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How I Found my Ideal First Apartment

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Moving into your first apartment is an exciting life milestone, but I think most people can agree that the process of finding your first apartment is a headache-inducing experience. Rentals can get pretty expensive, especially in major cities, so putting your hard-earned money toward an apartment you’ll be happy with should be a top priority.

I went through a similar struggle during my first apartment hunt, but luckily, I was able to take my time while I search. And after a long, six-month journey, patience paid off. I not only found my first apartment, but I also found the “perfect” apartment that fit my needs at the time.

Everyone’s apartment hunting experience is going to be a little different. You may find an apartment you’re satisfied with right away, or it may take a month or two, which is totally fine. For me, it took a bit longer. Here’s how I found my ideal first apartment, plus a few tips for first-time renters.  

A little background information

I excitedly began the hunt for my first apartment after I graduated college and started working full-time. To be honest, I was in a fortunate situation: I was living at my parent’s house rent-free, I didn’t have a strict time limit on when I had to move out, and I wasn’t hunting for an apartment in a major city. I’m not much of a big-city person, so I was searching for a place that was more along the outskirts of a city. 

The best part was that I was able to take my time finding an apartment that checked all my boxes. So, after a few months of saving up some money, I finally began my search, and let me tell you, it was a long one.

Over a 5-6 month time period, I ended up:

  • Touring around 13 apartments
  • Putting in applications for two apartment waitlists 
  • Reading through tons of apartment listings  
  • Looking into the possibility of getting a roommate 

During my apartment hunt, I ran into a bit of a roadblock. I was definitely not prepared for how expensive a lot of rentals can be, especially if you plan on living alone. After living with various roommates throughout college, I was pretty dead set on living alone after I graduated and started working, but I also couldn’t deny how much cheaper moving out would be if I had a roommate. After taking some time to weigh my options, I decided to look into renting with a roommate. 

And that’s when something incredibly lucky happened. Right as I decided to fully commit to the roommate plan, one of the apartments I was on a waitlist for, finally contacted me with an upcoming available unit. 

Finding the apartment

Around week two of my apartment search, I actually found an apartment that I fell in love with. Everything about this place was nearly perfect, It was within my budget range, in a safe area, was incredibly spacious (750 sqft), had a covered patio space, and had a space for me to connect my own washer and dryer. Plus, this apartment complex’s 1-bedroom units were all ground level with no upstairs neighbors. In a way, it would be like renting a mini house.   

So, what’s the catch? Well, there was incredibly limited availability. They didn’t have any available units, so you had to secure a spot on their waitlist. And their waitlist was backed out to about the six-month mark. Most people likely aren’t willing to wait six months just to get a specific apartment, and honestly, I wasn’t too thrilled about the wait either. But the sign-up process was easy enough, so I put in an application to secure my spot on the waitlist, and then completely forgot about it a few weeks later. 

Reaching the top of the waitlist 

Next thing I know, 5-6 months went by, and I still hadn’t found an apartment I loved enough to call home. Rent prices in the area were high, and I wasn’t willing to spend a hefty chunk of money every month on a place that I wasn’t at least 85% satisfied with. It was also around this time that the cost-saving benefits of living with a roommate were starting to sound very appealing. The original goal was to find my own place. But at this point, I decided going the roommate route would be a better financial decision. Besides, living with a roommate I trust wouldn’t be so bad.

And that’s when a little good luck kicked in. Right as I committed myself to finding a roommate, I received a call from a leasing agent. It turned out that the apartment complex I was on a six-month waitlist for finally had upcoming availability. At first, I was shocked. I had totally forgotten all about that waitlist. This could only be good news, right? Well, sort of. The specific unit they were contacting me about wouldn’t be available for move-in until about three months later, which was kind of a bummer, but not necessarily a dealbreaker. 

And this is the part where things went from shocking to a little stressful. The leasing agent told me that my application had been accepted and I had 48 hours to put down a security deposit to reserve the unit. Otherwise, the unit goes to the next person on the waitlist. This was incredibly short notice (and a bit stressful at first), but the decision was a no-brainer for me – I decided to put in my security deposit and reserve the unit. I had already fallen in love with this place months ago. I even knew two family friends that lived in these apartments for years and never had a bad experience. So needless to say, I was basically sold on the place. 

MYMOVE pro tip

Make sure you have some extra money set aside for a security deposit, application fee, and admin fees for any apartments you’re interested in. In some instances, the turnaround time for certain apartments can be less than 24 hours, which is common in major cities.    

Signing the lease

After putting down my security deposit (and paying all those pesky admin fees), I had to wait about three months before I could actually move in. I wasn’t exactly happy with that fact, but I felt this place would be well worth the extra wait. And before I knew it, three long months weny by, and the wait was over. My family and I viewed the actual unit on move-in day and gave it a thorough inspection before signing the lease. 

There was nothing too out of the ordinary – just a few scratches and scuffs here and there. It was nothing I couldn’t live with. The place was built in the ‘80s and didn’t have any fancy renovations or appliances, but everything was well-maintained nonetheless. 

Once I deemed everything to be acceptable, I was ready to review and sign the lease. I had already read through the lease agreement prior to move-in day, so all I had to do was review the lease one final time and sign it. I looked the lease over on my own, for the most part. It was about 7-8 pages long – not exactly light reading. 

But It’s important to make sure you’re 100% clear about everything on the agreement before signing. I made sure to ask anything I was unsure about to the leasing agent and my parents before putting down any signatures. Once satisfied, I signed the lease, and it was official; I had my first apartment.

Be patient 

Apartment hunting is a stressful experience, and most people are looking to get it over with as soon as possible. You may even find yourself tempted to sign a lease for a place that you don’t really like, just to bring your apartment hunt to an early end. But when it comes to finding a place you love (and can afford), patience is key. And if you’re staying with your parents, try and save up as much money as you can. You’ll probably only get the chance to save like this once.

Pay attention to availability 

During your apartment hunt, pay extra close attention to what availability is like for every apartment complex you’re interested in. From my experience, I’ve found that places that always seem to have tons of available units, raise somewhat of a red flag. Most of the time, those units are available because tenants aren’t wanting to renew their lease. 

Now on the other hand, if you find a place that has very limited or no availability, that’s usually a pretty good indicator that tenants like living there.

Tour apartments outside your budget range too 

Obviously, you should have a solid budget in mind before you start looking for apartments. So what’s the point of touring places you know you can’t afford? Touring apartments outside of your budget range helps you compare the value and features of other apartments that are within your budget range. This will also give you a good idea of what more expensive places consider a “luxury” or “unique” feature. 

The bottom line

Your first apartment is a big step towards independence and something that you’ll remember for years to come. So, take your time, and don’t rush into signing a lease for a place that you don’t love. Trust me, that patience will pay off. And if you plan on renting with a roommate, make sure you’re both on the same page about where you’ll be living and who’s getting which room.

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