If you’re in the luxury market for living in Austin, feel free to check out our top 10 list in Downtown Austin and stay tuned as we prepare one for West LA!


There’s much much more to be shared on this topic!  Let’s keep it going and Please feel free to share or ask questions below!


If you need Renters insurance or income protection, feel free to contact us today!  If you need help locating a space for your budget, I’m happy to provide one on one assistance as well.

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