10 Steps for Finding an Apartment Online

Every year more than 30 million Americans move from one home to another. If you’re getting ready to move, you’re not alone! Make your move easier, especially if you’re searching for an apartment online, with the 10 steps below!

1. Set your price range
Make a budget and give yourself a realistic price range. Sure, looking at apartments with marble floors, seven jetted tubs, and an in-house concierge service can be fun, but are these apartments realistically within your budget? Unless you’re Kanye, probs not.

Financial advisors suggest keeping your housing costs below 30 percent of your salary, if possible. While many people spend more than 30 percent of their salary on housing, it’s important to find a realistic price range so that you can continue to do the things you love, whether it’s eating out, going to concerts, or buying a new pair of shoes every month!

2. Choose your area
Once you’ve determined a price range, find a location that fits within your budget. Looking at a city moving guide is a helpful starting place to determine the area of a city that suits your needs. As you compare locations and complexes, ask yourself questions like:

  • What is the maximum distance my apartment can be from work or school?
  • How close do I want to be to certain areas of the city (downtown, the park, the zoo, etc.)?

Another helpful tool is Google Maps, which lets you watch local traffic patterns, locate nearby conveniences (e.g., grocery stores, restaurants), and get a general feel for the area. You can use the “Street View” feature within Google Maps to get a visual of your new apartment complex, the surrounding area, and maybe even your new neighbors! (Creepy? Meh.)

3. Check your social media network
Once you’ve located the area(s) in the city where you may want to live, put some feelers out on social media. Your friends (or their friends) may know of apartments for rent in the area or of someone looking for a roommate. You could even make a general post on Facebook or Twitter about your move and ask for restaurant, coffee shop, or workplace recommendations. In today’s transient world, you never know where some of your friends may have lived in the past, or where they live now! It really is “a small world after all…”

4. Start your search for an apartment online
Next, use an online apartment search tool to find specific apartments for rent. As you search, ask yourself:

  • What type of lease am I looking for?
  • Do I have special lease needs?
  • Does this apartment allow subletting?
  • How many bedrooms do I want?
  • How many bathrooms do I want?

As you search, keep track of your favorites and shoot for a list of your top five choices; we’ll call this your “Top 5 Apartments List.” Make a list on paper or create a computer file to keep track of what you find. On ApartmentSearch.com, you can simply click “add to favorites,” but if you consider yourself an Excel aficionado, you could also create a working spreadsheet to compare apartment prices, features, and amenities. Here are some common categories (or columns) for such a list:

  • Apartment name
  • Neighborhood
  • Estimated rental price
  • Contact information
  • Estimated lease length
  • Number of bedrooms
  • Number of bathrooms

Having all of the info in front of you will help you manage your options and help you make your final decision!

5. Prioritize amenities
Once you’ve gathered essential information on specific apartments, prioritize amenities based on 1) wants and 2) needs. “Wants” are the things you hope to find in an apartment but don’t need, like a pool with a diving board. “Needs” are “must-haves:” a.k.a the things that you need in order to fully function in your daily life, like on-site laundry facilities. (If you tend to let your laundry basket overflow, that last one definitely needs to be on your “must-have” list.)

Start by making a list of all the amenities you want. Allow yourself to dream! Don’t filter your thoughts just yet. Even though you may not find a single apartment that matches your list and your budget, it’s important to think through your preferences.

If you need help thinking about amenities, take a look at the list below and mark “want” or “need”next to each:

  • Elevator
  • Fitness center
  • Gated security
  • Handicap-accessible
  • Laundry appliance connections
  • Laundry appliances
  • On-site laundry facility
  • Motorcycles allowed
  • Night patrol
  • Covered parking
  • Parking garage
  • Pets allowed
  • On-site pet area
  • Pool
  • Pre-furnished unit
  • Wheelchair access

With your list in hand, go back and see which apartment complexes matchup. If you can’t find the information you’re looking for, pick up the phone and call!

6. Get additional details over the phone
Whether you’re asking specific questions or just trying to get a feel for a place, call the apartment complexes on your “Top 5 Apartments List.” Since calling is so much more personal, talking to someone over the phone could help you make your final decision.

If your questions are more detailed (perhaps they have to do with handicap accessibility or the daily noise level of the complex) make sure that you’re talking with the right person–an owner or manager, as some apartments outsource their call line to a third party service.

7. Narrow down your options & take a look!
Once you’ve done some research, it’s time to narrow down your list and make a decision. Make a second phone call, take a tour of the apartment, or spend some time at the apartment complex you’re interested in. If you can’t do an in-person tour, request a virtual tour via FaceTime or Skype.

Ask the owner or manager about incentives, too. Some complexes offer an incentive for signing a 12-month lease instead of a 6-month lease. Other complexes offer incentives based on where you found them. If you find your apartment on ApartmentSearch.com, for instance, you could be eligible for a $200 reward!

And if you’re a major fan of research, dig deeper into your prospective new neighborhood. Check out the restaurants, nightlife, or shopping malls in the area on CitySearch or check the safety of a city/county using SpotCrime.

8. Make the decision & get packin’
Time to choose your home sweet home! As you make a choice, beware of rental scams by looking for the signs of “phantom rentals” (apartments that don’t exist) and “hijacked ads” (real apartment websites that have been taken over by false advertisers). If you’re asked to wire money or send a security deposit/the first month’s rent before you’ve met or signed the lease–RUN! (And report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission.)

9. Pick out your furniture
Now it’s time for the fun part. Time to furnish your apartment! Ever considered renting furniture? Furniture rental allows you to rent for your whole apartment, rent by room, or rent by piece. Since you only have the furniture for a limited period of time, you can change up your style with every move, lower your moving costs, and even save yourself time unpacking!

To determine how much furniture you may want, ask yourself questions like:

  • What’s my budget for furniture?
  • How many pieces of furniture do I want?
  • How many pieces of furniture do I need?
  • How long will I be living in this apartment?
  • Am I able to transport new furniture or will I need help?
  • How soon will I be relocating?

10. Make the move!
Ta-da! You did it. You found your next apartment online! Now finalize the details and sign the papers. Turn in all the necessary paperwork to the apartment manager and determine your move-in date. Line up a time to have your furniture delivered or ready for pick-up and call any friends you may need to help you out with the move.

Are you just beginning to look for an apartment? Browse the most recently listed apartments on ApartmentSearch.com!