As you probably expect, finding the perfect apartment is a difficult task.

There are many options and these vary tremendously from city to city.

When you begin apartment hunting you will find there are many resources that are available to you.  The web has a few good sites and by doing a search for the city you will be moving to, you can come up with numerous listings for rentals.  Narrow these listings down to apartments and make a list of the specifics you are looking for.

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These listings will give you an idea of the scope of the rental market in the area you are looking at.  You will be able to determine the number of rentals available, the general price range expected, and the lease options that are offered.

Spread the word!  Tell people that you are looking for an apartment, especially if you are looking in the area that you already live in. It's surprising how many apartment rentals never make it onto the market because they have a waiting list or "someone knows someone."  Tell everyone you know want you want.

If you are locating to another area due to work, let your new employer and co-workers know what you are looking for.  Often companies will help their new employees locate a new residence.

Typically good places to look for an apartment:

  • Internet and web searches
  • Word-of-mouth
  • Newspapers
  • Smaller trade papers
  • Rental magazines
  • Bulletin boards at school, work, grocery stores, and laundromats
  • Fliers posted on telephone poles or signboards.

When you are shopping for an apartment, look at advertisements with small audiences, rather than at large complexes with large newspaper listings if you are looking for a better value and an apartment with personality.

What type of apartment are you considering?  Here is some apartment terms that will help you determine what you are wanting:

  • Walk-up:  This means it is above the ground floor with no elevator.
  • Duplex:  This it has two apartments connected in one building.  In some areas it can also mean a two-level apartment.
  • Townhouse:  Generally referring to a two-level apartment where the main living area is on the first level and the sleeping area is on the second level.
  • Alcove:  A partly enclosed area connected to a room.  This will usually refer to the sleeping quarters.
  • Studio:  A one room or one room apartment with a small kitchen.  The living area and sleeping quarters are all-in-one.
  • Junior one-bedroom:  This is usually referring to a tiny room off of the living room which may only have room for a bed.

If you are looking at ads in the newspaper for your apartment you might encounter some unusual abbreviations!  Some of the most common abbreviations you will see are:

  • H/W - Means the apartment has hardwood flooring
  • DW - It has a dishwasher
  • EIK - An eat-in-kitchen or meaning there probably isn't a dining room
  • WIC - Walk-in-closet
  • W/D - Includes a washer and dryer
  • W/D Hookups - Meaning there is space for a washer and dryer and it is plumbed for these appliances.  You will need to find out if the dryer has electric or gas hook ups.

When you go to look at possible places, make a list of things you want to check.  Once you move in, you will want to have these possible issues resolved or answered.

  • Light switches - Make sure they all work.
  • Hot water - Do you have your own hot water source or do you share with others.
  • Leaks - Check the cupboards under all of the sinks to make sure there are no water leaks.
  • Windows - Do you have coverings, do you open and close, and are they all unbroken?
  • Heat - What is the heat source?  Do you have your own thermostat?  Is there an extra charge for utilities?
  • Air Conditioning - This can be extremely important in some areas.  What type of air conditioning, if any, is provided?
  • Appliances - What appliances are included?  Do you have to furnish your own?  What size will fit? 
  • Parking - Is there ample parking spaces available?
  • Storage - Is there any additional storage provided?
  • Damages - Note and point out all damages to the apartment before signing any lease and moving in. 
  • Toilet - Make sure all toilets flush well.
  • Noise level - Is there a lot of noise from the next apartments, street, or airport?  
  • Pests - Check for signs of bugs and rodents.
  • Pets - If you own a pet, are they allowed? Is there an extra fee charged for having pets?
  • Extra perks - Is there a pool, clubhouse, or other amenities included?

Before making any decision on renting or leasing an apartment, talk to the neighbors for a more unbiased point of view.  Ask questions about the neighborhood and the landlord.   If possible, take time to take a walk around the area and make sure you feel safe.  Try to visit the neighborhood not only during the day, but also at night.  The night crowd is often dramatically different that what you will encounter during the day.

Don't feel bad about telling someone that you are not interested if you don't find what you are looking for in your apartment hunting.  Always counter offer on the asking price.  You might be able to negotiate a better deal on your monthly rent, especially if the apartment has been empty for a while.

Be prepared for a credit check and have a letter of reference available when you decide on an apartment to rent.  You will probably be asked to sign a rental agreement or lease.  Read it carefully.  Do not take anyone's word for what it contains.  Double check what is required for a cleaning deposit, monthly rental price, and what you will need to do when you want to move out.  Is there a penality for late payments?  Make sure you understand the due date of your rent payment.  What insurance is provided, if any?

Determine who is responsible for all repairs such as fixing appliances.  Some landlords will only make repairs to permanent fixtures.  Confirm that the apartment will be clean and assessed for damages before you move in.  Do a thorough walk-through with the landlord to make this assessment. Ask to have damages repaired before you move in.

Find out the state laws regarding future rent increases to insure that you will never be surprised by a massive rent hike once you have everything in place. 

Make sure your privacy rights are spelled out.  Most states require landlords to provide an advance notice (usually 24 hours) before they are allowed to enter your apartment, unless there is an emergency.  Some landlords like to do a walk-through on a regular basis to insure that their property is being treated properly.  Expect some type of inspection occasionally.

Make sure you have everything in writing.  Keep a record of all payments and deposits that you make.  Keep a complete file with the lease or rental agreements and rental payments.  Before moving in, document any unrepaired property damages with photos and dates and keep these in the file. 

Make sure you do your part and try to be a good tenant and neighbor.