9 tips before you start apartment hunting

By 

Lighthouse

Updated

June 23, 2022

9 tips before you start apartment hunting

The process of packing up and moving into a new home is entirely understated. It's never been just about putting items in the right boxes or making sure you can get your couch through the door. There's a whole list of boxes that need checking off before you move into your new apartment. 

A successful move usually starts with good prep. You have to find a nice rental unit (preferably one with a friendly landlord). Only once you sign your new lease should you begin booking moving companies or trucks. 

But here's the thing. There are quite a few steps to take between those two points. That's why we've made a series on moving into a new apartment. This is the first part and includes pointers to note when moving homes. 

Take a look at the rundown! 

  1. Rent prices aren't everything
  2. Check building reviews
  3. Compare ad pictures to the actual unit
  4. Don't view a model of the rental unit
  5. See if the landlord will pay for upgrades
  6. Find out the cost of apartment utilities
  7. Do a move-in inspection
  8. Don't be afraid to ask questions
  9. Watch out for rental scams

Let's get started!

Price isn't everything 

It's pretty easy to get tunnel vision when looking for a rental apartment. This is even more true for people trying to save some cash. Ever heard people say that more expensive products equal better quality? While that might not be true for those pricey Yeezy sneakers, renting is a different story.

More expensive rent could mean a safer location, more amenities, or a larger unit.

It's also no surprise that living in a city center comes with a hefty price tag. If you're looking for the most expensive rent, you'll find it there. Living on the outskirts of downtown or the suburbs will instantly lower rent costs. 

You'll have to evaluate your top priorities. Are you willing to sacrifice something to get cheaper rent? Write a list to weigh your pros and cons! 

Check building reviews 

Most people won't even try out a new restaurant without looking at reviews. Why should your potential future home be any different? 

Nowadays, almost all rental buildings are owned by management companies. Lucky (or unlucky) for them, most will have websites or pages where you can find reviews. 

Oftentimes, you can find Google reviews for them. Social platforms like Reddit, Facebook, or even word of mouth could also be useful when reviewing apartments. 

Rental management can make or break your tenancy. It's better to do your research and be safe knowing you have a good landlord. 

Compare the rental ad pictures to the actual unit

Ever seen a product online that looks completely different in person? I think we've all been there. Apartments don't get a pass in this matter either. 

Professional lighting and retouching can make a unit look like a million bucks. Take a good look at the images in the ad and compare them to the real unit.

Are the appliances the same? Does it look a lot more worn than in the pictures? You should consider all these factors! 

Don't view a model of the rental unit

Playing off the last point, always make sure you view the exact rental unit you're looking to rent. Many landlords love to show a newly renovated unit. 

Sometimes, you'll also realize that the unit they're showing has a different layout. Of course, moving into a slightly different apartment isn't that big of a deal. 

Yet, some people might not want that apartment that barely gets natural light as opposed to the other. Or maybe the bathroom and kitchen layout don't sit well with you. 

These little differences could always change how you feel in an apartment!

See if the landlord will pay for upgrades

We are no strangers to ugly or outdated rental units. I once lived in an apartment with pretty damaged (and outright gross) kitchen flooring. They were straight out of the 60s- mucky green vinyl floors. 

Luckily, after speaking to my landlord, he actually let me replace the floor! I was able to pick out the flooring, and he reimbursed 75% of the cost. 

If you like a unit, but there's just one thing you would like to replace, take this chance to ask about it. You would be surprised at how many landlords will help pay for small renovations or changes. 

Find out the cost of apartment utilities

The older the building, the more likely it'll be that you'll have higher apartment utility costs. This isn't always the case. Yet, renovated apartments usually come with lower electric bills because of energy-efficient features. 

More often than not, older apartments will have appliances that look like they're straight out of the 90s. Those eat up a lot of energy. Not to mention that poor ventilation or drafty windows will also run your energy bill. 

If the apartment is newly renovated (but in an old building), chances are you're in the clear. You should still inquire about the price range of utilities for the unit. The last thing you want is to be paying an absurd amount on electricity. 

Do a move-in inspection 

Next on your list, you should be checking every nook and cranny of the units you're viewing. There's a whole list of questions that should be answered when looking for an apartment. 

In my very first apartment, windows had locks on them. That meant I could only open them a sliver (which was terrible during those humid summer days). 

Many others find issues only after they move in, so the little things are worth checking. Once you sign that lease, it'll be hard to get out of it without any financial penalties. 

Don't be afraid to ask questions 

You probably know the saying- there are no stupid questions. Don't forget about this when you're looking to move into a new apartment. 

Landlords are usually trying to sell you a product- their rental units. If you're unsure or confused about something, ask as many questions as possible. It'll get the landlord talking and your uncertainties will get cleared up. 

If you find that the landlord dodges or refuses to answer certain questions, take that as a red flag. Respectable landlords will be open books and willing to help you out! 

Watch out for rental scams 

Just like any other fraud, rental scams have run rampant all over the US. An estimated 43% of renters have come across a fraudulent rental ad (myself included). 

Watch out for common signs as scams such as: 

  • Landlords asking for payment without a lease
  • Landlords who are not willing to do an in-person viewing
  • Rental ads that have grammar errors 
  • The unit is very (and suspiciously) cheap
  • They want you to move in right away

The last thing any renter needs when looking to move into a new home is losing money to scammers. Stay vigilant and follow your gut feeling. If the ad seems off, chances are that you're right! 

Conclusion

This concludes this first part of our moving into a new apartment series. You can find part two here! We're giving you a moving-in checklist and moving timelines you should follow. We hope this article can help you out during your initial search. 

For those who are still looking to move into a new apartment, consider looking with Lighthouse! We offer cash back on your rent when you sign a new lease. Move into a nice home and save a few hundred bucks! Check us out here!  

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