How Should You Find Your Next Apartment?

There are so many decisions you have to make during a given day. Should you invest your money in a reliable bond or a riskier stock (and should you look up what stocks and bonds are or just nod and put the end of your glasses in your mouth indicating you’re giving it serious thought)? Should you ask for that promotion at work? Is it worth it to DVR the finale of Glee even though you’re 90 percent sure you’ll be home to watch it?

And what about when you’re looking for a new apartment? There are several ways to go about finding a new rental. Some popular methods include: checking out ads on websites such as Craigslist, using the building’s leasing agent, going with a broker, or enacting “squatter’s rights.”

Actually that last one might not be a thing. Now that I think about it, I don’t think the old rule, “You move your feet, you lose your seat,” applies to apartments.

Or there's always the "Close your eyes and point" method.

Right.

Anyway, let’s look at the pros and cons of the first three methods then, shall we?

Websites such as Craigslist. These sites provide a great way to browse through lots of ads for apartments or roommates. Plus you can narrow or widen your search, depending on what you’re looking for. And you can sometimes find listings where there is no broker fee.

However, there’s a chance that some of the ads on Craigslist are scams (on a side note, I’m totally going to Europe next month and can sublease you an apartment. Just send the security deposit to my super-legitimate P.O. box). So, caveat emptor. Also, in vino veritas, which has nothing to do with finding apartments on Craigslist, but I wanted to show off my Latin skills. And I like wine. 

Leasing agents at a building. Unlike brokers, who might be showing you an apartment that they’ve never seen before either, leasing agents definitely know their stock. And they should be able to answer all your questions about the building. It’s actually sometimes hard to stump them with building questions, which takes all the fun out of that game, but yeah, I guess it makes it easier to make an “informed decision,” if that’s what you’re into. And you won’t necessarily have to pay a broker’s fee.

But if you use a building’s leasing agent, be sure you like that building, because that’s all you can see. And if you want, say, a two-bedroom apartment, and there’s currently only a one-bedroom apartment available, then that’s what you get. Although there’s always a promise of the one you want opening up “in a few months” (it’s always in a few months). Also, since they know they only have a few apartments in stock, they don’t necessarily care if you take it or if someone else does, which can sometimes lead to a bad experience for the prospective renter. 

Broker sites. These allow you to browse all the apartments that the broker company is showing, which is often quite a bit. Some sites allow you to specify amenities you want, as well as the type of apartment (elevator building, doorman, buildings with laundry on-site, etc.) And if you make an appointment with a broker, but the apartment isn’t what you’re looking for, he or she is often willing to take you to any other place their company lists.

But, as mentioned earlier, brokers might be unfamiliar with the apartment they’re showing you, so they might not be able to answer all of your questions. And, unfortunately, sometimes broker websites show pictures of apartments that are either already leased (“Move your feet, lose your seat,” might not really apply to real estate, but “You snooze, you lose,” certainly does), or don’t exist, all to lure you into working with one of their brokers to look at another of their apartments. Additionally—and this is your “duh” moment of the day—you often have to pay a broker fee when you work with a broker. (Actually, sorry, one “duh” isn’t enough. This one also gets a “duh” and an eye roll, a la Michelle Tanner on Full House.)

Which method is your favorite when looking for a new apartment, or which would you recommend?

-Jessica Fiur, News Editor

Photo credit: Helder Almeida