While sitting at a new coffee shop in the Rittenhouse section of Philadelphia, I counted six moving trucks navigating the neighborhood’s narrow busy summer Friday afternoon streets. I thought of how glad I was not to be moving this summer and how stressful my move was last summer (I signed the lease for my new space within a week of the lease of my old space ending). Craziness. I know. I hope that you’ll avoid the craziness I experienced last summer by keeping in mind these important tips:
List What You’re Looking For. List everything from wanting to live downtown or in Chinatown, hardwood floors or carpet, studio or 1 bedroom, complex or duplex, near public transit or reserved parking. Write down what you are flexible on (what you are willing to go without if you reach your top budget) and what you can’t compromise on (like a clean bathroom!).
Highlight What You Need. Go back through the list of what you want and highlight your non-negotiables. If you need hardwood floors instead of carpet (it holds dust and allergens that can spark constant sneezing) highlight it. Keep these at the top of your mind when going apartment hunting.
Be REAL About Your Budget.
- Be mindful of how much you can afford each month for rent and utilities.
- Remember the upfront cost of moving to an apartment. Many places have application fees and want a deposit plus first and last month’s rent. An apartment for $850.00 a month may mean approximately total of $2550-2600 to move in.
- Be sure to budget for moving costs.
- If you want to start saving then it’s important that you do not spend more than 1/4 or 25% of your monthly income on rent.
Look It Up. Visit sites like Padmapper and Craigslist to begin searching for your space. You can select the city you desire to live in or near, view pictures, select the number of bedrooms, and set a minimum and maximum range for rent.
Plan and Partner Up. Pre-select times you’re available to see the spaces you’re interested. Try to be flexible, fitting in visits on lunch breaks, before work, or right after. Also, ask someone to go with you. I strongly recommend that you avoid going to view apartments alone. Bauces, if you can, bring a beau. I find guys are good at noticing things and asking questions that sometimes we forget because we have already fallen for the walk-in closet. A walk-in closet isn’t cute if the windows or locks are so old that someone can easily break in and take what’s in it.
Make Contact. Call the places you are most interested in and schedule visits. Of course, if you are really interested in a space and it’s not during the preselected time you’d hope, be flexible. Notice I said call. Calling communicates you are seriously interested and you are more likely to get a quicker response from the landlord to schedule a visit. Please don’t text!
Organize It. Create an excel document with the following during your apartment hunt:
- Address of the space
- Utilities Included (Y/N)
- Pet fee (Y/N)
- # of Bedrooms
- Contact Info
- Status (have you emailed? called? when do you plan to see it?)
Go For a Visit. Keep your appointments. Remember you are not the only person looking at the space and the landlord’s time is just as valuable as yours. When you and your homeboy or homegirl go see the space, be prepared with the things you may need to apply on the spot: a blank check, a copy of your state ID, copies of your last three pay stubs, etc. Go in with questions and pen and paper or a tablet to document answers. You may want to ask questions such as:
- What’s the length of the lease and how much notice is given for lease renewal or termination?
- Are there income requirements?
- Does the owner allow a cosigner? (In case you don’t meet the income requirements)
- Have they received a lot of applications?
- What are storage options not in the unit? (i.e. access to a basement/garage/attic, etc.)
- What’s the culture of the building? (i.e. family building, young professionals, older adults, etc.)
Visit Again. Make a second trip to your apartment’s neighborhood. If you went during your 11 a.m. lunch break go back later that evening and see what the culture of the neighborhood is like. What living spaces look like during the day typically is not what they look like at night or on weekends.
Decide and deliver…ASAP! Once you found a place that meets your needs-APPLY. Remember, you are one of several people looking at the space and landlords operate on a first come first serve basis. Complete the application, drop off necessary documents, and do it sooner than later.
Pack it up and move it out. Once you’ve found your space and secured it, it’s time to move! Have a packing party, assemble a moving team, have an unpacking party, and dwell in your new space.