How To: Apartment Hunting

In my experience, apartment hunting can be what you make it: delightful, exciting adventures or frustrating, stressful decisions. A good attitude is always a good choice, but it’s what comes after the months of adventurous searching that matters. No matter how much fun or stress you encounter during your search, the possibility of being stuck with a nicely wrapped dud of an apartment is staggeringly stacked against you. Some things are just impossible to know before you sign a lease. I’ve learned in my few short years of research that there are some things to look out for.

  1. The Cars: it’s an old trick I got from my Mom. I hate to profile, but if the parking lot is full of quality cars, there’s a good chance the owners appreciate quality apartments as well.
  2. The Pool: I found that the smaller the pool, the cheaper the community. Pools require expensive maintenance and the larger the pools the more difficult the upkeep. If management can successfully sustain the cost of a large pool, they can take care of maintenance and upgrades for the apartments, too.
  3. The Management: Use your intuition. If they’re rude, it makes a big impact. You can live with bad management, but if you don’t have to, then don’t. Also, make sure to ask how long they’ve been in charge of that property. Rotating managements often foreshadow chaos in the office, especially in the billing process.
  4. You Get What You Pay For: If only that were true with apartments… We’ve been in a place that was very cheap in a fantastic location, with nice management, and a timely maintenance crew; and we’ve paid nearly double for a complex with a different manager every three months, unanswered maintenance requests, and an overall terrible experience. It’s totally possible to spend more than a big mortgage payment per month for an apartment and completely hate it.
  5. Reading The Reviews: Be careful with reading the reviews. In my experience, the reviews are often outdated. With apartment complexes it’s not uncommon for management to change when the company is bought out. Make sure the reviews you’re reading only pertain to the current management. With that said, every apartment will have a different experience but if there are dozens of negative reviews about the location, steer clear. (Remember to weight the positive reviews more heavily because angry people are always the loudest.)
  6. Shopping Centers: Take a drive around the neighborhood, especially to the shopping centers nearby. It’s not hard to tell if the centers are dilapidated or not. The newer they are, the better it is for you.
  7. Age: Find out when the apartment complex was built. Older neighborhoods can be nice for houses, but they’re bad news for apartment complexes. Apartments aren’t kept up as well as houses are generally, because their tenants are short term. I’ve never see a successful “renovation” done on an apartment complex before, and I’ve shopped around!

My husband and I have made some leasing mistakes and, at the end of the day, they never killed us. It only ever lasted a year and then it was over. Just remember, if you make a big mistake or a fantastic choice, to be content in every situation (Philippians 4)! What rubric do you use before you sign at an apartment? Do you agree with mine or has your experience been different? Leave a comment below with your tips or experience!

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2 thoughts on “How To: Apartment Hunting

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  1. Better late than never? I like your first comment–I was told by a policeman to check out the parking lot at night. You can tell who frequents when, what types of cars (stereotypes are often true for a reason?), and if you can hear the inside activity from the outside!

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    1. All very good advice! That can give you an idea of how many people are working during the day or staying home possibly not working as well, based on the change in number of cars. Thanks!

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