Looking for an apartment is difficult enough when you live in the area; there are a lot of decisions to be made and a lot of options to research. Add in the complexities of living a few hundred (or thousand!) miles away, and trying to find an apartment you can live with seems like a monumental challenge. To find the right apartment in a new city, you need a solid game plan. Here are three steps to follow to get you going in the right direction:
Step 1: List Your Needs
Get a piece of paper, and write down everything you like and dislike about your current living arrangement. Then write down everything you MUST have in a new place, and everything that would be a deal breaker. Just brainstorm for now—you can always cross things off later (and you will). Give the most thought to location. Is the apartment close enough to the places you’ll want to go to the most? It doesn’t matter how amazing your digs are if you are located forty-five minutes from the place(s) you need to be every day; you’ll never get those hour-and-a-half commutes back.
Step 2: List Your Options
Pull up an apartment-finder website (like ApartmentSearch.com) and go to town! Grab a map and a compass (the circle-drawing kind). Pick the two or three most important (non-apartment) places you will need to be on an almost daily basis, and set the compass to a radius of no more than 20 miles according to the scale on the map. Draw circles on the map with each of those three places at the center, and outline the area that all three circles cover. Then, list every apartment that exists in that area that does not exclude you for other reasons (such as senior-citizen status or section-8 voucher availability).
Step 3: Research!
Check out review sites to read apartment reviews. Keep in mind that there are always nay-sayers when it comes to an apartment complex—some people are just never satisfied—so don’t let one or two bad reviews dissuade you. But if there are multiple bad reviews for the same recurring reasons, without even one or two good reviews to balance them out, then cross that place off your list. In addition, if a particular place is missing one or two of your ‘deal breaker’ criteria, cross that place off your list as well. Then, rewrite your list twice. First, according to price; and second, according to your feelings about how much of your ‘want’ list each place satisfies.
In general, if you pick the apartment that has the highest average position across these two lists, you will end up with a place you’ll be happy to call home.