Monday, May 2, 2011

Power Hour: Apartment Hunting

As G-man and I have wanderlusty hearts, apartment shopping/hunting is something we must do every few years. You would think we would be experts by now but each city comes with its unique charms and ways of getting the inside scoop on how and where to rent (Craigslist, brokers, to live downtown, uptown, midtown, suburbs, etc.). Here is our generally successful strategy for apartment hunting. I hope it is helpful to you! 

Go with something trendy in Logan's Circle

1.      The first step is taking a chance and going somewhere new! Every few years we look at a map and think about where we want to go next.
2.     It was helpful to scout out the city before we moved. It allowed us to narrow down where we wanted to live and see how much we get for our money. If we lived in the suburbs we could rent a 1,000 sq ft house for the same money as a 600 sq ft basement apartment in the hip downtown area. It helps you decide what is more important: commute, amenities, quietness, being in the action, etc.
3.     Each time we move our needs change too, so it's important to discuss priorities before the search begins. As with anything in life, when searching for the right apartment you must understand that what you want in a blue sky world isn't always what is available in the real life market.

Take it easy in the Virgina suburbs
Once you decide where to go, your budget, and priorities:

4.     Go in with a plan but be flexible as the process unfolds. Your list will help direct your search but you may discover something more important to you along the way. As in our case, outdoor space, which was not on our list, turned out to be more important than having hard wood floors which was.
5.     Don’t be afraid to ask questions and call people. As we discovered people were more than willing to help us on our search. If we called a broker who did not deal in rentals or if an apartment was already rented, people did not simply tell us ‘no’ and hang up. They advised us on who else we could call or other listings they had available.

Something new in Old Town Alexandria?

6.     If you can, take the time to walk the neighborhood you are considering to really see if it meets your needs.
7.     Be aggressive. No one is going to get the apartment for you. If you want something you need to be direct and persistent.
8.     Once you decide on a place, carefully read the lease to ensure that it includes who will pay for what (utilities, if there is damage), if you can have an animal, if you need renters’ insurance, and the condition of the apartment. You want to be sure and get your security deposit back at the end of your stay and have a functional, pleasant relationship with your landlord.

I'll take one of these in Georgetown. And throw in the Mercedes too, thanks.

In one week, we called almost 20 people and saw over five apartments. We finally narrowed it down to two. Then settled on a one bedroom basement apartment that is in one of the neighborhoods we want, is slightly over budget, 600 + sq ft, and has most of the other criteria on our list. What we didn’t expect is that we would give up wood floors for an outdoor space. Hello private garden!
Now the exciting part is decorating the little beauty with the treasures from our travels!

And the nicest house in DC! Couldn't resist throwing it in.

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