The 23 Best Apartment-Finding Tips of All Time

published Nov 8, 2020
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Finding a new apartment can be a pretty intimidating—and frustrating—experience. There’s nothing quite like the stress that comes with packing up all your stuff, moving out before someone else is due in, enduring the struggle of looking for apartments, and waiting for application decisions. But it doesn’t have to be that hard. Over the years, real estate agents and apartment experts have bestowed their wisdom to Apartment Therapy. Follow these 23 tips—some of their best advice—for finding a new rental and you’ll be prepared for anything.

Start looking at the right time

1. Begin apartment hunting a couple months in advance of your target move-in date, especially if you’re moving to an in-demand city. Listings can change (and hit the market) by the hour.

2. To avoid competition, consider looking at places on the outskirts of the city for the same feel but with a lower cost and more availability.

Work with the experts

3. Try working with an apartment brokerage; they already have landlord contacts.

4. Similarly, know when to stop working with them if you’re not getting good results.

Know what you could be getting into

5. Watch for red flags, like a subpar reviews online or potential landlord who refuses to communicate with you.

6. If you see something you don’t like—such as chipping paint or a leaky faucet—see if you can negotiate for upgrades before passing on the place.

7. Double-check lease lengths. You don’t want to expect a year’s lease only to discover it’s a short-term rental, or on the other hand, a two-year contract.

8. Familiarize yourself with the different types of apartments and amenities available in your area. A kitchen and a kitchenette are not the same, neither is a studio apartment and an efficiency apartment.

9. Check potential apartments thoroughly for low water pressure, broken or unusable windows, and rotting floors.

If you need a new place at the last minute…

10. Don’t panic! There are plenty of listings still out there.

11. Check Craigslist and local rental aggregators for units available immediately.

12. Ask your network of friends and family if they know of any rentals.

13. Confirm your credit score is in good shape, and make sure to remove any errors in your credit report.

14. Look on social media, particularly in Facebook neighborhood groups, to see if any apartments are listed.

15. Remember to drive around the new neighborhood looking for “for rent” signs—a lot of private landlords won’t advertise with more than that.

16. Create a back-up plan so you don’t end up without a home in time, like finding an Airbnb or inexpensive hotel.

17. Clear your schedule for last-minute showings.

18. If you’re applying for multiple places, know the laws about credit reports. Some states don’t allow more than one potential landlord to pull your credit within 30 days. Make it easier on yourself by keeping all your application materials—including the credit report—in a folder or on a thumb drive to easily hand over to potential landlords.

And if you have pets? 

19. Be up front about how many pets you have and what type. You’re sure to lose an apartment if you lie about your pet situation.

20. If possible, bring your pet with you to look at rentals. That way you’ll be able to stave off some common pets-in-new-places problems like marking or running through screen doors.

21. Make sure your pet is up-to-date on shots, in case a potential landlord wants to verify vaccinations.

22. Check on the pet rent situation. Are pets free, or does the apartment require a pet deposit or pet rent? And are there breed restrictions?

Always remember to trust your instincts

23. Go with your gut. If you have a bad feeling about an apartment, the landlord, or the neighborhood, skip it.