Finding An Apartment — Part 1

Written by: Tony Lin

From Friends to How I Met Your Mother to the Big Bang Theory, the “young professionals” are all living in fairly envious city apartment with everything they would need at a more than a reasonable rate to support 20-somethings with a very limited budget.  Unfortunately, apartment hunting is not easy in today’s cities.  Many individuals end up living in suburbia or in a place that is far from their initial expectations.  There are a few things to keep in mind when looking for an apartment:

1. Do Your Research

What kind of market are you in?  It depends on city to city, but sometimes owning a home makes more sense than renting it.  Look at vacancy rates and calculate mortgage costs.  Remember, renting should always be cheaper than owning a home.  Otherwise go out, buy that house/condo, and build your equity.

Forbes has an excellent, year old article covering 20 major cities that are, by their estimation, either the top 10 best or 10 worst cities to rent (in some cities it is cheaper to own).  If you like numbers or excel, another tool to use is the vacancy rates published by the US Census Bureau.  Remember, higher vacancy rates are better for the renter, while lower vacancy rates are better for the owner.

2. Don’t Set Your Expectations Too High

Don’t walk into every apartment with a list of things that your dream apartment shoud contain.  If you set your demands too high, you’ll quickly find yourself either finding no apartments within the limits you’ve set or found yourself beat out by one of hundred of other people in your situation.  What matters is that you find an apartment and, in some markets like Boston, NYC, Washington DC, or the San Francisco Area, the apartment of your dreams will cost beyond your wildest nightmares.

3.Decided what matters most: Cost, Ease of Commute, or Amenities

Sometimes to get an apartment at the price you’re looking for, you have to decide what matters most: saving money, having a short commute to work, or benefits such as being close to entertainment.  Once you identify what matters most to you, go out and find apartment that fits that criteria the best with everything else being what you can live with.

4. Look into Subletting

Sometimes finding an apartment by yourself is a little difficult.  So do you research and figure out if attaching yourself to an existing lease is a good option.  That is certainly the easiest option in terms of negotiation and the terms are likely to be more reasonable than an apartment on the open market.  However, there are the obvious drawback in roommates you’re unfamiliar with and that you’re simply holding the spot for someone else.

5. Be Early

The early bird catches the worm is an old saying that may roll over you, but if you want that apartment, then chances are that someone else wants that apartment as well.  So make sure to be the first on the scene and decide quickly whether that apartment is right for you.  If you don’t get your foot in the door, then someone else can take it and your search continues.  That is assuming you live in one of the cities with the lowest vacancy rates.

Click here for Part 2.


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Finding An Apartment — Part 1

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