What you need to know when starting a new apartment hunt

This post originally appeared on the Zumper blog.

Congratulations, you’re moving!

If you haven’t done this before, you’ll want to start by checking out this post on general things to know about being a new apartment renter. Some of the highlights include credit history and budgeting, knowing your rights as a tenant, and dealing with neighbors.

Throughout the rest of apartment hunting process, there are specific things that you’ll want to look for and remember.

Preparing to search

Begin your hunt by defining your budget. It’s recommended that you spend about 30% of your (pre-tax) income on rent. For example, if you are earning $4,000 per month, aim to spend $1,200 on rent.

Next, you’ll want to learn about the neighborhoods of the city in which you are looking to rent. A narrowed-down search area helps weed out listings that aren’t worth your time. There are many ways to learn about the different neighborhoods of a city, the types of people who live there, proximity to public transportation, and more.

When searching through neighborhoods, consider things like age demographics, distance from your place of work, weather (will your building be swallowed by fog most mornings?), and of course, price. Resources like Zumper’s neighborhood guides come in very handy at this step — here’s an example from Denver.

Identifying options

When searching through apartment listings, there are a number of indicators that can show you whether this will be the right place for you. Begin by considering the basics like how many bedrooms and bathrooms you’d like. Then, go over some of the following:

  • Is the apartment in a large building or is it independently owned?
  • Is there hardwood floor or carpeting?
  • Who is the property manager?
  • What amenities come with the apartment itself and/or the building?

It is also common for apartment buildings to offer specials to new tenants. Make sure you check descriptions for any concessions. These can include anything from discounted parking to waived security deposits to a few weeks worth of free rent!

At the showing

If at all possible, you should always schedule an appointment to see an apartment before you submit a binding application (although you can do this at the showing if you’re using Zumper’s Instant Apply feature). When you are there, make sure to keep an eye out for these things:

  • Outlets: how many are there and where are they around the rooms?
  • Windows: how much natural light does the apartment get? What is outside the window (a beautiful view, a courtyard, or a too-close-for-comfort glance into your neighbor’s living room)?
  • Closets: where are they located? What is their internal organization like?
  • Lighting: which rooms have lighting fixtures and which don’t? Where are the light switches? How much additional lighting might the unit need?
  • Where is the trash depository?
  • Where is the laundry room (if not in-unit)? Is it coin operated?
  • If there are hardwood floors, are there requirements for rugs?
  • Does the landlord live on site? Who takes care of maintenance and what is the process to file an issue?
  • How secure is the building? Note the process to enter.
  • What is the application process?
  • How is rent collected?

When you’ve found The One

It is worth preparing your application documents before you attend a showing. That way, you’re able to submit your application promptly, which is especially ideal in larger cities with competitive real estate markets. This information can include a rental resume, credit report, background check, references, proof of income, and information about pets.

The more information you can provide to the landlord, the higher your likelihood is of being accepted as a new tenant.

Lastly, before signing a lease, make sure you’ve gone over all of the terms with your landlord. It’s key to have a full, clear understanding of all the rules you will be expected to follow under this contract, from hanging things on the walls of your apartment and where to pay your rent to quiet hours and subletting protocol.

Or, let us do it for you

Should Denver or San Francisco be your destination, you can skip over just about all of this and leave the work to Zumper’s Rental Concierge team. Their names are Wade and Sophie, and they’re experts on pretty much anything related to moving to either of these two cities. When you’re ready to get started, just click here and provide your budget and move-in date, and we will take it from there.