So you want to look for an apartment, huh? Don't worry, I am here to help! When searching for apartments last fall, I got STRESSED out! So I would love to help make this process a little less stressful for you. I have included my Top Ten Tips for Apartment Hunting, aided by New Girl visuals, because it's New Girl. Duh.
Starting early was the best decision I made when searching for my apartment! When you start early, not only are you relieving stress early in the year, you are also searching before everyone else. If you have a low price range, starting early provides you with a lot more options before the cheaper apartments fill up! If you wait to search for apartments, you may end up thinking...
Make a budget.
This may sound boring, but making a budget is the best way to start your apartment search! I started by writing down the average cost of utilities in Bloomington, Don't forget groceries, "play" money, gas money, internet, renter's insurance, and any other expenses you encounter often. I, then, calculated my average monthly income and subtracted the utility amount calculated beforehand. Once I got my remaining amount, I then chose to set aside $100 a month for savings. Yes, I would have much rather spent this money to get a nicer apartment, but when your car breaks down or you have an unexpected expense, you will greatly appreciate the money you saved. The remaining amount is what you can spend on rent every month. For me, my rent budget ended up being $300 a month.
Find RELIABLE roommates (if you need one).
Reliable roommates are of the utmost importance when apartment hunting. If you have a roommate who won't be able to pay their portion of rent, you may have to pick up their portion to avoid late payment. No bueno. So be smart when picking a roommate! Not only do you need to get along and rely on them to pay their portion of rent, but you also need to make sure your living styles will work with each other. If one roommate is a neat freak and the other doesn't care about a dirty apartment, then there is sure to be tension.
Start your apartment search online.
The best websites I found when apartment hunting were Apartment Guide and Apartments.com. Both of these websites provide the option to filter the apartments by price, bedroom number, and even distance from campus! Make sure you only look in your price range. It can be tempting to look at the more expensive locations, but it will only hurt you in the long run. Here are a few recommendations from a fellow WeAreIU blogger. Online apartment searching makes everyone happy.
Don't be afraid to look around.
Request a showing at a minimum of three properties. Even if you fall in love with the first property you view, you do not know what else is out there! This was a mistake I made when looking at apartments. I only went to one showing and ended up signing the lease a week later. Even though I love the building I am currently in, I wish I would have taken the time to look at my other options.
When at a showing, the realtor may try to rush the process. Don't be embarrassed to ask as many questions as you need to ask, in order to feel comfortable. Asking the question, "What is the ratio of college students to adults/families in this building?" was the best decision I made at my apartment showing. My building has a pretty even ratio of college students to families, which makes it a lot quieter environment (something I was looking for). Be sure to ask when was the last time appliances were updated, when new carpet was put in, which utilities are included, and how the apartment is heated/cooled (gas or electric).
Ask around on campus.
After you have narrowed down your options, be sure to ask around about them on campus! Many people are not afraid to be vocal if they had a good, or even a bad, experience. Just ask! Having input from other students will really help you get a feel for how helpful the management is once you are moved into the apartment. Finding out if management would fix a plumbing issue within 24 hours or wait a week could really be a deciding factor when apartment hunting. They won't be...
Read the lease CAREFULLY.
Yay! You have found an apartment! Next, the rental property manager sends you a long BINDING contract. Resist the urge to skim and sign. Take your time to read through all of the sections carefully! Can you hang pictures? Can you have pets? Are there any hidden fees? These answers will all be in your lease. After the lease is signed, do not throw it away! I have numerous copies of my lease in my apartment and it has come in handy numerous times!
Resist buying everything new.
After I signed my lease, I was so excited to move in that I blew $200 that day in apartment decorations. A week later, my mom sent me a picture of the exact same thing for half the price at a yard sale. If you don't like buying used, then do your thing. But, on a tight budget, yard sales, Goodwill, and Facebook are the best ways to go! If you sign a lease before Christmastime, you can even ask for apartment items as gifts! Just make sure you don't duplicate. Also, don't forget necessities like pans, utensils, and a pizza pan (I forgot that one).
Take a deep breath and get excited!
Apartment hunting is stressful business. If you get the hunt done early, then you have an entire semester and summer to lay back and prepare for move-in day. ENJOY IT! You will miss not having to cook or clean. I promise!
OTHER HELPFUL HINTS
Don't skip on renter's insurance
My stove randomly caught on fire. It is better to have it than not.
Check out this blog post
Your Ultimate Guide to Bloomington Apartment Hunting is a lifesaver. Trust me.
Union Street is nice, but it is also expensive
Be sure to always keep your, and your roommates', budgets in mind when apartment hunting.
It is okay to live in the dorms after your freshman year
I promise it is not the end of the world if you would like to stay in the dorm after your freshman year. Don't feel like you have to move out because everyone is doing it. Everyone is NOT doing it.
I wish you the best of luck as you embark on your apartment hunt and, if you run into a few bumps in the road, just remember: Schmidt happens!
Related WeAreIU Blogs:
Looking for Off-Campus Housing in Bloomington
Adulting is hard: finding the perfect place for your budget
Moving Off Campus: The Wrong Way and The Right Way