I Lost 3 Apartments at the Last Minute. Here Are My 5 Tips for Finding a New Place Quickly

published Apr 8, 2020
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My most recent apartment search was a massive lesson in patience. I started two months in advance, booking viewings through an apartment brokerage. I found a place in Chicago quickly, paid a security deposit, and then waited for the lease… and waited… and waited. It never came. Two weeks later, the landlord finally replied to about 20 calls, emails, and texts with, “We decided to keep the apartment on the market.” No other explanation.

So I started over, booking more viewings through the brokerage, and with some other agents as well. Again, I found a place quickly. Again, I paid a security deposit, and again, I waited. Mysteriously, I lost this apartment too, with the landlord suddenly deciding no dogs were allowed. Luckily, I got both deposits back.

Third time’s the charm, right? This round, I asked some friends for help. One knew a landlord who was able to get me in to see a place right away. The woman moving out was closing on a condo. I liked the place, the landlord liked me, and all looked good to go. Until it wasn’t. The condo deal fell through, and I lost yet another apartment.

At this point, my current lease was about to end. Another person was slated to move in, and I began to get really worried. I fully expected to be living out of the car with my dogs. Lucky for me, the new tenant decided not to move and my landlord agreed to push my lease out a month. And then I went back to the drawing board.

If you’re in the same situation I was, there’s a good chance you’re freaking out. But don’t panic! You have some tools at your disposal. Here are the steps I took to quickly find a new place.

Find out why you lost the lease

This may make the difference in whether you find a place—it did for me. If it’s credit-related, generally landlords are legally required to tell you that. And they’ll often tell you if they just went with an application that got in sooner. But I had to do some sleuthing to discover why I was mysteriously losing places. The broker I was working with was being shifty and full of excuses. I ended up having to do a deep-dive into my account on their website to find the credit report they pulled, and discovered that it was pulled twice and lumped into one incorrect report, showing hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt and a really low score. After repeated requests for them to fix it, no one ever followed through. So I dropped the company.

Reach out to your network

Rely on your friends! After every apartment I lost, I posted on Instagram and Facebook asking if anyone knew of any places. Every time, I got tons of replies. The best responses came from Facebook neighborhood groups for where I wanted to move—the people on the ground there will be your best resource.

Consider alternative housing options

I looked at alternate housing options just in case I didn’t find a place in time. That meant pricing out two weeks’ worth of stays at hotels, Airbnbs, or other lodging options, plus two weeks of a storage unit. Pro tip: If you have dogs and find yourself in this situation, Red Roof Inn is inexpensive and allows pets. That was my first choice.

Do your own search

This is how I found my new place. When the agents and rental companies weren’t able to help, I trawled Craigslist, the Chicago-specific site Domu, PadMapper, and Zillow. I set up appointments on my own and booked two days full of viewings back to back. Check every day and reach out to as many as possible.

Clear your schedule for the search, if you can

Since you’re on a time crunch, you’ll want to make sure you are able to see places as soon as you find them. I booked appointments for as little as a half hour after I discovered the place to begin with. If you can’t get there in person, ask for a virtual tour through a video chat.

Ultimately, I found an amazing place with almost everything I wanted in an apartment—plus a stellar landlord who is incredibly helpful and responsive. And you will too. Just take a deep breath, and take control of the situation as much as you can.