Securing a great apartment in a tight rental market is not an easy task to accomplish, but it’s far from impossible. As of 2015, 52 of the U.S.’ largest 100 cities house more renters than buyers, meaning everyone will have some stiff competition to face when looking for their dream home. Nonetheless, a little bit of know-how, preparation, and willingness to compromise can make the process of finding a rental in a big city much easier on you. Here are some tips on tracking down that white whale of an apartment — and actually making it your own.
Know What You Want
Before beginning your search, you’ll need to determine the features you’re going to be looking for. Do you want a small studio that you and your cat can cozy up in, or are you looking for a two bedroom apartment to share with a roommate? Do you want something with a little personality, or is it more important for you to be as close to work or school as possible? Will it matter what kind of neighborhood you live in, or are happy to hang your hat wherever’s most convenient? Once you know exactly what you want, you’ll be able to narrow your options down and quickly find a place that meets your criteria.
Know What You Don’t Want
It sounds silly, but it can also be very useful to know the things you don’t want your next apartment to include. For instance, you might not want to live near a train station because of the constant rattling and shaking you’d experience there. You might also find the prospect of living in a neighborhood with a high crime rate, or that’s really far from work, unappealing. Knowing what you don’t want can even be more useful than knowing what you do want sometimes, especially when you want to eliminate a lot of options in a short period of time.
Set a Budget
It’s important to set a maximum budget for yourself before embarking on an apartment hunt. Without establishing any kind of parameter, you run the risk of falling in love with a place that’s way beyond your price range. Remember, you should only be spending about 30 percent of your monthly income on rent.
Scour the Internet for Listings
When looking for your dream apartment, it’s in your best interest to religiously scour online listings for a promising unit within your budget. Check sites like Craigslist, Zillow, and, of course, Apartment Ratings, on a daily basis for the latest updates on listings near you. If you’re one of the first people to inquire about a particular apartment, you’re sure to have the upper hand over any renters that express interest later on.
After you’ve made an appointment to look at the place, you’ll need to assemble the necessary materials for putting an application in, including a checkbook (yes, a checkbook — not cash or a credit card) to pay the fee, official documentation of your credit score, and proof of employment. If you really want to give yourself an edge, try asking your current landlord for a letter of recommendation. Bring a couple of copies with you when meeting with a prospective landlord.
If you have a pet but your dream listing claims to be pet-free, consider getting a note from a vet or previous landlord that explains it’s well behaved and would make a fine tenant. The property owner can still turn you down, but going the extra mile will never hurt your chances.
Be Flexible in Your Search
Unless you’re ultra rich and have unlimited income, there’s going to come a point in time when you realize your budget won’t be able to get you everything you’d want in an apartment. If you live in a city center, you’re probably going to have to compromise on space. To find a roomy apartment with lots of charm, consider looking at units in less populated parts of town. Even if you do manage to find something spacious in an ideal location, it’s going to come with a set of surprising quirks that you’ll have to learn to adjust to. Finding creative solutions to these problems is just part of apartment living.
No matter how set you are on a certain unit, you must be willing to compromise. You might not get that place with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the cute built-ins, but if it’s got enough space to host a dinner party and allows you to bring your dog with you, it’s an apartment worth calling home.