The First Apartment-Hunting Step: Get Organized

Author: Alecia Pirulis

The Get-Moving Checklist

The Decision Is Made, Now Get Organized

You’ve made the decision to find an apartment. Whether it’s your first or your twenty-first, it’s still a big decision. And if you are moving to another state, the task can seem daunting. So, where to start?

The basics:

—What can you afford to pay? Be sure to consider moving expenses and leasing fees (some apartment complexes have fees such as first and last month’s rent, security deposit, and application fees). Decide upon the monthly rent you are willing to pay before you head out on your apartment search and don’t look at apartments beyond that range.

—Where are you going? Okay, maybe you know the state and perhaps you’ve narrowed it down to a handful of towns. But are you an urbanite, or do you prefer the quieter suburbs? Do you want to live near a park or a great shopping mall? Make a list of what your dream location would contain. Maybe you have the neighborhood already picked out – it may be a good idea to research nearby neighborhoods and decide on two or three as back-up locations.

—Research, research, research! You have your general area picked out, now it is time to find the perfect fit. Before you go anywhere, visit the city’s web site, find online community blogs, look up the school district information, and use online sites such as to learn what you can about your chosen locations.

—Once you know where, visit. If there’s an event or festival going on in a town you’re considering, choose that weekend to go apartment-hunting and take time to go to the event. Or visit a local restaurant or shopping plaza. Strike up conversations with residents – you can learn a lot, from areas to avoid to where to get the best BBQ. Most people enjoy talking about their community and they can be very candid.

—Once you’ve settled on a town and you have begun researching apartment communities, know what you want. Make a list of must-haves and deal-breakers. For example, is walking distance to public transit a must? Do you require a place that is pet-friendly? Is a noisy location (near train tracks, an airport, a racetrack) a deal-breaker? Will you need covered parking? A nearby storage unit? Be sure to write these down and take them with you – just in case that gorgeous kitchen blurs your vision. If the traffic outside, the train that passes by at 6am every morning, or the Friday night football game at the high school across the street is going to annoy you, that kitchen’s luster will dull very quickly.

–Be realistic. If a place is out of reach because of price or location, move on.