If you have been following me recently, you know that I was searching for an apartment for a certain price in Katy, TX. Apartment searches can be so overwhelming but I am here to ease the burden a little and share what I have learned. Here are 10 steps to an effective apartment search:
These beautiful silk sunflowers pictured were sent to me by the sweet people at CSI Wall Panels. I can't wait to get a vase to use them in my new apartment!
1. Determine why you want to move and figure out if it necessary. Is it the school system? Can you negotiate your current rent? Can you switch units? Have you saved enough? Be sure to ask yourself the necessary questions before deciding to move.
2. Set a budget. Do you want to continue paying the same amount of rent elsewhere? Can you afford to pay a little more to live in a nice suburban area versus living in an urban area? Can you pay for a month or two in advance to have your rent lowered? If you are forced to relocate, can you make time for an at home side hustle? When I moved into my first apartment here in Houston, I worked for Arise and that helped me pay the rent until I was able to find a permanent full-time job.
3. Figure out where you actually want to live. If you have multiple options, make a list. Google Maps is helpful for seeing what is near the complex. If you are a working mom that has to commute, figure out the distance from your job to the areas you want to live in. Visit the them at night, if you are able to do so. This will allow you to see if there is any suspicious activity going on. You want to make sure that you are moving into a safe place as possible for you and your child.
4. Research the market rent in the area you want to live in. You can do this by doing a simple Google search for market rent in the city where you are moving to. Is the rent in the area fixed or does it have the ability to fluctuate? In Jackson, Mississippi where I lived, rent was pretty much fixed but here in Houston, Texas, rent can fluctuate daily until you sign the lease which was so crazy to me! If the rent has the ability to fluctuate, the best time to search is towards the end of the month after the 15th but closer to the 20th, if you have that flexibility. I found that the rent can decrease $50-$100 because they want to lease those vacant units. That is a $600-1200 savings per year. I'm not sure if this will work in the summer but it just worked for me and I signed my lease two weeks ago.
5. Consider contacting an apartment locator if the area you are interested in has numerous apartments and you don't have the time to do your own research. As single moms, our time is very valuable and we don't always have time to do research like we want. The apartment locator will want to know your budget, how many bedrooms & bathrooms you want, what areas you are considering, and what features you are not willing to do without. For example: I wanted a two bedroom, two bathrooms (because one bathroom just got old), without carpet in the living room and dining area because it's much easier for clean up. Who wants to scrub stains for carpet?? Not me! Just in case you are wondering, using an apartment locator is FREE. They get paid when you list them as a referral. Sometimes, they are able to find you deals with a free month of rent, no deposit, etc. All apartments will not pay referrals and your apartment locator will normally let you know. If you don't end up going with the apartments they recommend, don't feel bad. It happens! Just try to ask if the apartment complex that you are interested in does referrals for apartment locators and at least you will have done your due diligence.
6. If you have the time to search apartment sites and drive around to look at apartments, begin to make a list of apartments that you are interested in. I love Google Sheets or Excel for making comparison lists! You are able to make headings such as apartment name, rent amount, bedroom and bathroom numbers, square footage, notes, and so on. When I went to tour the first set of apartments, I happened to find more apartments riding down the street of a few apartments I was initially interested in. I quickly entered them in my notes app on my iPhone and when I got home, I looked them up and added them to my spreadsheet. Read reviews on Google, Apartment Ratings, Apartments.com, and other apartment sites that are trustworthy. You can also do this if you are using an apartment locator.
7. Narrow your list down to the top five and schedule apartment tours. When you meet with the leasing agents, be sure to ask necessary questions such as what is included in the rent, what amenities are included, how they handle pests, what security features do they have, and any other necessary questions you might have. If you think it, ask it. It is the only way you will find out. If you happen to come across some residents before or after touring the property, ask them about their experience. I happened to come across an older couple and they were happy to share their experience during my last move.
8. Choose the best apartment based on your needs and budget. Some apartments will allow you to negotiate if they are really trying to meet their quota by the end of the month, especially if they are a smaller complex. I was able to negotiate savings of $15 a month by moving into an apartment that was vacant for some time. It never hurts to try. You are probably thinking $15 is not a lot of money and it's not but if you multiply 15 by 12, you too will see the savings for a year.
9. Sign your lease and read over it carefully. Make sure you become familiar with all the fees so there will not be any surprises.
10. Prepare for move-in at least two weeks in advance. This will allow you to pack a little each day. I know. You are probably thinking that you do not want to pay pro-rated rent before actually moving in but it is so worth it! I have given myself seven days to move. If you do not have family or friends near, check with your new apartment complex. They may have a promo code for movers! If you do have someone available, consider renting a U-Haul and having someone else to drive it so that you can also drive. If you are moving across states and the drive is over eight or nine hours, you may want to look into shipping your items in boxes. Amtrak, Greyhound, and FedEx are the most popular. You may also want to consider if selling your big items is a better choice than shipping them. You may also want more time to move.
BONUS TIP: If you have someone that can watch the kid (s) while you move, I'd totally recommend that! If I would've had my daughter while moving, it would take much longer!
What tips do you have for an apartment search?? Share them below. Also, let me know if you found these tips helpful!
P.S. I shared my story about relocating to another state on the podcast. Click here to check it out