There are a lot of ways to start fresh in a new year. You could pick up a new hobby. Many people start diets or purchase gym memberships.
If you’re looking for a really fresh start in 2020, how about a new apartment?
Moving gives you a new environment, new challenges, new friends, and new sights to see. Whether you’re moving for work, for love, to go to a new school, or just to get a change of scenery, moving to a new state in 2020 will give you a brand new start in the brand new year.
One of the hardest things about moving, no matter how far away your new home is, is choosing the perfect apartment. And when you’re moving to a new city or state, especially one you’re not super familiar with, it gets even harder.
Luckily, we’ve got the tips you need to find the perfect apartment in a new city without totally breaking the bank with house-hunting visits. Here’s what you need to know.
Go on a House Hunting Trip
There’s really no substitute for seeing places with your own eyes. If you’re able to, go on a trip to your new city ahead of time to check out some neighborhoods and tour some apartments firsthand. Try to schedule viewings in advance so you can pack in as many as possible, especially if your time is limited.
It’s also a good idea to time your visit within one to two months of your target move date. That way, if you see an apartment you like, you can be ready to apply for it then and there. Bring things like pay stubs to prove your income, a couple of forms of ID, and a checkbook so you can pay for deposits and application fees if needed.
It can be costly and time-consuming to make trips to your new home before you move, though, so if you’re unable to, don’t worry! There are still ways to make sure you find the perfect apartment.
Research the City As Much As Possible
No matter where you’re moving, and even if you’ve visited your new city before, the first step to finding the perfect apartment is to get online and do some research, perhaps you could look at rent reports in specific cities, like this one for example. Look for the city’s highlights, and start learning about different neighborhoods.
Which neighborhood is the right place for you to call home will depend a lot on your needs and what you value in the place where you live? Maybe you’re looking for a short and easy commute to work. Maybe you want a walkable neighborhood with grocery stores, banks, and other day-to-day tasks nearby. Maybe you want nightlife, culture, or the best cafes in the city.
Whatever you’re looking for, try to learn about what different neighborhoods that might suit your lifestyle by looking online. Chances are there’s a wealth of information about the highlights of your new city.
Ask People Who Are In the Know
Online research is a great start, but you’ll likely learn a lot more about different parts of the city by talking to people who already live there.
If you have an employer in the new city, reach out to them. Same thing if you have any friends or family who live there, or has lived there recently. Tell them about what you’re looking for, and see if they have any recommendations for neighborhoods that might be a good fit. Even if they don’t know themselves, they may be able to hook you up with a realtor, apartment broker, or another service, like Rentable, that will help you find the perfect home.
Make an Apartment Wish List
You can’t find the perfect apartment until you know what you want and need.
First decide what type of apartment you would like (studio, one-bedroom, two-bedroom, etc.) and then figure out your price range.
After that, make a list of features you want. Think about things like in-unit laundry, a dedicated parking space, utilities included in the rent, a doorman, a building gym, and counter space in the kitchen (seriously, never skimp on the kitchen). Knowing exactly what you want will make it easier to narrow down options during your search.
Search Apartments Online
Once you have your wish list perfected, it’s time to head online and start looking for apartments. Many apartment listing sites will allow you to filter your search results not only by how many bedrooms and bathrooms you’re looking for, but also specific neighborhoods, and certain amenities from your wish list. You can also use Rentable to filter for “pet-friendly” apartments and tons of other needs.
Combing through listings can take some time, but that’s where having a clear idea of what you want comes in handy, so you can narrow your search.
Find a Broker or Realtor You Trust
This step generally isn’t necessary for most cities or if you’re renting. But if you find yourself overwhelmed by searching for apartment options online on your own, it might be a good idea to call in a pro to help out.
The advantage is that brokers and realtors will know the area like the back of their hand. They may also get access to apartment listings before they go online for the general public to see, giving you a leg up on the competition.
The downside, of course, is that having professional help in the form of a broker, realtor, or other apartment finding service will be an added cost in your moving budget.
Ask Tons of Questions
Once you’ve found some apartment options you like, don’t sign a lease until you’ve asked tons of questions. Make sure you know everything you might need to know, all the way down to how many electrical outlets are in each room and where they’re placed.
Knowing as much as possible about your new home prevents you from having any surprises on move-in day, but here’s also a hidden benefit to this: You can pay attention to how the landlord communicates to learn even more. If they’re not forthcoming with information or take days at a time to respond to you, it may be a clue that renting from them will turn out to be a headache.
Even if an apartment looks great online, it can be a little nerve-wracking to sign for a place to live when you haven’t seen it in person. This is where modern technology can be really helpful.
Ask your future landlord to give you a walkthrough of the apartment via FaceTime or another video chatting app. If you have a friend, family member, or coworker in the area, they can take a tour and show you video, too.
At the very least, ask for pictures of every room, from multiple angles. This will help you get an idea of the apartment’s layout and makes it harder for the landlord to cover up any issues you would see in person.
Look for a Short Leasing Period to Start
When you’re doing most or all of your apartment search online, there’s always a fear in the back of your mind: “What if I sign a lease on a place it turns out I hate?”
You can put those fears to rest by looking for an apartment with a shorter leasing period to start — three to six months gives you enough time to get to know the city better and find an apartment you actually love, without locking you into spending a year in a home that doesn’t feel anything like home.
Don’t Sign Before You’ve Seen the Place
Before you sign a lease, you should do everything you can to see the place with your own eyes. Ask the landlord if it’s OK to wait to sign until you arrive and are able to make sure the apartment is as advertised.
If they’re not willing to do that, ask if they’ll include a clause in the lease that says you can back out within a certain amount of time if it turns out anything was misrepresented. An honest landlord should be willing to work with you on this. If they refuse, that might be a red flag that means you’re better off looking for a different place, anyway.
Starting fresh in a new city isn’t easy, but if your motto is “New year, new me,” it may be just what you need to get a truly fresh start for 2020. Happy apartment hunting!