Whether you are a first-time renter or not, the process of finding an apartment or condo can be a little daunting. With so many factors to consider, choosing the perfect apartment is never an easy decision. However, there are countless tools available for helping you find your next home, such as apps, apartment search engines and more. 

Because the vast majority of apartment listings are found online, knowing how to navigate through your search results is the key to success. When you know how to filter your results and leverage apartment searching tools to your advantage, looking for your next home becomes a much easier task. Below, learn which techniques will streamline your apartment search and land you the perfect unit. 

Create a Budget First 

One of the nice things about renting an apartment rather than owning a home is that living expenses tend to be lower overall. Not only are apartments generally smaller and cheaper to heat and cool, you also don’t have to worry about maintenance and other similar costs that add up quickly for homeowners. Some buildings will also include your utilities in the cost of your rent, such as garbage services or water and sewer. 

While living in an apartment may be more affordable than living in a home, it’s still important to set a budget before you even begin searching for your next rental. Most experts recommend that you spend no more than 35 percent of your post-tax income on rent or housing. In fact, some landlords will turn you away if you are trying to rent an apartment that exceeds a certain threshold based on your income. Keep in mind that rental assistance programs can also help you afford an apartment.

Make a List of Must-Haves 

No apartment, or any home for that matter, is going to be perfect. Because you will probably have to make certain compromises no matter where you live, it’s important to start your search with a clear idea of what counts as a “must-have,” and what would simply be nice to have. Your priorities might include things such as: 

  • Your ideal neighborhood. 
  • The number of bedrooms and bathrooms you want. 
  • Amenities, such as in-unit laundry or an on-site gym, swimming pool or playground. 
  • A pet-friendly community. 

Most apartment listings will indicate whether a unit has any special amenities due to the fact that this draws in potential renters. If something you want is not listed, chances are the unit does not come with it. 

Filter Your Search Results 

Once you have your must-haves written down, you can search for apartments much more easily. Filtering out apartments that don’t have your preferred number of bedrooms, for example, will narrow the results considerably. Remember that you should also create filters so that you’re only seeing apartments within your budget. 

Watch Out for Apartment Rental Scams 

Other factors to consider when apartment hunting include scams. Even if you find an apartment on a reputable website, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the listing is reliable. If anything feels off about a listing, or an apartment seems too good to be true, it’s probably best to look elsewhere. 

While a lot of rental horror stories come from people who have been scammed, it’s also worth the time to look into complaints against legitimate landlords or apartment complexes. Many complexes and landlords have a bad reputation even if they’re doing everything by the book. Checking the Google reviews for an apartment complex is one of the best ways to identify red flags about the way a building or community is managed. 

Set up Apartment Alerts 

If you’re having trouble finding a place that fits your needs right now, there is no need to give up. Instead, use an apartment searching website that allows you to set up alerts for new apartment listings that fit your criteria. This way, you’ll be the first to know when a great apartment is posted without having to spend so much time monitoring listings manually. 

Prepare Your Application Materials in Advance 

Depending on the rental market in your area, apartment listings may be snatched up almost as soon as they are posted. It can be disappointing if you have your heart set on a particular unit, only to find that it’s no longer available once you get around to submitting an application. In order to avoid missing out on a great listing, you should be ready to send in an application with all the required materials at any time.

Most landlords will need to see the same types of items. You can get ahead of the application game by gathering all of the following ahead of time: 

  • Recent pay stubs or other verification of your income. 
  • A current bank statement or last year’s tax return. 
  • Your personal identification, including a photo ID and your Social Security number (SSN). 
  • A checkbook, which will be required for paying the security deposit and application fees. 
  • A list of references with contact information.
  • Your vehicle’s make, model and license plate number.