Before landing this new apt, I had searching for apartments for four months prior. I think I've streamlined the process by now, and would like to share a few things that I learned.
1. Search by area.
You probably already have an idea of the locations you'd consider, based on your commute to work, proximity to nightlife or groceries, and general environment. For me, all three were priorities for me, so I had to pick one criteria to start with. Lightly at first, I'd open up every local listing that had an interesting headline just to get a feel of what I could expect in those neighborhoods, and cross out any non-negotiables.
2. Search by price within that area.
It's good to know what you can expect from your budget so that you're not surprised. Make comprimises where you have to by evaluating what amenities and perks are included in the rent total, and make a mental note on what you can expect from the low end to the high end of your price spectrum. For example, for $975 I know I can expect to NOT have a 1 BR AND an in-unit washer and dryer, but maybe I can compromise for a 1 BR in a gated community that has a laundry room. If I really want the in-unit washer/dryer, maybe I should consider having a roommate to alleviate the costs? I went through like, 2,534 of those kinds of questions.
3. Save time by ONLY looking at posts that provide photos.
In my rental career, I've been so thorough in my online research that I've signed the lease for the first or second apartment I physically visited. Having photographs of the unit shows professionalism on the landlord's behalf (it's a BASIC expectation of selling on the internet), and also dependability. Gone are the days where you play phone tag and coordinate schedules and travel to the new place and wait for the landlord and decide you hate the place and dread looking at the next one that will deceive you so. Plus it's a bad feeling. Would you rather do that ten times a week, or nail the dream apartment on the first or second try? While there may be unphotographed opportunities you might overlook, you may not want to spend time weeding those out.
4. When you do schedule a visit, be thorough.
5. Give yourself ample time.
The last thing you want in this process is A) to get discouraged and B) to settle. In the end, your home is your HOME. Your sanctuary from an ever-increasingly crazy world. I don't know what your day-to-day situation is like but if you're working the 9-6 like me, the last thing you'll want to do is to come home knowing there is problem to deal with. Start your research early, even if leases aren't available for another month. Get your budget together. Ask you friends if they know of any openings. Get excited for the change.
So far, I've been at the new spot for two weeks now. I still haven't added any furniture and some things are still in a clutter, but I am not in a rush to figure that out. I'm enjoying the space as it is, as the choice that I made so carefully.