Thursday, June 23, 2011

It's Hunting Season

...and I dread hunting season. No, I'm not talking about hunting rabbit, deer, turkey, duck, or any other type of animal. I'm talking about apartment hunting.

I've been living by myself since last September. But, in November, a certain someone will be moving in with me after a certain celebration. Since our jobs are in two totally different parts of Central Florida, I need to move to somewhere that will be more of a middle ground for us. You might be thinking, "wait...isn't it only June??" Well, yes. But, I have to give notice to my current apartment before the middle of July, and I didn't want to do that without having found somewhere else to go first. So, apartment hunting has officially commenced.

First, let me share my tips for anyone else who is going to start looking for a place to rent:

1. Figure out how much you can spend each month in rent. This might sound like a no-brainer, but sometimes complexes have additional "fees" that get tacked onto your rent. Figure out what the bottom line monthly payment to the complex will be and determine if it fits into your budget.

2. Determine your "must haves." When I think of a place I want to move into, I have a long list of things that I want to have. However, sometimes compromises will need to be made, so you need to figure out what you're willing to compromise on and what you're not. (I'll give my list of "must haves" in a second.)

3. Location is important. Especially when you're looking in the remote areas of town like we are. Find the city that you want to move to, but don't be afraid to look at places that might be a few more miles down the road. They might be cheaper and will compensate for the extra mileage.

4. Have your I.D. ready. Maybe this isn't everywhere you will go, but you'll more than likely need to give the complexes your driver's license before they will show you any of their models or units. This might seem like a "duh" step to some, but let me tell you, the fiance didn't realize how much of a pain it was going to be to wrangle his i.d. out of his wallet each time we went to tour another place (I just kept mine loose in my wallet until we were all done).

5. Don't be afraid to ask questions. If you are confused about a price or an offered discount, ask for clarification. If you worry about how to take out the trash, what utility companies are in the area, how you pay for rent each month, where you can park your car, how late you can go swimming in their pool - then just ask! If the staff at the complex seems annoyed by your questions, then it probably isn't a place you want to live anyways.

6. Figure how exactly how much money you will owe, what it is for, and when it is due. Almost all apartments require a deposit of some sort before you move in - sometimes its due when you submit your application, sometimes its due on move-in day. Some complexes require application fees, while others will waive them as part of some move-in special. Pretty much everywhere will have some sort of fee or deposit for pets - and some even require monthly pet fees. If they are offering to prorate a discount to your rent in order to make it lower every month, then make sure you understand exactly what is being discounted and exactly how much you will pay for the first couple of months.

7. Ask if there are professional discounts. Some places will give discounts to teachers, police officers, fire fighters, and other jobs.

8. Don't sign anything right away. This might not be for everyone, but I believe in going home and sleeping on a decision that will will affect my pocket book in a big way and affect my living situation for an entire year. We set aside a single day to go and tour all of the complexes, then went back a couple days later to the one that we had settled on to sign all of the paperwork and submit an application.

9. Talk it over with friends and family. If you're stuck deciding between two places, I find it helps to talk it through with other people. Sometimes they bring up things that you hadn't previously considered. The other suggestion would be to go to the old stand-by: write down a pros/cons list.

So here is what we listed as our "must-haves" for our next apartment:
  • Needed to be located so that we each had no more than an hour drive to work
  • A 2nd story unit
  • The area needed to be well lit at night
  • Needed a pool & fitness center
  • Rent needed to be no more than $50/month more than what I'm currently paying
  • Split bedroom plan
  • Master suite
  • Lots of storage space (kitchen cabinets, linen closets, pantry)
  • Walk-in closet (at least in master)
  • Washer/Dryer hook-ups

And here is our list of "wants":
  • Dark wood cabinets
  • Garden tub (at least in master)
  • Carpet in the bedrooms
  • Recent construction
  • Screened patio
  • Dishwasher
  • Microwave
  • Washer/Dryer included
  • Square footage similar to my current place to house all of my furniture & the furniture that Dan will be moving in with him

Anyone else out there currently hunting around for a new abode? Any tips you want to share that maybe I forgot?

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