Apartment Hunting: Do’s and Don’ts

Fact: Adulting is stressful, no doubt about it.

Many of you know that I’ve been adulting a little more than usual lately: I’ve been in the process of figuring out life after graduation, and I’m proud to say that I’ve been doing pretty well! However, there’s a whole lot more to adulting than I realized. We all know about getting a job and an apartment, but there’s little things like renter’s insurance and changing addresses, and all that good stuff. Yikes!

Since these things can be pretty stressful, I want to help relieve the stress for people who might be in my position soon. Specifically, I want to talk about apartment hunting. Before I start, I want to tell a little personal anecdote so you know my level of knowledge going into this process: I currently live in a university-owned apartment. For those of you who don’t have those living arrangements at your university, they are basically a glorified dorm, meaning you don’t have to sign an actual lease, worry about utilities, or anything like that. Just one flat payment and you’re good to go for the school year! So when faced with the task of finding an apartment in a different city, I looked a bit like:


That’s right, excitement mixed with a little terror. The usual, ya know? Luckily, when faced with a task, I get pretty serious about it. I kid you not, I made a huge SPREADSHEET comparing the different apartments I was considering. Yes, I have that much time on my hands.

Anyway, this process can be quite stressful if you’re not properly prepared, but I’m here to (hopefully) lend you a helping hand!

Do set a budget for yourself

And don’t forget any extra fees you may need! I won’t share my budget, but after knowing what my salary would be, and discussing with my parents, I came up with a number I was pretty sure I didn’t want to go over each month.

If you don’t set a clear limit for yourself, it can be easy to get distracted by amenities you might not be able to actually afford. However, if you feel like a certain amenity (i.e. in-unit laundry, extra security, etc.) is worth paying a little more for, then factor that into your budget.

Don’t rely solely on online reviews

I used Apartments.com to start my apartment-hunting journey (not sponsored, by the way, I just love their site!), and they allow people to leave reviews for any apartment listing. While I recommend reading through these, just be sure to take them at face value. One person bashed on an AWESOME apartment building because he refused to pay a bill and they sent a collection’s agency on him. Like, that’s his fault, and it shouldn’t reflect poorly on the apartment complex.

Do ask a LOT of questions

When it comes to questions, embrace your inner toddler when you go on an apartment tour. Literally, ask anything that comes to mind, whether it’s about something that piqued your interest, a concern you have, or any random thought. For instance, since I’m a blogger and will occasionally have brands send products to me, I wanted to be sure there was a safe and secure way to receive packages.

One way to make sure you cover all your concerns is to bring a list of prepared questions. I promise, the leasing agent won’t be irritated with you. A huge part of their job is to make sure that you’re informed.

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Don’t be afraid to leave an appointment without signing a lease

I assume apartment hunting is like trying on wedding dresses. You picked out a few from the racks and went back to try them on. Sometimes you step into one and immediately know it’s not for you. Other times, you like the dress but you’re not completely sold. But when you try on the perfect one for you, you’ll know right away.

I’ve never tried on wedding dresses before, but I’m pretty sure this is a valid metaphor.

Do ask to see a vacant apartment

Apartment hunting can be difficult if you’re doing it in advance because the apartment you may sign a lease for could be currently occupied. And since knocking on a stranger’s door and asking to see their living situation is a bit rude, you may be shown a model apartment. The models are great so you can see how you can arrange your furniture, but they’re also in perfect condition. When you go to your viewing appointment, ask if you can see a vacant apartment, even if it’s not necessarily the one you’d live in. This gives you the opportunity to see how the units are actually maintained. Notice any odd smells, changes in the floor plan, and other tiny details the apartment complex may be trying to hide with the model.

Don’t forget to bring proof of income

Last, but certainly not least, make sure that you have some sort of proof of income. This could either be a weekly pay stub or an offer letter with your yearly salary on it. This lets the apartment complex you’re signing the lease at know that you will be able to afford your rent every month. While it might seem like a small detail, it’s quite important in the leasing process.

Apartment Hunting: Do's And Don'ts | 8 tips for apartment hunting | apartments | Five Foot and Fabulous

I hope these tips were helpful to those of you who may be apartment hunting in the near future! If you can only take one thing from this post, let it be this: Always ask questions and don’t take everything at face value!

Have you ever apartment hunted? What tips would you add to this list? Leave a comment and let me know!

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45 Replies to “Apartment Hunting: Do’s and Don’ts”

  1. These are great tips! I especially agree with asking lots of questions. Better to ask a lot of questions now, instead of being sorry you didn’t later.

