Looking for an apartment can be a full-time job in itself, it is very daunting, and you are subjected to someone else’s whim.
Ideally, start looking for your new place weeks before you actually need to move. You don’t want to be forced to take the first thing you see, just to avoid living in your car. Los Angeles has many apartments, but all may not be right for you.
GET A GAME PLAN
If you know somebody that has a vacancy in his or her complex, than your hunt may not be too difficult. However, for the rest, you need to have some type of plan or direction.
For starters, find out what your budget is. Knowing your budget will help you narrow down what type of apartment you’re looking for. For example, if your budget is under $800, you know you are going to focus on studios, singles, or junior bedrooms. Knowing your price range can help you avoid wasting time reviewing ads, and calling managers for vacancies that do not apply to you. In addition, managers typically require renters to make up to three times the rent amount; therefore, even though you can afford $800 a month, you probably should look at cheaper apartments to make sure you reach the income requirement.
Next, research and scout the area you want or need to live in. If you are a student and want to live near campus, you might be force to live in a city you don’t like. However, each neighborhood, and building complex will be different, so take the time to review the area, even before you make contact with the apartment manager.
Now, if you are interested in picking up and starting over in a different city, it is good to take a few trips to various areas just to look around. Note the neighborhood, the businesses, schools, bus line, or anything else that may be important to you. Moving into a new neighborhood is tricky, because you never know if you are visiting on an unusually good (or bad day), or if the noise, (or the quiet) is typical. Therefore, it is best to visit not only in the daytime, but also at night.
Now that you have an idea of what the area looks like you can start searching for vacancies. Many online ads are quickly dated, therefore, they cannot be your only source, but they can lead you into the right direction, and without paying. For example, if you go to a site similar to Rent.com, and enter your preferences you will receive a list of places. However, many of those places will have been rented by the time you contact them. In addition, online sites usually don’t provide you with a phone number to call the apartment complex, (unless you pay). However, there are addresses, copy down the complex name, and address. Keep searching those online sites, and once you have complied an intensive list, organize it, and head out to those areas.
Driving and looking for an address is hard if you are by yourself. Therefore, find a spot and park. Take a phone, paper, pen, and head out on your search. You are not only looking for the apartments on your list, but you are also noticing any other apartment vacancy signs, and writing down the apartment information. At this point, all you can do is visually inspect the exterior aspect. Check for loiters, cleanliness, adequate parking, and animals. If it passes your visual inspection, make a note, and go speak with the apartment manager.
MEET THE MANAGER
Apartment mangers are usually available Monday – Friday, 8 am – 5pm, and a half a day on Saturday, if at all. If the office is close on the day you arrive, use that time to collect phone numbers, and cross off apartments that do not meet your standards. During their business hours, call the apartment complexes that are still on your list to set up an appointment.
If the office is open, use this time to get an application, and ask about pricing. A standard application usually asks for a pay stub, references, social security card, I.D., and a $30 money order for a credit check. When you meet with the office manager, it should not be an awkward experience. Inform the manager that you are responding to the ad you saw. The office manger should let you know when the apartment will be available, and offer any information about the complex/ neighborhood.
When you meet the manager, this is your time to look at the unit, and ask questions, don’t assume anything. Write down what you liked or didn’t like about the apartment. If the manager is telling you things to discourage you from applying that should signal a red flag.
TAKE YOUR TIME TO DECIDE
In your search, you will call and leave messages with many people. Some managers do not return calls, so you have to be aggressive in following up. Everything is first come, first serve.
Keep your options open. Just because you turn in an application, doesn’t mean you have to take the apartment.
Prices are negotiable.
Discrimination of any kind is illegal.
Your credit can disqualify you from renting.
Your credit can require you to have a large deposit, but not more than twice your rent.
If you don’t make enough, get a co-signer.
Try to speak with the residents to get a real assessment.