How to Find an Apartment to Rent
Are you going to be looking for your first apartment to rent? Finding a fantastic apartment in a desirable city can be a challenge. You’ll be competing with plenty of other candidates who have their eyes on the same places as you. As a simple result of supply and demand, you can expect prices to be higher in a competitive city than they would for the same apartment in another city.
You’ll need to be informed and skilled at marketing yourself to land your dream apartment in a competitive city. Here are some helpful tips to guide the process of renting an apartment.
Research the Local Market
The first step in finding and securing your dream apartment is taking the time to understand the local market. Take a look at things like the rent pricing trends, average apartment size, and year-over-year change. This information will help you determine whether your desired city is becoming more competitive or at the beginning of a downward swing.
Take Warner Robins, for example. The average rent has increased 6% over this time last year. This shift indicates that the market will become more competitive, likely due to job changes in the midst of the pandemic as the cost of living in Warner Robins is 20% less than the national average.
Find Your Neighborhood
Once you’ve taken a high-level overview of the local market, drill down to evaluate individual neighborhoods. Take a look at which neighborhood suits your needs, from amenities to the crime rate to healthy living opportunities. This exercise will also help you identify the rental cost differences from one district to another— you can read more about it here.
Drilling down into the neighborhood will help you determine exactly where you want to be. Within Warner Robins, you’d see that Bonaire’s rental prices are 83.6% higher than the rest of Georgia. Conversely, rent in Echeconnee is only 64.2% higher than the rest of Georgia, making it more accessible to some.
Evaluate the Costs
Calculating the cost of your apartment is about more than just the monthly rent. You’ll also need to determine the cost of utilities and other associated fees with living in the building. Additionally, you’ll need to account for the cost of moving into your dream apartment— particularly your first and last month’s rent, as well as your security deposit.
Take a look at the local cost of living compared to the rest of the state and the USA as a whole. For example, utilities in Byron cost more than the national average, yet transportation is significantly less. This detail is important, as Georgia’s cost of transportation is considerably higher than the national average, providing valuable insights into the Byron neighborhood.
If you find the costs are too high for your budget you may want to consider a micro-apartment.
Outline Your Needs
Determine what you need to have in your dream apartment, what you’d like to have, and what’s negotiable. Many apartment seekers in Georgia and other places are willing to negotiate on some luxury features, like a gym or a pool, but not on the bare necessities, air conditioning, for example.
Determine how many bedrooms and bathrooms you need to live comfortably. Identify your ideal floorplan and square footage. Then, list your priorities for extra features and determine how willing you are to budge on them. When seeking an apartment in a competitive city, you may have to forgo some of your wish list items to find a great spot within your budget and timeline.
Use a Listing Service
Once you have a better idea of what to look for, simplify your search by using a listing service. Many local realtors who invest in real estate as well as sell it may have local listings showcased on their site. Furthermore, city-specific rental listing sites help you find an apartment in your desired neighborhood and budget.
If you’re in a competitive market, there will be reliable listing sites to showcase your rental options. In other words, you won’t have to scour through Craigslist to find a rental opportunity.
Develop a Renter Resume
One key thing to remember when trying to find your dream apartment in a competitive market is that you need to compete. In other words, you need to be proactive and portray yourself in the best possible manner. It’s this effort that will ultimately get you through the door of the apartment you want. Knowing how to fill out a rental application is essential.
A renter resume is a summary of your previous rental experience. Furthermore, it highlights key relevant information regarding your finances, lifestyle, etc. Some important features to highlight on your renter resume include:
- Your employment status and history
- Your rental history
- Personal contact information
- An introduction and personal background
- Your credit score
- Reference contact information
- A list of other supporting documentation
Adding a bulleted list of other available supporting documents helps protect your personal information while ensuring you have the proof to back up your claims. For example, your new landlord might want a criminal record check completed before you move in. Rather than introducing yourself with a huge packet of information, you can identify that it’s available upon request.
Unlike with a job application, you should have your references listed with their contact information on your renter resume. Be sure to connect with your previous landlords and let them know that someone may be contacting them about your tenancy.
