Apartment-hunting can be an arduous task — scanning through the classifieds, setting up appointments with landlords, being disappointed over and over again… All this can leave you emotionally & physically drained. But that’s how ordinary people look for ordinary apartments. You are looking for an apartment of your dreams – did I get that right?!
I’ve spent the past 2 months haunting every rental site in search of a place I could envision myself living in for the next 12 months. In the process, I learned things you couldn’t read anywhere else and no one will tell you, things I’d like to share with you. Read on to uncover my Top 6 Secrets to finding an Apartment of Your Dreams (AOYD)!
- Tip #1: AOYD is located in a city of your dreams.
You can move anywhere you like, so travel around and find a city that you love! It didn’t occur to me that I could leave New York until I visited the West Coast. Make some friends out of state and go visit them. Spend some time doing things they do — not just the touristy stuff — to get a feel for the pace/tone of the town.
- Tip #2: AOYD is more affordable with a 30-day notice.
Be sure to give your soon-to-be ex landlord a minimum of 30-day notice before you move out. Any less and they can legally keep your security deposit (which you need for AOYD, of course)! I didn’t know about this in my first apartment and only gave a 2 week’s notice (seemed like a reasonable time frame) and never got my money back. Learn from my mistakes, don’t do it!
- Tip #3: AOYD is probably listed on Craigslist.org.
Every apartment I’ve ever lived in (I’m on #3) came about as a result of a Craigslist listing. (I’ve even found jobs there back when I still did day jobs!) For the uninitiated, it’s a free classifieds website and a bottomless resource for all things buy/sell/trade/connect. Go get acquainted!
- Tip #4: AOYD wants you to solve the neighborhood riddle.
Are you familiar with the neighborhoods? Before I moved to Los Angeles, I knew nothing about the city, so I emailed all my LA friends for advice and read up on various LA neighborhoods on Wikipedia. You can learn such things as history, demographics, crime rate, and more. For instance, I learned that Toluca Lake was an affluent neighborhood with residents such as Miley Cyrus. Woot woot!
Google Maps is another brilliant resource. If available, you can throw in an address & ‘walk’ through the streets (keep zooming in until it turns into a picture). It’s like a free 360-degree tour in the comfort of your own home! Keep in mind that Google Maps is NOT a substitute for a real-life experience — I’ve seen neighborhoods that looked good on Google that turned out to be less than pleasant — and you should never make a decision just based on what you see on-screen.
- Tip #5: Know what you want.
In other words, have you decided what your AOYD looks like? Even if you haven’t, a good place to start is by looking at what’s available on the market. Set your price limit and look at every listing (don’t forget to enable a ‘has image’ box, listings without pictures are a waste of time!). Some apartments will make you cringe (skip those) and some will pique your curiosity (print those out*).
You & AOYD will reunite sooner if you know exactly what you’re looking for aesthetic-wise. Do you picture yourself in a Spanish-style bungalow, a 1930s Art Deco gem, or a sleek modern apartment? When examining the photos, pay special attention to kitchens and bathrooms — these are the rooms you’ll be able to modify the least, so be sure they look like something you could live with.
*A few words on printing. There are times when saving trees is appropriate, but this is one of those occasions when it’s so worth the ink. Having all the listings physically in front of you will keep your search organized, plus you can take notes right on the sheet such as square footage, owner’s phone number, address, etc. Also, remember that Craigslist listings expire in 7 days — having a hard back-up copy saved my hump on more than one occasion!
- Tip #6: Be ready to act fast.
It may take a month to find an AOYD, or it might take a day. Whatever fate might have in store, be prepared to act fast! When you see something you like, call/email the owner immediately and ask when you can stop by to see it. I don’t recommend *seriously* looking for apartments remotely, unless you know you can commute in – I missed out on several what seemed like amazing LA places because I was stuck in NY and couldn’t check them out (and cried over it!). If you’re from out of town, ask a friend if they may kindly let you stay with them for a few days while you look.
How to dress for an apartment sighting
So you’ve got yourself an appointment — congratulations! So how do you dress to make a good impression? I always recommend looking like yourself, although slightly on the conservative side. If you’re an artist, you don’t want the landlord to think you’re a businessman, and vice versa. Present yourself accurately and respectably. I chose white hair over blue because while I know it’s just my way of self-expression, some people may misinterpret it to mean ‘party’ or ‘late rent’. Once I’m settled in and they get to know the wonderful & reliable me, I’m sure no one will care if my hair suddenly turns lavender. :)
To paint or not to paint?
As someone who loves color and re-decorating, I’ve learned that it’s always a good idea to ask the landlord upfront if they’re ok with your re-decorating prior to signing on the dotted line. Some landlords won’t care, some will even allow a paint budget, others will be dead against it; either way it’s good to know in advance. My new apartment comes with horrible coffee-brown walls; I’m happy our landlady let us paint!
A word on landlords
Don’t sign the lease if the landlord seems mean/pushy/untrustworthy — no apartment is worth it!!! This is the person you’ll be dealing with for the next 6-12 months, depending on your lease, and they can, literally, make your life a living hell. A good landlord is open, reasonable & accommodating and keeps your happiness high on their priority list.
GOOD LUCK & HAPPY HUNTING!