    1. So true! Thanks for reading, Kristin!

  2. Great tips! Definitely asking a lot of questions and not settling for the first one you see. 🙂

    1. Thanks Christine!

  3. So helpful Anna!! It is so funny- finding an apartment when I lived in Charlotte during broadcasting school vs. finding one when I moved to Vermont was a night and day different experience! SO hard to find a place to live up here since it’s a smaller area. I will definitely keep these tips in mind for my next hunt!

    xoxo A

    1. You’re so right, it’s definitely easier to find a place in a bigger metro area!

  4. Great tips and very original post! 😊 my ‘strategy’ when (rental) house hunting is always always always a mess. The last house we moved into, i didn’t even see before getting the keys 😂(boyfriend did though)

    1. Lol well as long as he has good taste, it’s fine!

  5. This is very helpful for me! I am hopefully moving out next year and I liked the advice you offered. I haven’t gotten really deep into the process yet, but this definitely got my feet wet. 🙂

    1. Hopefully everything goes well with your move!

  6. These are all such great tips! 🙂 Especially asking a lot of questions to avoid any confusion later on!

  7. on my latest apartment hunt I learned that setting a budget is key to a successful hunt! it helps you narrow down places, and it keeps things as stress-free as they can be financially. love these tips! x, nicole // http://www.nicoleeigh.com

    1. Yes to all! Thanks for reading!

  8. These are awesome tips, Anna! We’re possibly about to be apartment hunting again so I’ll have to keep some of these in mind.

    1. Thanks Jenny! Good luck with the hunt!

  9. Yes yes yes to all of these tips! I’ve always signed a lease on my first apartment tour, but I’ve heard such horror stories from other people. When we moved into our rental house, though, I wish I had these tips! There are a few flaws here and there that are pretty irritating. But nothing horrible. We just didn’t ask enough questions and we really needed a house.

    1. Well as long as the flaws are bearable or can be fixed, that’s okay! Thanks for reading!

  10. Really good tips! I think it’s important to set a budget and EXACTLY THE MOST YOU’D SPEND on rent, and not get sucked into paying more. Brokers and leasing agents tend to show you apartments above your price range, hoping you’ll love it & change your mind.

    1. That’s so true! Thanks Allison!

  11. Wish I knew a lot of these when I was apartment hunting in college!! So helpful. Will def save this for my next place!

    1. Glad you thought it was helpful! Thanks for reading!

  12. All great tips! I’ve forgotten to bring proof of income before – yikes. thanks for sharing 🙂

    1. It can be so easy to forget! Thanks for reading, Carmen!

  13. I would also add that once you’ve narrowed down to a couple you’re considering, make sure to drive by at different times of the day. While something looks great during the day, it may not be a place you’d like to live by night. Make sure you see all potential sides of it before signing the lease!

    Good luck apartment hunting!

    1. That’s a great thing to do! Thanks for reading, Robin!

  14. Great tips! I actually work as a manager at an apartment complex and can definitely tell when people are prepared for their apartment hunt or not!

    1. Thanks Grace! I bet you can!

  15. Setting a budget is crucial! There are so many hidden expenses other than rent- like internet! So expensive!

    1. Omg yes! It’s crazy how expensive those extras are!

  16. These are great tips! I have plenty of friends that need to see this.

  17. I totally agree with not just trusting online reviews. It is so much better to review in person and ask around, too 🙂

    -xo, Azanique | http://www.lotsofsass.com

  18. Apartment hunting can be such a pain. We will be moving in the summer of 2018 so I’m definitely keeping these tips handy.

    1. Good luck with your move!

  19. These are great tips! We did our search for our current place in just one day – we had to move in a week to start a new job! eep! We toured our five top choices and slept on it before we chose our perfect apartment (and we LOVE it). But it is so important to remember that you do not need to sign a lease before you leave – the pressure to do so can be huge, but they definitely have more time than they let on. And always ask to see a real vacant unit – if possible, the one you would be leasing! We didn’t do that once and ended up in a unit that was in terrible shape and looked NOTHING like the one we’d toured. Never again!

    1. Thanks Paige! So glad that you love the place you’re at right now!

  20. These tips are awesome! Passing them on to friends currently apartment hunting!

    1. Thank you Kait!

  21. These are excellent tips! My boyfriend and I moved in together last May and we had to find a place we both liked and we found out very quickly (like you said) that reviews aren’t always the most reliable. The people most likely to leave a review are people who had an awful time but that’s not necessarily indicative of the average resident’s experience in the building.

    1. That is so true! Thanks for reading, Deborah!

  22. […] Related >> Apartment Hunting Do’s and Don’ts […]

  23. Great tips! Online reviews can be so misleading! It’s always best to explore the area in person!

    1. Thanks! And yes they can be!

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