Apartment Hunting Strategy: How to Find Home

Hello, World.

As I’ve discussed previously, I am moving to Virginia in August for law school, and I will be living with two awesome roommates, one from New York and one from Alabama! We’re a pretty diverse group, and you’re probably wondering how we even met. We met during admitted students weekend fairly briefly, but within the first meeting I knew they were both super nice and people I could see myself being friends with. A few weeks later, I decided I was going to live off campus in either an apartment or a townhouse. So, I needed roommates.

I had thought about living alone, but I lived alone for 2 years in undergrad, and I felt like being in a new environment, it’d be beneficial to live with people going through law school as well. So I reached out to both girls I met that weekend, and one got back to me saying she was planning to live with someone already, but would let me know. The other said she was going to live with the other girl, but maybe we’d all be open to a three bedroom option. The first girl then got back to me, and clarified that she thought I wanted a two bedroom but of course we could do a three bedroom! So, we started a group text and viola! roommates found. Since we’re all going to law school, we are a little Type-A, and a whole lot of organized. So our apartment hunting strategy was effective and let us find an apartment in roughly a week and a half.

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In the beginning, we talked about what kinds of places we were open to. Immediately, we agreed that apartment or townhouse was the best option, and that amenities would be nice if we could find a place with them. I advocated for being really close to the law school, which both roommates agreed was important. We also talked about wanting laundry in-unit, and the nitty-gritty details of what we wanted. Once we had a good idea of what we wanted, we started each looking and would email our findings to each other. A lot of the palaces we found were the same, partially because we started looking early, and partly because we’re going to a somewhat small town. So, once we starting saying which places we liked or didn’t, I volunteered to make a spreadsheet via Google Sheets so we could compile the places and compare them. Here is what I included in our sheet:

Address: the easiest way to separate places and distinguish between them was by address. Also, a lot of places were listed on so many websites it was easy to just go to the sheet, see if the address was already there, and move on.

Type of Housing: Condo/apartment/townhouse, etc.

Have we contacted them?: this would be filled out as we began calling people, and we put notes about how the conversation went. Did they have 3-bedrooms available? When did their list start? How long was the lease? Can we sublet during the summer if it’s a 12-month least?

Complex/Agent: a lot of the time, we were looking at either an apartment complex or looking at an agent, we would list what it was so we would know who the point of contact should be.

Beds: How many bedrooms? Baths: how many baths? we discussed being open to 3 beds/3 baths or 3beds/2.5 baths since a half bath would make it easier for us to all have a bathroom if needed, but still have only two full baths. We found 3/3s were hard to come by, so the 3/2.5 seemed like a viable alternative.

Rent: on a purely financial basis, having the rents listed in a column made it easier to compare price points.

HOA Fees: some places charged additional fees for certain services. This is a cost a lot of people won’t consider with the rent, and can be an unseen cost. We wanted to be aware of this going in to talking about leases. This was often paid by the owner, but not always!

Rent Includes: did rent include trash service? Did the building have amenities? We listed this all out so we would be aware of what a higher rent might be offering.

Appliances included: we didn’t want to buy any appliances, so we wanted to know what appliances we were getting.

Square Feet: a three bedroom should have a good size since we wanted somewhat spacious rooms. Some were 1600 and some were 2030. We wanted to know how big our place would be, and the likely size of bedrooms.

Miles from School: We didn’t want to be more than 15 minutes from school, and for me I was hoping for somewhere under 5 miles from school. This column was a great reference point for trying to be close.

Features: This is where we listed out whether the place had a gym, a pool, etc. This was a more specific version of what the rent includes.

AC/Heating: was the AC central? Was the heat gas? we wanted to know so we could try to estimate how much our bill would be each month.

Laundry in Unit: Was the laundry in unit? if not, probably wouldn’t be a contender for us!

Parking: How many spaces were designated to our place? Was their additional parking options for guests? Since there were three of us, and the traditional number of spaces is 2 per place, we wanted to make sure we had enough parking for each of us to bring a car.

First Floor Unit: One of my roommates wanted a first floor unit, which my other roommate and I were okay with, so we tried to find places that were either on the first floor or had two floors. We were worried about moving ALL furniture up flights on stairs.

Lease Length: We began with the impression that a 9 month lease would be best, and so we wanted a 9 month lease. But the more we considered it, we decided 12-month leases are more common, and if we were allowed to sublet it’d be nice to not have to keep moving every summer. We ultimately signed a 12-month lease with the ability to sublet our rooms in the summer.

We had fun looking for places, and we each took turns calling places or emailing agents. We found an awesome place, and we are very excited! I’m looking forward to moving in!

How do you go about finding a place to live in a new city?

Callie leigh

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