The search for the right apartment can be a long and arduous one, fraught with questions about the livability of not only the buildings themselves, but the neighbourhoods that you will potentially be calling home. You can spend weeks looking at different buildings only to discover that the location just won’t work for you in the long run. How can you reduce your stress and find the perfect place to make your home? With these tips, you’ll be well on your way to finding the right apartment for you in no time!
Before you even begin searching through the online ads for apartments, start by making a list of amenities you simply cannot live without. Do you need parking included? What about a dishwasher? Do you need a bus stop to be within a short walking distance of the building? If you found an apartment that you really loved, would the fact that it did not have one of these items make it a deal breaker for you? Listing out your “must-have’s” will help you determine your priorities. Once you have these, you can start looking at ads.
Map It Out
Many online classifieds and apartment search sites, such as RentSeeker.ca, Kijiji and Craigslist, allow you to filter your apartment searches based on the must-have’s you listed above. If you start by weeding out the apartments that will not fit your lifestyle or needs, your search will be much faster and more productive.
In addition to the filtering tools, you can also use the mapping features on these websites to get a visual of exactly where the apartment is located. If this feature is not available, using Google Maps is just as effective (and it lets you see what bus routes are nearby). If you know the exact address of the building you are interested in, you can use an online tool like WalkScore to determine the “walkability” of the neighbourhood it is located in. This will tell you what is nearby quickly – coffee shops, grocery stores, medical offices, shopping centres, bus stops, and more. Were any of these items on your make-or-break list? If yes, it’s time to call and make an appointment to view the apartment.
Ask, Ask, Ask
Once you are viewing the apartment, don’t be afraid to come prepared with a list of questions. The majority of landlords/superintendents will be happy to answer them (or to find the answer for you if they don’t know off the top of their heads). For example, does hanging art in your apartment make it feel like a home to you? You’ll want to know before signing the lease if you are able to do this. You’ll also want to ask questions like: “How old is the building?”, “What is the response time like if I have an issue?”, “What utilities are included, if any?”, “Can I have a pet?”, and anything else that is important to you.
Once you’ve decided on your perfect building, be sure to read the lease carefully before you sign it and, again, ask questions if you are unclear on a clause. Starting off at your new apartment with a clear picture of your own rights and responsibilities will make for a happy and harmonious home life.
Another important factor to consider is how much rent you can afford. About Apartments provides some advice on how to manage this aspect of the apartment search in their article “How to Create a Budget Plan for Apartment Living”:
Follow the “one-third rule.” Try to budget no more than a third (33.3%) of your net income on rent. Your net income is how much you make after taxes, or your take-home pay. Many landlords set their income requirements as a percentage of gross income, which means you may qualify for an apartment if the rent is a little more than a third of your take-home pay. Using your net income, however, is more helpful in determining what you really can afford (as opposed to what you might qualify for). If you want to have more money available for other expenses, try to find an apartment for a rent that’s closer to a fourth (25%) of your net income.
Save by sharing. It’s hard to bargain with a landlord when it comes to the rent, but you can lower your rent payments considerably by renting with a roommate or two.
Anticipate initial rental expenses. You may need to pony up the first month’s rent, a security deposit, a broker’s fee, and possibly the last month’s rent before you even move into your new place. Don’t leave these important expenses out of your budget.
Make Your Budget Effective
You don’t need to be a math or economics whiz to create an effective budget. It does require some time, motivation, effort, and follow-through, but once you’ve created your budget and gained some financial peace of mind, you’ll probably find it was well worth it.
Follow these steps to create an effective budget:
Use software or a worksheet. More and more people are turning to personal finance software to help them create a budget. Here are some top software picks to consider. If you prefer not to use software, create a worksheet (on your computer or the old-fashioned way) that lets you outline your income and expenses and paint a full picture of your monthly finances. Here’s a worksheet you can adapt for your budget.
Get your documentation together. Creating a budget lets you know how much monthly income and expenses you have, and so your budget is only as complete as the information it contains. Take the time to find pay stubs, bank statements, utility bills, auto and renter’s insurance bills, and any other documentation that can help you determine your income and expenses.
Enter your income and expenses. Refer to the documentation you gathered and enter your monthly income into your budget. To determine the amount of your monthly expenses, make a list of what you spend your money on each month and compare it to recent credit card bills and receipts. If you use software to create your budget, it will guide you through this step.
Review Your Budget Each Month
Once you’ve completed the steps outlined above, you’ve successfully created your budget. However, your work isn’t quite done. Revisit your budget each month to see if you’ve stayed on track or if you need to make further adjustments. If your financial picture changes significantly — for example, you get a pay raise or you get laid off –- you’ll need to update your budget to reflect your new circumstances.
Hope you find these tips helpful for your apartment search. Happy apartment hunting! 🙂
The RentSeeker Team