Print Your Credit Report
It’s common for landlords to want to run a financial check on their serious candidates in competitive areas. Print a copy of your credit report in advance and determine whether there are any items to be addressed. If possible, work to have negative items removed. If you can’t have them removed, be honest about what happened.
Your credit report drills down into your debt history, showing your potential landlord whether you paid your bills on time or at all. This document is perhaps one of the most important to have on hand when competing for an apartment.
Having your credit report readily available may also mitigate the chances of your landlord performing a credit check. If your potential landlord is doing what’s known as a hard inquiry or hard pull, their actions could negatively impact your credit score. Credit bureaus flag hard pulls as a negative item, and it can impact your score for up to two years.
If you’re looking at numerous apartments, this could have a substantial impact on your credit score. Part of renting for the first time will be to prove you’re a worthy candidate.
Print Proof of Income
Another essential document to have on hand is your proof of income. It’s not necessary to list your annual income on your renter resume. However, you may be asked about your income on an application.
There are a few ways to show your proof of income. One of the most common ways is to show your new landlord your previous two pay stubs. This show of good faith proves that you are still employed and that you make enough to pay rent.
Depending on the landlord, they may also require a letter of confirmation from your employer. This document is a great opportunity to show proof of income while giving your employer room to expand with a character reference! Ask your employer to draft a letter that outlines how long you’ve worked for the company, your income, and how reliable and wonderful you are as an employee.
Prepare Your Payments
As mentioned before, you’ll need to have enough to cover a few months’ rent when searching for your dream apartment in a competitive city. It isn’t enough to have access to the money; it needs to be ready to transfer ASAP.
If your apartment in a competitive market costs $2,000 per month, you’ll need to have at least $6,000 ready to give to your new landlord. Be sure that you have this money ready to go before you start actively looking for an apartment.
When you start the search, ensure that this money is in an account you can access via check or e-transfer. A landlord in a competitive market isn’t going to wait days and days for the money to appear when they have other candidates. Have your checkbook and pen ready to go.
Pre-Fill Rental Applications
If possible, fill in your rental applications before you see the space. Many landlords will be willing to send them to you directly or post them online. If you’re using online forms, use auto-fill features to streamline the process.
If you’re unable to fill out an application before viewing the space, bring everything with you to make it happen. This means keeping your ID, checkbook, reference list, etc., readily available at all times. Doing so is one of the many excellent rental tips to land that apartment you want.
Attend Open Houses
Attending open houses is a fantastic way to see what you do and don’t like about apartments in your chosen neighborhood. This experience also allows you to look at features that photos and listings can’t capture. For example, if there’s a lot of noise from a nearby highway.
Open houses are also a great way to put in face time and make an impression beyond your application.
Create a Tracking Spreadsheet
The more structured your approach to finding your dream apartment in a competitive city, the more successful you will be. Create a spreadsheet that outlines the details of your search, including:
- The address
- The square footage
- Features and perks
- Whether there’s an open house
- If the application has been submitted
- When it becomes available
- The landlord’s name and company
- Contact information
- Monthly rent amount
- Lease length – do you want a short or long term rental.
You can get even more detailed with this spreadsheet by adding the distance to nearby amenities and other metrics to help you track your progress.
Having a centralized organization strategy will help you keep your proverbial ducks in a row when competing for various apartments in a desirable city.
Have a List of Questions
Having a list of questions shows landlords that you’re seriously considering their listing. As such, they’ll remember you when it comes time to choose a new tenant. Having some questions will also make it easier to break the ice during a showing or open house and help you determine whether this is, in fact, your dream apartment.
Some questions to consider asking include:
- Can you outline the average cost of utilities?
- What deposits are refundable versus non-refundable?
- What’s your applicant screening criteria?
- When is the apartment available?
- What’s your lease duration?
- What payment methods do you accept?
- Do you have any policies surrounding subletting?
- Do you have any policies surrounding guests?
- Who is your ideal tenant?
- Do you have pet policies in place?
