More and more people are renting instead of buying ever since the housing bubble burst. Meanwhile, rent prices have steadily increased! For many, renting is the only option, because the barrier to saving up a down payment and getting a (sustainable) mortgage is too high. But renting doesn’t have to mean going without, whether you’re single or a growing family! There’s always a diamond or two in the rough, if only you know where to look. Here are 8 tips to help you find and land your dream apartment.
1. Ask around.
Ask everybody. There have been numerous studies showing that everyone in the country (arguably the world) is connected within six degrees of separation. As in, you know somebody who knows somebody… who knows everyone else.
A lot of people own properties that they rent out, and those people have friends. The big idea here is that you never know what’s available, or what might be coming available soon, until you ask. My wife and I once got a 3,000+ sqft renovated home for a bargain, because so-and-so that we knew had helped out the owners before. Chances are someone you know knows someone else with a steal of an option!
2. Commit during this season.
Budget constraints are often the determining factor for getting the space you want and need. Rent contracts are usually cheapest during November, December, and January. Take advantage of it! I once got a 30% lower monthly rate just because we signed in January. If you can manage it, wait to sign a deal until one of these months, because you’ll likely be able to get a lot more bang for your buck.
3. Set up an IFTTT recipe for new Craigslist listings.
Craigslist is a goldmine of, well, just about everything, including places to rent. An IFTTT recipe is basically an automated notification system. So you can set it up to hear about every, say, 3 bed 2 bath option under $1500, and get an email whenever a new listing meets that criteria. You can always find a great deal on craigslist, but you’ve got to be quick.
4. Check the announcements.
Most neighborhoods, communities, campuses, local organizations, etc. have some sort of hub for announcements and info specific to their group. Maybe it’s a newsletter, an online blackboard, or a weekly coffee shop flyer. Whatever it is, these announcement hubs can be gems of opportunity. In some cases, this will be the only place an apartment or home is listed.
I once found a glorious (and cheap) cottage in a wealthy neighborhood by checking my alma mater’s blackboard. That was the only place they listed it. The owners also ran a landscaping company. The place was immaculate, and within easy walking distance to parks, restaurants, and scenic hiking trails. Definitely find and check the announcement boards. It might be the only place your dream apartment is listed!
5. Look into furnished options.
Furnished options can be ideal, even if you already have furniture. After all, what makes a home a dream home is usually what fills it. And if the owners have done a good job of that, take advantage of it! I’ve used HomeSuite to find furnished listings before, but you should keep an eye out everywhere else you look, too. You may even be able to cover the rent by selling what furniture you already have!
6. Read online reviews for flexible landlords.
When you’re renting, landlords are your superheroes. Would you rather have Thor or Loki? Any rental site worth its salt will have a section for reviews on its listings. Is the landlord friendly? Quick? Flexible on price? Willing to compromise or make changes for their tenants?
The person you rent from can easily be the difference between a dud and your dream apartment. I once rented a place that came to have mold and a broken HVAC. The landlord was entirely neglectful, and the whole thing was a nightmare. If I’d just checked the online reviews, I would have seen how bad they were without having to experience it firsthand.
7. Follow up with the owner(s).
After you view a potential home, keep a running dialog. Build a relationship. Show the owners/managers that you’re interested and that you’re a respectable person or family. They’re generally willing to cut deals or help you out if they like you and trust you.
An email asking about the neighborhood noise because you tend to be a quiet homebody, or a blurb about how this will be a perfect spot for a basketball hoop for your son can go a long way. We had new appliances installed in a place once, simply because we had a great relationship with the owners and asked for something more energy efficient than the current decades-old appliances. It was great!
8. Don’t give up.
Timing is everything. The difference between you getting your dream home and having to settle could be the few days before a current tenant announces they’re leaving. If you can help it, don’t settle for something you won’t be ecstatic about. Don’t give up! Be patient. Your dream apartment is out there waiting for you, even if someone else is using it at the moment.