Tips for Successful Apartment Hunting

Getting an apartment that you’ll be happy living in can feel like a daunting proposition in a high-priced housing market. Many of the most populous cities in the United States have seen rental housing costs increase at unprecedented rates. New York and San Francisco have been very costly to rent in for decades. Now, cities such as Boston, Oakland, and Jersey City are not far off. To get the best quality space in a desirable locale, you’ll need an organized approach to apartment hunting. Here are some important things that you can do to improve your chances of landing a good rental unit in a competitive market.

Plan the Timing of Your Move Strategically

There are some general nationwide trends involving the seasonality of rental markets, and some cities’ rental markets change dramatically depending on what time of year it is. Proximity to colleges and universities or the beginning and end of a tourist season, for example, may be important factors. In these types of markets, you may face a lot more competition in certain months when lots of people are trying to get a rental. There may be less selection during off-peak months, but there could be opportunities for savings on apartments that are priced to move quickly.

Evaluate whether there are any seasonal variations in rental rates or availability that you need to consider. If you don’t need to move right away, consider asking your current landlord to move during the month that would be best for you rather than automatically resolving to move at the end of your current lease term. The best timing for you may also be better for your landlord. Just be sure that you and your landlord document your plans. It’s always a good idea for lessors and lessees to formalize an agreement about a lease term change.

Review Your Credit

Your credit score could weigh heavily on the overall strength of your application. Do a credit check on yourself to review your score and report. If your credit is less than stellar, you should start taking some steps to raise your score. You can’t turn a poor score into an excellent score right away, but changing some of your habits can make a significant difference over time.

If you’re concerned that your credit is a red flag, it isn’t necessarily going to prevent you from getting the apartment that you want. Having a co-signer with good credit can make you a much more appealing applicant. For the most part, landlords and property managers like to have more than one party to pursue a remedy against in case a tenant defaults on a lease.

Prepare References

Landlords or leasing agents could want to find out about your previous rental history to ascertain that you paid rent on time, didn’t break a lease, and didn’t damage a unit. Let your previous landlords know that you may need their help to provide a reference, and be sure to give them a heads up when you know that someone is likely to be making an inquiry. A delay hearing back from a reference might cause you to lose out to another applicant whose references are more responsive.

Lessors may also request a reference from your employer to verify your income. However, having several months of pay stubs at-the-ready may suffice.

Bear in mind that landlords or property management companies will not necessarily approve the first rental application that they receive. You may be competing with a lot of applicants. Do some groundwork to get a sense of where you stand and identify what you need to do in order to present a strong application.