8 Essential Tips to Finding a Great Apartment ...

Moving is stressful no matter what, but if you're looking for an apartment, be sure to consider these tips to finding an apartment first. Apartment hunting is different than house hunting and there are specific things you should look for that differ compared to house hunting. When I made a short-lived move to New York five years ago, I learned quickly that apartment hunting is no easy task. I also learned no matter how much you think you know about a place, by not following certain guidelines, things can slip by your radar, such as lousy landlords, bug issues and commuting inconveniences. Follow these tips to finding an apartment and hopefully you won't make the same mistakes I did!

1. Location

Sure, everyone knows that one of the most important tips to finding an apartment is about where the place is. Though the apartment may be on the trendy side of town, or right near all the latest social scenes, there's more to know about a location than just the obvious issues. Is the place convenient to your work, and if so, what is the traffic route like at the times you will be commuting? It may be that the best place to be in town is not the best place for your commuting needs. Your daily stress levels will take a toll if you are constantly fighting for roadways, subways, or having to travel through sketchy parts of town to get to your place of employment. Also, is the apartment in an area you feel safe and secure in? Is the place convenient to shopping areas you visit often, or your local workout facility? What about the supermarket? Sketch out your daily schedule and how long it would take you to get to where you're going on a day to day basis, compared to where the apartment is. That can tell you a great deal about if an apartment is the best one for your needs.

2. Price

Sure, price seems like an obvious tip, but what you may not know is that if the price seems so low it's too good to be true, there's probably a reason. Case and point: I found an apartment with 900 square feet, three walk in closets and beautiful hardwood floors right on the Brooklyn shore. I could see the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty, all from my apartment window. I was also on the first floor, something unheard of for first-timer's luck. The price? Only $900 in one of the nicest parts of Brooklyn. I took a quick look around, read the contract and signed. I just knew it was meant to be. Then, I realized the price came with another type of price tag Apparently I wasn't the only residents, if you know what I mean. The place's kitchen pipes were backed up to the garbage disposal on that level of the building, meaning everyone else's critters (yes, roaches) came crawling through my kitchen pipes, even after multiple times of spraying by the apartment's bug guy. Never ever take an apartment with a price that's either way too high, or way too low for what you're getting. There is a reason behind the bargain of a deal in such a great location.

3. Research the Going Rate

Speaking of rates of apartments, the best thing you can arm yourself with before signing any contract is the weapon of knowledge. Get on the internet, Google the area you're considering and make a list of all the going rates in that area and their price tags. Visit some other local apartments and compare their rates with an apartment you're considering. How does the place you're looking at measure up? Remember, if it's a sky-high or bottom-dollar price, there is a reason and you need to be on the look-out for that so you don't get scammed with a high price tag, or get stuck with a dud of an apartment.

4. Pick Your Battles

When it comes to tips on finding an apartment, you need to learn which battles to pick. For example, maybe the apartment that is perfect for your budget, convenient for your commute and free of bugs and noisy sounds, is on the 10th floor with no elevator. Yes, this may be a little bit more inconvenient than you'd hope for, but if it makes everything else easier by being a great location, the price is right, and it's convenient to your daily commute, it may be worth it. Or, perhaps there is a noisy train that runs by several times, but the area is great and the price is right. Decide what you are willing to put up with, and what you're not. Visualize yourself there everyday and write out all the pros and all the cons.

5. Get Your Family and Friends' Input

Sometimes, we need a loved one or buddy to point out something we may not notice. Getting an apartment can be exciting or stressful, which can lead us to sometimes overlook important issues due to our emotions. Getting someone else to visit the possible new apartment with you can help you see things you may not have. When I found my apartment in New York, I took my Dad with me, and he noticed several convenient things such as a local walking trail, a close supermarket, and noticed the strong security system in the building, all upon us visiting the first 30 minutes. He also noticed a leaky pipe in the bathroom. Though the apartment didn't work out in the end, I was grateful for someone to point out things I might not have seen initially while caught up in my excitement to move.

6. Be Patient

Unless you're moving for a job, you usually have time to make an informed decision. I tend to be an impulsive person who runs off emotions. I've learned to tame this side of me down with lots of practice, and know the next apartment I rent will be a smarter choice, not based on impulsive tendencies. I should have waited to find a better place, even if it took longer before I moved and sacked all my money away in one place. Be patient if the price isn't what you need, the commute is bad, or you just don't feel right about the place. These are all signs you haven't found your dream apartment yet.

7. Check Amenities

Amenities are important in an apartment, just like they are in a hotel. Is there a gym at a prospective apartment complex that is nicely equipped and user-friendly? If so, you may be able to get rid of your gym membership, which would help your budget and commuting efforts. This would be a huge plus where amenities are concerned. Or, perhaps you like to cook. Do you have your own fully-stocked kitchen or will you have to eat out somewhere or buy major appliances yourself? Will you have to visit a laundromat, or is there one at the apartment complex? Does the apartment offer convenient mail delivery options? What about lawn-care and maintenance? Is it included or is it extra money? Be sure to research all of these options first and weigh the pros and cons.

8. The Utility Issue

Utilities aren't cheap and though most people consider this when moving, most people don't consider other options that could save them more money. Find out how much utilities run with local water, garbage, cable and power companies, compared to what the cost of the utilities are if they are covered in the rental price. Many times, apartment complexes will include the utilities in the monthly rental price, but the total amount may actually be higher with the apartment complex, than it would be if you paid for these services separately on your own. Again, do your research first.

I'm no expert on apartment hunting, but I do know that next time I find a new place, I'll definitely follow through with these tips in finding an apartment before making a final decision. With all the excitement and stress of moving, along with multiple places to choose from, our heads can get a bit clouded and confused. Making a smart decision is better than a fast one. I hope you don't learn that the hard way like I did. Do you have a tip that helped you find your apartment? Share!