There are many ways you can go about looking for and finding the right apartment. To ensure that you will be able to afford your new apartment keep your rent, plus any debt payments, at 36% or less of your monthly income. More than that, and you’ll be eating in every night to pay for a too-expensive place. Figure out how much you can afford to spend on an apartment before you start looking. If you can’t find a high-quality, low-rent apartment, consider getting a roommate to share the costs.
Dealing with a larger apartment management company has its advantages as well as drawbacks. One can find convenient solutions through larger companies, but one should also be careful about companies’ claims regarding tenant needs, red tape, reliability, etc.
Use your Smartphone. With the latest advancement in mobile devices and specifically Smartphones (iPhone, Android or BlackBerry), you can use your phone’s GPS to display apartments that are nearest to your location while walking around a neighborhood that you like. Download one of the apartment search applications available for your Smartphone and use your phone to search anywhere at anytime.
Find your ideal neighborhood. Drive or walk around different parts of the city where you might like to live. Consider commute times, your lifestyle needs and local conveniences.
Do a thorough inspection and take notes. Keep a record of each apartment you visit. Note what features are extra or missing. Take measurements of the rooms and doorways to ensure furniture fits on moving day. Turn on light switches, look inside closets, check water pressure, visit the laundry room, walk the grounds and ask neighbors what it’s like to live there. Identify your target location carefully. Pick a place that’s close to work, groceries, and facilities you use regularly, so you spend less time (and money) in transit. Having public transportation nearby is a great way to cut your transportation costs.
Want to negotiate a discount in rent? Tell your prospective landlord you’re very interested but hadn’t planned to spend as much as he or she is asking. If you request a rent reduction, the worst they can say is no.
When furnishing your apartment, ask family members for free hand-me-down furniture or small appliances they’re not using, or check www.freecycle.org, a site that allows people to give away items they no longer need. Find useable furniture at second-hand stores, or check www.craigslist.org and www.ebay.com. Visit low-cost stores for new household supplies.
Utilities and communications
Ask utility companies to waive connection fees or transfer fees – they may offer big discounts if you say you’re considering signing with a competitor. “Bundling” services like Internet and cable with the same provider can also bring discounts. Consider skipping the landline if you mainly use a cell phone.
Get it in writing
Make sure the contract you sign with your landlord includes how long you must stay, how much notice you must give before you move, what repairs the landlord is obligated to do, and the rules regarding subletting. If the landlord promises an upgrade – such as painting before you move in – get that in print, too. If something seems unfair or suspect, call your state or county housing office or office of consumer affairs. These government agencies can inform you of your rights as a tenant.
Stay safe and insured
Think about safety for you and your belongings. Look for a good lock, and consider an alarm system. Check that your new apartment has a functioning smoke detector and carbon monoxide (CO) detector. A fire or flood can ruin your precious valuables, so renter’s insurance is a must. Figure out how much property protection you require by creating a complete inventory of everything in your apartment – from your TV to your socks – and then shop online for a quote.
Be the perfect tenant
Keeping your rental clean and quiet is the best way to ensure your landlord appreciates you. That can mean a grace period if you ever need to be a few days late on the rent, and a glowing reference for your next rental. Many landlords require a security deposit, so keeping the place in good repair helps to make sure you’ll get the money back.
With so many options on the market – high rise and low rises, condos, duplexes, old Victorians, newly renovated suites – it pays to put the effort into finding a good apartment with affordable rent to call your home.