Apartment Hunting 101

How to Find an Apartment

Updated January 7, 2021 . AmFam Team

Finding an apartment can be a lot of work. Click here if you’re wondering how to find an apartment, we’ve put together our top apartment hunting tips to get you started.

Choosing an apartment — it can feel overwhelming, right? One place could have the modern appliances you like, but come with a high price tag. Or maybe the apartment is great, but the neighborhood isn’t where you picture yourself.

That’s where these tips come in. With a little research and a clear understanding of your needs and wants, you can find a home for the next phase of your dream pursuit. You’ll be loading up that moving truck in no time!

Before Your Apartment Search

Chances are you’re ready and excited to start looking for your new home, but there are some key steps you should take before you start searching. By being prepared and keeping the following in mind, you can make your apartment search a less stressful and faster process. 

Set a budget before finding your new apartment

Have a defined budget when you start your search for finding a new apartment. Be honest with yourself on what you can really afford. A newly updated apartment might tempt you to spend more, but you don’t want to commit to a place that makes it hard to pay the bills each month. Be sure to consider all the additional costs outside of a security deposit, rent, in addition to the cost to furnish an apartment. 

Here’s an easy way to set a budget when looking for a new apartment: 

  1. Calculate your monthly income 
  2. Estimate your monthly expenses (things like utilities, phone and Internet bill) 
  3. Subtract your expenses from your income 

By following these steps, you’ll have a rough estimate of your monthly living expenses. This amount can help you determine how much you should spend on rent each month. Calculating your rent-to-income ratio  another method of determining how much money you can put towards rent  can be helpful here as well. For additional budgeting help, check out our list of the best budgeting tools like NerdWallet’s financial budget calculator (Opens in a new tab).

Consider the amenities of the apartment

When comparing apartments, investigate the extras that are included — or not included — in the cost of rent. Maybe your ideal place includes heat, underground parking or cable and Wi-Fi. Perhaps it comes with an in-house gym that can save you the expenses of big gym membership fees. Weigh the cost of rent with amenities you need and find value in unexpected ways.

Balance price with happiness

Cheaper isn’t always better. Paying to live in a place you’re not happy with isn’t the best idea, no matter how much it saves you. Take time to thoroughly examine each place you go see. Does it let in enough light? Is the layout conducive to your lifestyle? Do you have enough space for all your belongings? Can you picture yourself living happily in this apartment and neighborhood? If not, continue your apartment search. Your perfect place is out there.

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What to Look For When Apartment Hunting

Now that you’ve done the prep work, it’s time to start searching. Here are some important apartment hunting tips to keep in mind once you’ve started searching for your new apartment.

Check on safety

Security is a big factor when it comes to a good living situation, so verify that each of the building’s entrances are secure. Have there been any reports of crime in the building? If shipments arrive for you, where are they held until you can pick them up? A big part of protecting your dreams is protecting the little details, too. 

Finding a new apartment location

When you’re searching for a new apartment, location is often a key consideration. There are many factors to think about when determining a location for your new apartment: 

  • Does the area around your apartment appeal to you? 
  • Is there green space for relaxing? 
  • A nearby coffee shop for morning pick-me-ups? 
  • Is your daily commute going to fit your schedule? 

Consider all of these factors about location and neighborhood to ensure your ideal living situation. 

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What to Check When You’ve Found a Place

Once you’ve found the apartment you think is best for you, there are a few more things you should look into. Check these items off your list before committing to your dream apartment: 

Determine if it’s a standard lease 

When apartment hunting, ask if the lease being used is a standard lease or if there’s anything that is not within the regular lease. A standard lease is a one-year long commitment and cannot be easily terminated by the tenant or the landlord. 

You’ll want to be fully informed about your lease before committing to avoid surprises down the line. Read through the lease carefully and be aware of any red flags such as: 

  • The tenant being responsible for all apartment repairs 
  • The landlord can’t be held liable for damages sustained to the apartment 
  • The rent payment late fee is greater than the typical three to five percent 
  • The landlord has the right to enter the tenant’s apartment at any time 

These terms can cost you more money and may allow your landlord to invade your privacy. Consider looking elsewhere if you see these or similar terms on the lease.  

Get to know the landlord 

One of the greatest benefits to renting an apartment is that when something goes wrong, someone else will be there to handle the details. Make sure the maintenance crew at the building is responsive and able to make any needed repairs quickly so you’re not living in a compromised situation.  

Getting to know your landlord and the commitment they have to their residents is a good way of knowing how things will be handled going forward. 

Ask your landlord some questions 

In addition to getting to know the landlord, be sure to ask as many questions you may have about the apartment. Consider asking questions like: 

  • Are there any additional deposits I need to know about? 
  • Is renters insurance required? 
  • How do you pay rent and what payment methods are accepted? 
  • Do you allow early lease termination or moving to a month-to-month lease? 
  • How does parking work? 
  • What is the policy on pets? 
  • Are any furnishings or appliances provided? 

Your lease may cover some of these questions in detail, but your landlord should know the answers too. Key questions like these can clarify confusing policies or reveal hidden costs you may not have been aware of.  

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How to Search for an Apartment on a Budget

Finding a great apartment that fits your budget isn’t impossible. Keep these strategies in mind if you’re looking to save money on renting.  

Find a roommate 

The tried-and-true way of saving money when renting is living with someone else. Splitting rent and utilities with roommates can significantly cut your monthly expenses, and it may even be more fun. Carefully check online for roommates using sites like Craigslist (Opens in a new tab), reach out to friends or read our tips for finding a good roommate.  

Take advantage of rent specials 

During less popular moving seasons like winter, rental companies may offer promotions that cut the price for the first month of rent, or similar savings on parking. Take advantage of these specials and try to act quickly, as these specials probably won’t last long.  

Choose an apartment with less amenities 

Your own washer and dryer is a great convenience, but they no doubt will contribute to higher rent and utility bills. Choosing to forgo certain appliances or other amenities you can live without can translate into savings in the long run.

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Where to Find an Apartment Online

Knowing how to search for apartments shouldn’t be a challenge. Listed below are some of the most popular websites for finding apartments. Each offers comprehensive options and filters that makes online apartment hunting easy.  

When looking at listings using these sites, number of bedrooms, bathrooms and rent amount should all be easy to find. Some additional helpful features these sites use include: 

  • Each unit’s floor plan 
  • Virtual tour of the unit using images 
  • Any current move-in specials or promotions 

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Protect Your Apartment With Renters Insurance

Once you’ve found the right place, you’ll be ready to kick-start new adventures and dream pursuits. But before you pack up the moving truck, it’s smart to think about renters insurance. 

Renters insurance provides protection for your personal property if it’s damaged by a covered event, and provides liability coverage if a guest is accidentally injured in your apartment. Since your landlord’s insurance only covers your apartment building, a renters policy can help to make sure your belongings — and your savings — are protected from the unexpected.  

Learn more about renters insurance or reach out to your local American Family agent (Opens in a new tab) todayHappy hunting! 

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