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Apartment Hunting: What to Know When You Want to Move

Updated on April 29, 2012

Looking for a change of scenery? Tired of your old roommates or ready to move out on your own?

Apartment hunting can be everything from tiresome, to complex, to downright confusing if you don't know what you're looking for or what the right questions are to ask. If you don't know the in's and out's of apartment hunting, you could end up in a nightmare of an apartment, or dealing with a demon of a landlord.

Read through the basics in this Hub, check out some local apartment listings and take one or two trusted friends or family members with you to give you an honest opinion.

Sometimes those who care about you will notice things about the location or neighbors that could be unsavory while you're being distracted by the flowery descriptions of the landlord. Always do your research!

Things to Know Before Going to an Apartment

Your time is important, so don't waste it going to apartments you haven't already fully researched.

  • Carefully read through reviews. Make sure to plug the name of an apartment into your search engine of choice and research like you're going to write a paper on it! Be wary of reviews that seem overly positive as it's not uncommon for apartment owners to post favorable (and not entirely honest) reviews of their complex. Take extremely negative reviews with a grain of salt.
  • Check the neighborhood thoroughly on Google Maps and look up several of the businesses or residences nearby. Look up crime reports for the area and gather as much data as you can about the level of safety in the neighborhood. Nothing is more important. The apartment can be the best thing you've ever seen, but it won't help much if it get's broken into every other month.
  • Establish a budget and review costs and amenities. Don't go over your budget when you're looking at potential apartments. Set aside money for renters insurance. Not only is this good for you should some unforeseen circumstance arise , but it also helps put landlords at ease. Be sure you know if utilities are included or not.
  • Ask around. It never hurts to get even more opinions on a potential new home for you. Ask your friends, neighbors, family members and colleagues what they've heard about a particular apartment complex. Information is power.

Things to Know While Looking at Apartments

Call the landlord or renter of a complex you're interested in and set up an appointment to view the apartment. By this time you should know the relative cost of rent, utilities, insurance and a deposit. If the apartment complex has a website with floor plans, you should be up to date on what floor plans there are.

  • Know How Apartment Maintenance Works. Some apartments, especially college apartments have cleaning checks, where your apartment is checked for cleanliness and tenants are charged if everything is not in order. Make sure you ask about the policies about cleanliness and what to do should something break. Be sure to ask about response time and the possibility of extra fees.
  • Double check all the information you researched. Websites and reviews may be out of date according to new policies. Ask the landlord or renter about all the information you've researched and read. Ask them their opinions on the neighborhood and social scene. Get to know the landlord as best you can and take note of their behavior and personality.
  • Ask about any policies regarding visitors or decorations. Some apartments have very fine print regarding extra costs for guests who may stay the night, or what types of wall decorations you can put up. Be sure you know what's allowed as you tour the apartment.
  • Ask what apartment you would be moved into, should you buy a contract. Some apartment complexes can be sneaky, and will show you their nicest apartments, leading you to believe that the others will be just as nice, when in reality the rest will be sadly lacking. Ask to see a room on the other side of the building and consider which view you would like best, if that's important to you.
  • Ask to see a contract example. Be sure you read through it thoroughly and understand the finer points. It's best to do this at the conclusion of your appointment, when the landlord is still around to clarify information in the contract you may not understand.
  • Ask about roommates and private rooms. If at all possible, ask to meet potential roommates ahead of time and get to know them. If you have them and can afford it, search for apartments with private rooms that have locking doors. Your roommates may forget to lock the front door on occasion, or you just may not feel comfortable with some of the guests they have over. A locking door can be a lifesaver.

Bad Roommates?

Have you had awful roommates before? Share your stories and advice in the comments section below!

Things to Know as a New Apartment Owner

Now that you know as much as possible about all possible apartments, make your informed decision carefully. Be sure there's enough room for your belongings, and if at all possible, know your roommates before moving in.

I just finished apartment shopping, and I moved into an awesome apartment, except for my three roommates who speak Spanish 24/7 and steal my eggs. It's not the best situation, and roommates can make or break your apartment experience. I wish I had asked about roommates before I moved in.

Be sure to keep on good terms with your renter or landlord and keep them updated on any problems with your new apartment. When you move in conduct a thorough inspection of your apartment. Write down things that are broken or poor quality. Make note of chips or scratches on the furniture or paint and make sure your landlord knows they existed before you moved in. You don't want to get charged for something you didn't do.

Enjoy your new apartment and the new change of scenery. If this is your first time on your own, enjoy the freedom, but be sure to meet your neighbors and get to know people in the neighborhood.


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    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 5 years ago from Western NC

      I have not had the pleasure of apartment hunting: I've always lived in a house of one sort or other, but sometimes with roommates. But the information is good here and very sound. It pays to research and find out because you don't want to have renter's remorse and be stuck in a lease that you want to break. Votes up! :)

    • theclevercat profile image

      Rachel Vega 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Room inspection is a great idea! I wish I had thought of that when I was seeking my first apartment. Voted up and useful.