It’s not hard to find an apartment, but it is hard to find the perfect apartment. Based on my own apartment-hunting experience, I wanted to share the method I came up with for finding a decent place.
1) Make a list of the places you visit regularly. Include where you and your spouse work, the location of a school or day care center, and other important places. You may also want to consider the part of town where you do most of your non-work or recreational activities, proximity to friends or family members, and other frequent places.
2) Plot these locations on a custom Google map. This will allow you to see the distance between your major destinations visually.
3) Take a screen capture of the map and open it with an image editor. It doesn’t matter whether you use Photoshop, PaintShopPro, Gimp, or another program.
4) Draw a boundary box that covers your most-visited places. It’s okay if you don’t get all of them, but try to get most of them. This will vary widely by city, but consider places that are 5-10 miles from your job. Because of prices, this may not always be possible, and you may have to expand your radius to a larger area.
5) Now, use Google Maps to find all of the apartment complexes located within that area. Create a list in Excel, OpenOffice, Google Sheets, or another application. Add columns for things like rent, square footage, amenities, ratings and reviews, etc.
7) Visit the website for each property and fill in the columns on your sheet. This research should take no more than 1-2 hours. What you are doing is eliminating the apartments nearby that are too expensive, have bad reviews, or do not have specific amenities that you require (pets, parking, pool, etc.) You should be able to narrow it down to your top 3 to 5 locations for an in-person visit.
8) From here, set up a day to go visit your top choices in person. Be sure to ask lots of questions to the leasing agent, they are there to help you!
9) Pick one!
By now, it should be obvious which is the best choice for you. If you are undecided between 2 locations, consult a trusted friend or family member.
This method helped me find an apartment that was close to work, within my price range, and highly rated. If you live in a rural area or a part of town with few apartment complexes, this method may not work as well for you.