How to Find the Right Apartment - Steps for Success
Written by Jonas Bordo
Finding the right place is never easy and apartment search has changed a lot in recent years but with the right organization, you can get it done - and perhaps even enjoy the process. And, we have a secret for you too...one that can help you save some serious money on your next apartment.
Let’s get started!
1. Figure Out What You Need and Want
For so many of us, this is the hardest part. What’s important to you? More space? The right price? A view? Close to work? Room for friends to get together? Close to great restaurants? The right school district? We’re all individuals and all of us have different needs.
And, make sure you figure out what you need vs. what you want. Have a new puppy? Lucky you! Guessing you don’t want to leave that cutie behind, so you NEED a pet-friendly apartment. Like the idea of having a dishwasher (not with your name?). Maybe that’s a WANT.
If you really want to go deep, we built a decision matrix tool that you can use to help you rank your preferences and score properties.
2. Get Organized
Everyone’s favorite part...or not. To get your place, you’re going to have to organize your apartment search and apply and to apply, you’re going to need to have some documents. Depending on the landlord, they may need different things, but the typical ones are:
- Proof of income (a pay stub, an employer who will confirm income)
- References (former landlord)
- Guarantor (in some markets)
- Deposit (varies widely depending on where you live)
They’re also probably going to pull a credit report, so if you don’t already know what yours looks like, it helps to find out so you know what you’re dealing with. Annualcreditreport.com is one of many sources for free access to your credit reports.
Plus, you should set your expectations...in talking to Renters all across the country, we’ve learned that the typical search takes 8-10 weeks and typically takes about 5 hours of time per week. So get ready to spend some time on this process.
3. Learn the Tools
We’re working to make Dwellsy the only tool you need to find your new place, but just in case you can’t find everything you need here...here’s some other options. Online, most folks start at Google and search from there. You’ll see some sites that want to show you paid advertisements from landlords without disclosing that that’s what they’re doing (shame on them!), but you’ll also find a lot of landlord sites - many of which can be quite helpful.
And, hard to believe, but in this day and age, most listings aren’t online (we’re working to get them all here at Dwellsy, though!). So, that means identifying the neighborhoods you want to be in and walking/driving around looking for yard and window signs (insane, I know - we’re working to fix that). Did you know that every city has a best time of day to find a rental? Use data to get beat other renters to that perfect apartment.
4. Pick Some Favorites
Now the fun begins! Take a look through listings on Dwellsy (or another site, I guess...), get comfortable with how it works and start picking favorites.
I’d recommend you take some time and really get to know the site. Make sure you get comfortable with the search tools, how the map works, and how you can screen for needs and wants (Oops - only Dwellsy offers that!).
Use the Dwellsy Match too! This is just what we built it for - when you put in your search, the Dwellsy Match scores all the search results according to what you’re looking for. You can sort by the Dwellsy score and the best matches rise to the top. Find ones you like, and favorite them so you can keep track of them.
5. Visit Time
So, the good news is that you’re going to get to see lots of available places so that you can figure out the one that’s just right for you. The bad news is that you’re probably going to have to see more places than you want to before this process is done.
And, hate to break it to you, but some apartments get rented REALLY quickly...sometimes the same day they become available. So, if you find your place - that perfect place - don’t waste time. Reach out to the landlord and book a viewing that minute.
When you visit, walk the apartment or house and check the details. Depending on whether it’s still occupied, recently vacated or it’s been sitting empty for a while, the condition could be very different - and your expectations should be too.
Overall, just remember that how everything looks now reflects how the landlord takes care of the property. If you’re happy with the condition now, you’re more likely to be happy with how the landlord takes care of it when you live there. If you’re unhappy with it...well, you can imagine how it will be to live there.
We know that checking a property can be complicated, so we actually wrote a post on that. Check it out here.
6. Apply Yourself
Since you followed our advice (of course!), you’re all ready to rent when you find the right place. You’ve got easy access to the documents, you know what you can afford, and where your credit stands.
The landlord will have an application process for you to go through, and it’s different everywhere. They’ll usually have a form for you to fill out, will typically take a deposit to hold the unit and they will ask for a couple of pieces of information and some documents and they’ll pull your credit report.
Regardless of the process, it can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few days to get approved, so make sure to ask the landlord how long to expect it to take when you submit your application.
7. Negotiate and sign
Now, here’s the secret that no one tells you. Renters almost never negotiate the rent, but it’s almost always negotiable! As a good friend of mine always says, you never get what you don’t ask for, so think about what the landlord might be able to do to sweeten the deal and ask for it.
Remember, at this point, you’ve gone through the application process, been approved and the landlord is excited that they might have a great resident (you!) and they want to close the deal too.
Think the rent is a little too high? Ask for it to be 5% lower. What about parking - can they throw in a spot? How about pet rent - could they throw that in? Never hurts to ask - the worst thing they can say is no, and if they do, you still get the place that you were ready to rent at the price you were willing to pay.
Once you settle on the deal, it’s time to sign the lease. Definitely not the fun part, but so exciting! Remember to read the fine print - it’s an important document that sets the terms for your new home, so read it, take notes and don’t be surprised.
From all of us at Dwellsy, Congrats on your new home!!!