Compared to an email, an old-fashioned, sent-through-the-mail letter always makes my day and reminds me that sometimes, slower is more satisfying. Although the internet has revolutionized how we search for apartments, it doesn't hurt to remember some search strategies from the pre-Craigslist era. Read on for some high tech and low tech tips.
Low tech apartment hunting isn't just about finding little old lady landlords who can't use a computer; it's about remembering to use all the resources at your disposal, not just the internet. Through a friend or co-worker, you could hear about a tenant who is planning to give notice or intercept a landlord who hasn't yet posted a vacancy online. Showing up in person may just land you a gem before it even goes on the online market.
- Drive or walk around your desired neighborhood frequently; hit up local shops and restaurants or just stroll around. Be friendly and chatty and make sure to mention that you're looking to move into the neighborhood.
- Have all your relevant documents (pay stubs, references, etc.) with you at all times. You never know when you're going to spot a "For Rent" sign or meet someone who mentions they know of a vacancy. You should be ready to pounce.
- Check the newspaper classifieds (yep, the paper kind) for hidden treasures. Some landlords may not want to bother with the flood of responses that come from an online posting.
- Enlist friends, family and co-workers to help by keeping their eyes and ears open. Twenty people can spread a much wider net to increase your chances of scoring a great place.
Apartment hunting online has many advantages, namely convenience. You can find lots of listings very quickly and even use apps to set search parameters and see neighborhood amenities. The downside, of course, is that you're still only experiencing it virtually which can easily be misleading, so watch out for too-good-to-be-true scams.
- Set up an RSS feed for your search, so you can monitor new listings within your parameters as they're posted and quickly jump on good leads.
- Prepare a candidate profile with your information, rental and employment history and perhaps even a photo. Including this in your initial email will help you stand out as a qualified candidate and increase your chances of a reply. Having this blurb ready will also help you respond quickly when you see a great listing pop up.
- Use apps to get a feel for your potential neighborhood. A good "street view" tour via Google maps and a Walk Score breakdown of nearby cafés, bars and shops may be all you need to make up your mind. Here are a few apps we've spotlighted in the past for apartment hunters armed with tablets.
- Get specific in your communication with potential landlords. Make sure to tailor your inquiry to each specific apartment to show that you're a serious candidate, not just someone mass-emailing all available listings. Also, save everyone time by using each email to cover as much ground as possible. For example, "I'd love to take a tour of the apartment; I'm available Thursday afternoon or Saturday morning," will accomplish much more than a long, back-and-fourth scheduling session.