We’re all spending a little more time at home these days, and we’re doing much more virtually – including apartment shopping. Finding your new home online can be confusing, but we’ve compiled a list of tips to help you get the best information while browsing the internet.
- Start with a Budget. Before beginning your search, you should estimate how much you can afford for your apartment each month. Experts recommend anywhere from 25-30% of your take home pay should be allocated to housing. However, these recommendations are guidelines and may be higher than you’d like to spend depending on your circumstances. Check out a budgeting app like EveryDollar or YNAB to help you get started.
- Start Searching. Check out apartment communities in the areas you’d like to live – within the budget you just set. A great way to do this is to search “apartments near me” in the map app on your smartphone or by using Google Maps on your computer or device. Get an idea of the amenities and floorplans available within your budget in various parts of town. Start taking notes about options, locations, and floor plan sizes.
- Research the Neighborhood. Using tools such as Google Maps, WalkScore, and Address Report, you can get a pretty good feel for what an area is like. Be sure to see how far away the nearest grocery stores, pharmacies, and restaurants are. Map out your daily commute during your typical drive times using Waze. Once you’ve determined the best neighborhoods for you, it’s time to narrow your search down to just those communities within those areas. Be sure to check for school zoning, crime reports, and as much other information as you can find.
- Begin to Narrow Your List. Start taking virtual tours of each community on your shortened list. View images of the community on their websites, and search to see if there are any video tours available on YouTube or other websites. You’ll get a pretty good feel for the community before you ever leave your home.
- Check Out Online Reviews. See what other residents and past residents are saying about life at each community. The best places to check for reviews are on Google (it’s easy to see review when searching for the business in Google Maps), as well as ApartmentRatings.com.
- Create a Short List. After you’ve conducted as much research as possible online, it’s best to take your shortlist and drive through each community. While some places are offering tours during the pandemic, others may not be. Depending on your comfort level and the capabilities of the leasing team on site, you may be able to ask for a self-guided tour or a virtual FaceTime or Skype tour of the actual apartment you’re looking to rent.
- Apply Quickly. Once you’ve made your decision and found your new home, be sure to submit an application quickly. Most apartment communities lease homes on a first-come, first-served basis and you don’t want to miss out. Be sure to take advantage of online applications where possible.