- What happens when the lease is complete (renewal, term changes, etc.)?
- What appliances are included in the rental?
- Would you live here?
The answers to many of these questions may be included in the listing. However, it’s good to have a few clarifying questions to ensure you understand what you’re signing up for. Choose a few from the list rather than bombarding your potential landlord with twenty questions, or they may choose someone else out of annoyance.
Mind Your Presentation
Remember that you’re marketing yourself when looking for an apartment in a competitive city. You only have one chance to make a first impression. Wear something nice and clean when viewing apartments in a competitive city— think business casual. This choice showcases that you’re presentable, successful, and taking this quest for a new home seriously.
It’s also worth considering what you’ll say when talking to your potential landlord. Put together a brief introduction of yourself that outlines the highlights of your experience and lifestyle. Consider why you’re moving out of your current residence and what drew you to that particular listing.
Be respectful when speaking of your current residence, even if you hate it. Focus on needing more space to grow, moving closer to work, or other positives that shift the focus to the new apartment rather than bringing up conflicts with neighbors or landlords.
Be Proactive and Responsive
When competing for an apartment, you’ll have to be on your A-game in contacting and following up with listings. Call immediately when you see a listing that fits your criteria and fits your schedule to get in as soon as possible.
Turn on notifications and keep an eye on your spam folder when you expect to be contacted by a landlord. Respond quickly to stay at the top of their inbox. If you take too long, they’ll move onto other interested renters.
If you’re serious about a specific apartment, it’s also worth having everything ready to move in. You may find the perfect apartment with a quick turnaround date just a few weeks away— for example, if a new tenant backs out at the last minute. Deciding whether to push the timeline is a personal choice. However, doing so may open new opportunities for finding your dream apartment.
One aspect of getting ready to move is determining how much time is left on your current agreement and how you’ll handle the variance. Depending on the timeline, you might have to juggle rent on two apartments for a month or so. This balancing act is costly but could be worth it to get into your dream location.
Create a Back-Up Plan
While you may not want to consider the possibility of missing out on your dream apartment, it could happen in a competitive city. There may be apartments that are outside your budget with no room to negotiate because of the demand. You may miss an opportunity to respond and have someone else beat you to the punch. Finally, a landlord could decide they liked someone else just a little bit better.
So what do you do? You create a back-up plan.
Consider your options if you’re unable to find an apartment in the neighborhood you had hoped, or within your budget. Consider how you’ll cast a wider net and what your new scope will look like. One of the biggest challenges with choosing a new apartment in a competitive market is the timing— you need the completion of your old lease to line up with the start of a new one.
Consider finding an alternative apartment for the time being and keeping an eye out for something more ideal. Talk to your current landlord about switching to a month-to-month format upon renewing your lease or extending by six months instead of a year. If you’ve been a good tenant, most landlords will be willing to take the additional six months of income before listing your apartment.
Watch Out for Scams
Finally, be mindful of scam listings. Remember the adages about things sounding too good to be true and getting what you pay for. Confirm the legitimacy of a listing before you provide any personal information, like pay stubs with your Social Security Number.
Another thing to watch out for is the use of clever marketing terms that are meant to lure you in with borderline false advertising. In desirable cities like Austin, Texas, words like “cozy” often translate to “tiny.” Look for listings that provide plenty of details about the listing and include photos.
Final Thoughts om Finding an Apartment
Finding your dream apartment in a competitive city takes time, dedication, research, and more than a little luck. Don’t hesitate to reach out to friends and neighbors in competitive cities to ask them for advice about how they secured their apartment. If you are successful and score the apartment you really want don’t forget to have an apartment checklist of what you’ll need to have for your first few days and nights.
About the author: The above article on how to find an apartment in a competitive city was written by Wendy Dessler. Wendy is a super-connector who enjoys helping businesses find their audience online through outreach, partnerships, and networking.
She writes about many topics including the latest advancements in digital marketing, real estate, and home improvement. Wendy focuses her efforts on developing customized blogger outreach plans depending on the industry and competition