A Roadmap to Renting the Place of Your Dreams: Apartment-Hunting Tips from a Serial Mover

published Oct 10, 2016
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(Image credit: Kim Lucian)

I move a lot. Like, a lot. I even wrote an article about the benefits of being a serial mover like myself. And in moving so much, I’ve gotten really good at finding great apartments, the newest one always better than the last. (Ask my friends, they’ll back me up!) I’m currently in my seventh Seattle apartment with a view of the Space Needle from my living room. So I promise, I know a thing or two! And I’m happy to share—here are a handful of my best apartment hunting tips.

Identify your deal breakers and nice-to-haves

Personally, I skip any place that doesn’t have a dishwasher. I cook a lot, so that’s a total non-starter for me. And I’d like to have laundry in-unit, but for a view of the Space Needle, I decided laundry on-site would work. Before you start shopping, make a list of the absolute must-haves for you, but also separately identify the nice-to-haves: things that would be awesome but, for something like a killer view, you might able to let go of.

Stay on top of listings

I’m like a crazy person on Craigslist when I’m looking for a new place, refreshing every hour in hopes of catching listings hot off the digital presses. You definitely don’t need to do it that often, but I recommend checking at least a couple times a day. It’s all about being first in line. Most landlords will respond to and show places to people in the order in which they were contacted. So if you like a place, get in there!

Be picky about what you go look at

This is the one thing I’m always really careful about—I don’t go look at a place unless it checks off most of the boxes on my list. Looking for an apartment is a lot of work, and you can burn out really fast if you’re not discerning. So if you’re just not quite feeling it, skip it. Wait for the ones you can’t wait to go see. Those are always the ones I end up getting and loving.

Crunch the numbers

Know your budget, but also take into consideration what’s included in any given lease. If an apartment is $200 over your budget, but it’s a mother-in-law suite that includes all utilities with cable, well, that’s a pretty sweet deal. The “too-high” rent is probably equal to what you’d pay for rent plus utilities anyway. On the other hand, if the rent is at your happy place but water/sewer/garbage is an extra $150 a month, all of sudden your rent just got steep. And what’s the parking situation—is that extra? Ask all those questions over the phone or via email so you don’t waste your time looking at something you can’t afford.

Be vocal when you’re interested

This seems super obvious: Tell the landlord if you’re interested in the apartment. Duh, right? Well, a couple times I almost lost apartments because, for one reason or another, I didn’t make it clear that I wanted the place. So if you want it, let them know it, and show up ready to fill out an application—the polite equivalent of looking ’em right in the eye and saying, “Mine.”

Wait for what you really want—it’s out there

Committing to the right apartment is a little like finding the right time to jump into double-dutch jump ropes. It’s always going to involve a little bit of uncertainty, and sometimes you just have to jump in. Here’s the little rule that I’ve always made decisions by: Moving is hard, so when you see something that actually gets you excited to move, that’s the one—you’ve found your apartment. Now, grab it before someone else does!