I have been told I have the mind of a #Gypsy, in that I like to travel and move around. In my adult life, I have moved over 5o times and have enjoyed getting into a new place and space. Par for the course, I am about to embark on yet another move and am inspired by this season’s hottest #trends when setting up my new digs. This will be a multi-part blog entry that follows my journey from finding the right place, packing, moving in and of course decorating the space. I welcome your comments and suggestions on this journey!
What can I afford?
How much rent can I afford? is a common question when apartment hunting. Before you get all caught up on apartment decor and hosting potlucks, have you calculated how much you can afford to pay in rent? You don’t want to look at something, fall in love, only to realize it’s out of reach budget wise do you? I suggest using the formula below to calculate just how much your wallet can bring to the table.
Make finding a place to live less of a nightmare with these #tips.
1. Use your friends and extended network.
Tell your friends you’re looking! I found my super cheap, super cute, and super hug apartment through a coworker of a friend of a friend. Simple word of mouth can (at the very least) get you leads to places that would have gone off the market in seconds without a personal connection.
2. Check your cell phone reception in every room.
Walk through the entire place with your phone out. Nothing is worse than having to make every phone call outside (mostly because sometimes I don’t want to wear pants).
3. Test out the shower.
Nothing is more disappointing than signing a lease only to discover you’ll be washing under a trickle for a year.
4. Move during the winter.
Lease an apartment in November, December, or January (when rent prices are lowest). If you have to move to a new city in the summer, sign a six month lease and start searching for deals in early October.
5. Figure out how much it will cost if you have a pet.
Check if pet fees are a flat rate or dependent on the number of pets. Some places have a non-refundable fee of a few hundred dollars plus a $100+ deposit *PLUS* monthly pet rent per pet—it adds up fast.
Also: find out whether the building bans specific breeds of dogs. Some complexes don’t allow Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, Akitas, Chows, or German Shepherds (breeds that sometimes make it harder for the apartment community to get insurance)
6. Look inside all of the cupboards, closets, and cabinets.
Especially in the kitchen. This is often overlooked, but a quick check could save you tons of trouble. In two apartments I’ve found large holes in the walls right under the sink: unless you want to risk having a few rodents and insects as your new, non-contributing roommates, insist the landlord fix it prior to signing any lease
7. Ask if you can spend a night or two in a place you’re thinking about renting to give it a test drive.
A lot of landlords with smaller apartment complexes will let you.
8. Find out if your car insurance will go up if you move to a certain area.
Call your insurance company to get a quote about what your car insurance will be in the new area (it DOES change based on where you live) and factor that into your budget (best case: it goes down). And while you have them on the phone, GET TENANT INSURANCE: it is soooooooo worth it!
9. Make sure your furniture will fit.
Measure your big furniture (couches, beds, dressers, etc.) before you go hunting and then bring a tape measure with you to make sure your furniture will fit through the doors. That was a LIFE SAVER for us! nbc
One time we were hunting and we really liked the place, but the front door opened right to the kitchen counter: we started measuring and realized that our couch wouldn’t fit through—dealbreaker.
10. When it comes to the average electric or heating bill cost, don’t necessarily trust the landlord’s quote.
Ask other tenants what their bills average before signing any lease. It may turn out that a place you thought seemed cheap is really beyond your budget
11. Be realistic.
Set some realistic standards and stick with them. For example, don’t go look at a $5000 place with granite and stainless steel if you can only afford a small studio apartment that’s over 20 years old. You’re only setting yourself up for failure and disappointment if you don’t.
12. Actually. Read. The. Lease.
Don’t get trapped into something you’ll regret later!
13. Drop by the building on a rainy day.
Visiting during rainy weather will show you how the roof holds up, if the driveway floods, and if there are any leaks.
14. Be morbid.
As Billy Crystal’s character suggested in When Harry Met Sally, look at the obituaries to see which apartments are recently vacated.
15. Be sure all the outlets function.
I went on walk-throughs with a little lamp that I plugged into every socket to make sure it worked.
16. If you have a good personality, USE IT.
I live in San Jose where finding housing can be very, very tough. I went to check out a place we found on Hotpads and there were over 10 other people there looking at the apartment. What made the difference was actually striking up a conversation with the woman showing it.
17. Scout out apartment buildings from your car.
Drive around the city you want to live in and see what apartment complex attracts your eye *THEN* go online and check the place out. Just make sure that you know the estimated income rate of an area so you have an idea what the price of rent would be.
18. Be prepared.
Prepare for apartment hunt like you would for a job that you REALLY want to get. Have a packet ready to present that includes: proof of employment and recent pay stubs, references from past landlords (plus numbers to call), a short description of you and your hobbies, and a picture (which makes it easier for them to remember you).
19. Stay on the same page as your significant other (or roommate).
Whenever I look at places with my SO, I fill out my thoughts first, then ask him for his—without telling him what mine are (so we don’t bias each other). Doing this has saved us from picking a place that one of us was not happy with many times.
20. If you’re looking at apartment complexes, beware of bottom floor units.
Plumbing is often arranged vertically spanning multiple floors, so if an upstairs neighbor flushes a wad of paper towels, it can get backed up into YOUR apartment. This happens far more frequently than you would expect. Ask questions about how the plumbing is arranged or request an apartment on one of the higher floors
21. If you can move in right away, look for a vacant spot.
Vacant units are losing income, so you can typically get a better deal for occupying it ASAP
22. Enlist a friend to help you make good choices.
Always, always, ALWAYS take a friend you trust with you when you go to look at an apartment. Specifically: one who won’t allow you to make rash decisions
23. Google apartment complexes and read the reviews.
Pay attention to the negative ones, but use your judgement. If someone had one bad experience, they’re going to complain about anything and everything, so you need to look out for people with similar complaints: bugs, crime, etc.
24. Visit any place you’re thinking about renting at night.
Always come back and look at the place at night (when everyone is home)! That way you can get a feel for the other people in your complex, the parking situation, and how loud it actually is.
25. Don’t ignore the listings without photos.
Sometimes they’re just sitting there on Craigslist and Zillow because the home owner isn’t tech savvy. Request photos. Sometimes the results are better than you’d anticipate.
26. Or the newspaper classifieds.
These are usually the ones not posted online because they are usually owned by elderly people. I’ve always gotten a better deal and worked with even better people!
27. Avoid living above a restaurant.
Even if the restaurant is clean, they’ll produce a lot of food waste which will attract a lot of unwanted ~visitors~.
28. Scope out your possible neighbor’s yards.
If people take care of their gardens, then they probably care about the street and it means your neighbors are less likely to be a pain. My dad told me that years ago and it’s never failed me.
29. Ask about the smoking policies or find out if you’ll be living above (or below) a smoker.
It didn’t even cross my mind to ask when I moved into a former apartment , but there was a tenant that lived two floors directly below me and when he smoked in his apartment it filtered up into mine (through the floorboard radiators and in through the window A/C units)
30. Go apartment hunting in the rain.
No one in their right mind is bouncing around town looking at apartment after apartment when the weather is bad, and landlords are eager to lease out on days with little foot traffic. My apartment’s rent was $150 lower a month just because I was the only interested person that came in on a dreary day in February!
31. 💰 💰 💰 💰 💰
Keep an eye on your credit score. Some will absolutely REFUSE to lease to anyone with a credit score of 500 or less. They also used the lowest credit score between roommates and the highest score between married couples.
Now that I’ve found the place, it’s time to start packing. Learn how my many moves have proved valuable lessons in clever techniques and tricks for packing/moving.