When Should I Start Looking for an Apartment?
When it comes to apartment hunting, timing is key. If you don’t time your apartment search right, you’ll either end up with expensive listings or limited options. This is especially true in densely populated cities like Boston or New York, where there is an optimum window for renting apartments.
If you want to time your search during this optimum window, then when is a good time to start looking for an apartment?
Let’s find out!
Setting Your Timeframe
As a general rule, you should start searching for a new apartment 30 to 60 days before your current lease ends. This period is important for several reasons:
- You will have enough time to properly go through the listing descriptions for every unit that catches your eye. You won’t need to rush through apartment tours and you have time to visit the neighborhoods as well.
- There is a good chance that most apartments you are interested in will be vacant, or will become available within this time period.
- You can look for backup apartments in case your top choices fall through for any reason.
- You can go through your current apartment to perform any necessary repairs so that you can get your deposit back in full.
- You can improve your chances of getting approved for your next apartment in case you have any issues (i.e., you have a bad credit score and you need to find a guarantor).
If you’re lucky enough to find an apartment that fits your needs and get approved for the lease, you can move in at your leisure instead of rushing to get ready.
Things to Prepare Before Looking for a New Apartment
Moving to a new apartment is a tiring process, but there are things you can do to make it as easy and smooth as possible.
Finalize Your Dates
There are two dates that you need to finalize before you start your apartment search: your move-out date and your target move-in date. By giving yourself hard deadlines, you will be able to better plan your apartment searching.
You will also have enough time to attend to other essential moving tasks, such as changing your address, finding moving services, and making sure that your insurance policies are up to date. It will also give you enough time for research, whether you’re looking for a safe neighborhood or apartments near dog parks.
Make a Budget, Then Have Extra Cash
Starting your apartment search one to two months in advance gives you a better handle on your budget. You’ll be able to set aside enough money to cover all the expenses that come with switching apartments, as well as fees such as background check fees and security deposits.
Of course, you should set aside a little bit more than you need in case of emergencies. You wouldn’t want to deal with the stress of looking for an ATM in the middle of your move!
Prepare All Your Documents
It’s a good idea to have all your documents ready BEFORE you start looking for a new apartment. Generally, most apartment applications will require the same set of basic documents, such as proof of income and credit score.
Make a List of Your Top Choices
Since you most likely have an idea where you want to move in, your next step would be to narrow down your choices. Aside from the type of apartment and rent price, you can use several factors to help you determine the best candidates, such as:
- Available amenities
- Proximity to school or workplace/ commute time
- Accessibility (walking, biking, or public transportation)
- Proximity to other establishments (groceries, hospitals, malls, etc.)
- Nearby points of interest (restaurants, shops, bars, etc.)
Schedule Your Tours Wisely
In general, an apartment tour can last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of the apartment and the available amenities. You can schedule 2-3 apartment tours per day to maximize your time. It will also be easier to compare apartments if the tours are fresh in your mind.
Have a List of Questions Ready
Make sure that you have a list of questions ready about any apartment you visit. There is nothing wrong with asking about the utilities that come with the unit. You can ask questions such as whether there are service interruptions for the utilities, and if the cost is included in the rent.
If possible, you should also take this opportunity to take a look at the neighborhood. Chat with the tenants in the building to get insider feedback on how it is like to live there.
Beware of Rental Scams
Whenever the best time to look for an apartment rolls around, you can be sure that there will also be an uptick in rental scams. These scams can range from bait-and-switch scams (putting a low price on listings only to spring a higher price during lease signing) to outright making fake listings.
Of course, there are ways to avoid rental scams. Use trusted apartment rental sites that verify listings. You can also use social media housing groups where there are moderators to filter out scam listings. Always visit a listing in person when possible, and pay using a check so that there is a paper trail.
If you’re not careful, it can be difficult to spot a rental fraud. This is one of those “go with your gut” things. If the listing seems too good to be true, it probably is!
Successfully finding an apartment is a combination of doing your research, preparation, and a little bit of luck! If a great unit becomes available on a rental website, don’t be afraid to snap it up if it fits your needs.