6 Foolproof Tactics for Finding a Great Apartment

Moving season has been in full effect since May and it continues until the end of August. This is usually a time where people close one chapter in their lives to start a new one. This includes graduating college, landing a new job, becoming a new college student, or blossoming into parenthood. I have learned over the years that you have to be very tactful into finding a nice apartment that balances all of your needs and wants and created 6 foolproof tactics for finding a great apartment.

I have the honor in creating my first guest post with the lovely Danyell! I have not been in the blogging world for a long time, but I am excited to have this opportunity! I thought that her writing style and the subjects that she talks about coincides with some of the things that I want to exude in my blog. I wanted to contribute with her series of apartment living and share my experience on rocking the quest of finding a great apartment with these steps.

1. Make sure your budget for rent is no more than 25% of your take home pay.

If you listen to Dave Ramsey, you know that he really believes that renters should avoid being “house poor”. The old me would cringe when I heard a leasing agent say, “you need to make 3 times more than the rent” because I used to think that I would be fine making just a little over double the rent. I finally understand that you need to make 4 times more than your rent to ensure that you are going to be able to put food on your table, pay bills, and have a social life. Let’s not forget being able to furnish your place!

If you are afraid that you cannot afford rent on your own, I would strongly suggest getting a roommate (if not a significant other) to alleviate the financial burden. If you have a friend who has a similar lifestyle, living together would be great! After combining incomes, you now have a starting point. Don’t be tempted to go higher! You may save 3 months projected rent and deposit and gauge your credit score.

2. Familiarize yourself with you area of choice.

Are you looking for an apartment in a big city, suburban neighborhood, or a rural town? Whatever the area, we do not want to live in an area where we feel unsafe. I look up area codes and research the crime/school ratings before exploring further. I then use Google Maps searching everything in proximity.

Ask yourself these questions:
- How far am I willing to be from school or work?
- Do I need to be in an area with public transportation?
- Umm… Where is the nearest Publix or Wally World?!

Narrow all of this down!

3. Consider the amenities that you desire (within reason).

This is where things can get tricky if your must-haves exceed your budget! My main must-have is a washer/dryer in the apartment. Some may just want an onsite laundry facility, which is totally fine. Know what’s best for you given your budget.

Ask yourself these questions:
- Does the apartment need to have a pool or gym onsite?
- Are utilities included? (I lived in an apartment with concierge garbage pickup. I was convenient, but not necessary!)
- Does cable need to be included? (Lived in an apartment with cable hookups… it was TERRIBLE! I would suggest getting great internet and split the cost of an Apple TV!)

4. Begin your smart research for a great apartment.

Notice I did not say perfect, but I did say smart. You have to remember that things are not going to be like everyone else’s and you cannot try to keep up with the Jones’ because you may be just starting out in adulthood. Upon your search, I would recommend starting on reputable sites, such as Trulia and Zillow. After narrowing down your favorites, look up the websites of the apartment complexes to ensure continuity in their photos along with the reviews. I would suggest looking at the reviews within the year. From experience, most people who take the time to write a comment has had a horrible experience that most do not face.

5. Visit the perspective locations.

Now it is time to contact your favorite apartment complexes. Before stepping foot in a leasing office be ready to have your proof of income. Print out paystubs from the last 3-6 months to show consistent income. If you do not have “regular” income (i.e.: full time blogger or entrepreneur, this post, http://business.tutsplus.com/articles/proof-of-income-a-freelance-problem--fsw-3098, is helpful!) Looking for apartment during the peak seasons may have a time constraint for commitment. Don’t rush at lightning speed, but know when you are able to sign the lease. Organize a list of all of your apartments visited and note the professionalism of the leasing agents. When you go into the model apartments look at the areas surrounding them. Some apartment complexes like to segregate the model apartments from everything in hopes that you overlook any flaws.

Upon your visits, note the following:
- In a gated community ensure the gate works.
- Are two entryways? Look and assess both!
- Look at the upkeep of the pool and community entertainment section!
- Are people just sitting outside just “hanging out”?

6. Read your lease... and read it thoroughly.

Your lease is not just some user agreement that you will be just signing to hurry the agent to get the key (like we do when agreeing to sign up for something online). You must look through it and comprehend what it says. Know that you will be committed to this lease for at least a year (or longer/shorter depending on the agreement). Know the fees of everything listed. For example, if you did not have a pet upon moving in, what are the fees if you deicide to get a pet in the future? If you don’t understand your lease, ask questions. You also want to know the grace period in paying rent and forms of payment accepted.

Another example is subletting (Great info found here http://www.forbes.com/sites/trulia/2014/07/18/how-to-sublet-your-apartment/). This is when you have someone takes over your rent for you upon a circumstance where you had to leave, but did not want to break the lease. Some apartments do not allow subletting so be sure that you are following all of the proper procedures.

Living on your own is tough! Renting an apartment may be one of the first things that you do when making that real transition into adulthood, but it shouldn’t have to be the most daunting. I hope these tactics has helped you into knowing how to get the apartment that you can make a home! Breath and take that key… then follow the initial inspection. Smile because you are now out on your own in this big, beautiful world.

1) Tell us a bit about yourself
I am a twenty-something year old mother of one beautiful toddler girl and soon-to-be bride living in metro-Atlanta. I am a college graduate who is planning on returning school to acquire an MBA with a concentration in Accounting to become a CPA. I have a passion for personal finance, DIY projects, and strives to deliver her journey through self-enrichment through her transparency of her blog.

2) How have you used these tips in your personal life?
I have a little too much with experiencing different rentals from roommates, on/off campus housing, and now a rental home. I used pretty much all of the tips above in my personal experience with finding rentals (especially stalking Google Maps to map out everything in an area of interest), but the most important part of the process, I used to lack. What I did not know until now was the 50/20/30 system (where the 25% of income for rent came to place) to allot certain amount of income to different aspects of your life. If I can give pivotal information about setting early financial responsibility and avoid the mistakes I have made, I would feel pretty awesome!

3) What are some of your goals for this year?
My most important goal for his year includes more facing fears through self-development. I live a life where I take on so much and forget about myself. I find that life is so much better when you are tending to your own needs and following your dreams big or small. Another goal I have for this year is being able to balance it all! I wear many hats in my life and keeping afloat is vital. Finally, this year I just started my blog and my goal for my “baby” is growing a community and network with an array of other lovely bloggers and social outreach to improve my readership. I find so much peace in using my blog as an outlet and would love to see it grow as a business in the near future.