Published February 18, 2013
Hunting for an apartment is stressful. What’s important, though, is that you don’t let the stress ruin your decision-making. This can be harder than it sounds: When overwhelmed, some people settle on the first passable apartment they find simply so they can end the hunt (and the stress) as soon as possible. Other people get so jittery and analytical that they’re unable to pull the trigger -- and they miss out on their dream place because of it.
While you may not be able to control your level of stress during your apartment hunt, there are a few rules to determine whether an apartment is right for you:
Is this the first place you’ve seen?
If so, don’t take it just yet. See at least three other places. It’s too easy to make a rookie mistake if you don’t have any comparables.
Is this the neighborhood you wanted?
Before you start looking at apartments, you should be scouting neighborhoods. Your neighborhood is going to be one of the primary reasons you like or don’t like your apartment, so it’s important that you stick to those neighborhoods you like. It’s easy to be swayed by a cheaper place a few miles away, or to look at a bargain one-off listing in a neighborhood you’re unfamiliar with. If the neighborhood’s not right, you’re not going to feel right.
Is the management company reputable?
This is the company that will be responsible for fixing any apartment problems you may have, that will hold your security deposit and receive your monthly rent payments. Check it out with the Better Business Bureau, as well as online review sites such as Yelp. If your city has a listing of deadbeat landlords, check to see if the management company is on it. Why? A bad landlord will make your life miserable, no matter what else is right with the apartment. You should feel comfortable trusting them. If you don’t, you should pass.
How does this place stack up to others you’ve seen?
This is a good litmus test, especially if you’ve been hunting for a while. Think of the two or three best places you’ve seen thus far, and compare them to the one you’re considering. Your final choice should be the best … or as good as the one you just missed out on, if you had a near-miss in your searching past.
Does the place match your top criteria?
Before you head out, you should determine which things are most important to you in an apartment and rank them. Criteria can include price, amount of natural light, whether the place has a doorman, availability of parking -- basically, anything that you need in a place to feel happy. You shouldn’t compromise on the top three things on your list. The rest, you should be more flexible with, but try to get as many as possible.
If you find a place that hits it out of the park with your top three, with only minor compromises on the rest, then go for it.
Are you receiving a lot of pressure?
While it’s true that in some rental markets you need to decide the same day, be wary of a broker or management company that wants you to decide immediately. Leasing an apartment is a big decision, and you should take some time to think on it (preferably at least a night to sleep on it). If you’re getting undue pressure, take a step back. Hard sales tactics are usually a sign that it’s in the salesperson’s best interest for you to say yes, not necessarily yours. So call a relative or friend and talk it over. Go through your checklist once more. Just don’t say yes simply because some broker is hounding you.
Does it feel right?
Last, but not least, is the karma or feng shui -- or whatever you call that feeling -- right? When you walk into a place, it should click. You should be excited, and you shouldn’t have to spend much time talking yourself into it. The vibe will be right, and you’ll immediately be able to picture your couch over there, your dining room table in this nook, your framed photograph on that wall. If you picture yourself walking in after a hard day at work and just feeling at peace, you know you’ve found your place!
MyFirstApartment.com helps novice renters successfully navigate the first year of living on their own. The blog shares proven tips and tricks for everything from finding the perfect rental or roommate, to furnishing on a small budget or no budget, to dealing with landlords or roommate’s girlfriends.
Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.