Find Your Perfect Apartment in 3 Steps

My best friend from college, Erin, called me a few weeks ago to tell me that her job is relocating her from Baltimore to the Metro-Detroit area.  I was excited for her and offered to help with her apartment hunt.  While helping Erin, I came up with an easy, three-step process to help her find an apartment.

Whether you are wrapping up school, relocating to a new city or maybe looking to downsize, you can use my process to find your perfect apartment.

Step One:  Must Haves, Nice to Haves, Could Live Without

When Erin was getting ready to look for an apartment, she had an idea of what she was looking for.  But when we really started thinking about it, her wish list began to grow.  Erin told me, “It must be pet-friendly for Fluffy, I need a dishwasher, laundry is a must, etc."  And before we knew  it, her vision became extremely difficult to find.

I devised a system to help Erin navigate through her wish list.  I suggested that she dividie a piece of paper into three areas:  Must Haves, Nice to Haves and Could Live Without.  Then categorize each item on her wish list into one of the buckets.  For instance, maybe pet-friendliness and a laundry facility in the complex fall under the Must Haves, while a dishwasher could be something she Could Live Without.  This process helped Erin narrow down her search, and helped her decide what she was willing to compromise on.

Step Two:  Knowing What You Can Afford

Erin had her list ready to go, but now she needed to determine how much she could afford each month.  Typically I recommend that housing expenses, such as rent and utilities, be approximately 25% of your budget.  But of course, this will vary by geographic location.  For example, rent in large cities such as New York, Washington, DC, and Los Angeles are going to be a larger portion of your budget due to the higher cost of living. 

Keep utilities in mind when calculating this figure.  Many apartment rentals include some or all utilities.  If the apartment or rental you are considering does not include utilities, be sure to account for this expense in your budget.  You could ask the current tenants for average utility costs, ask the landlord, or call the utility companies for an estimate. 

Step Three:  The Hunt

Now that she knew her price range and list of must haves, Erin was ready to find that perfect apartment.  I explained that there are several ways to search for an apartment.  You can find many different websites to search for an apartment.  For example, www.apartmentsearch.com.  Many websites offer the ability to narrow the search by location, price range and amenities.

Another option is to work with a real estate agent.  They are able to quickly match you with the type of apartment you are looking for, and can assist you by viewing these apartments.  It is important to keep in mind that there can be fees associated with working with an agent, so you will want to ask before getting started.

Now that Erin has gotten settled into her new apartment, it has been wonderful getting a chance to spend some time with her and her dog Fluffy.

Housing