But finding an apartment that meets your needs is possible, even if you can’t leave the state. Here’s how to get started.
Define What You Want
If you have renting experience, you have a clear picture of your preferences and needs. Consider these elements and decide which serve as deal breakers in your hunt:
- Amenities: These include basics like air conditioning and optional perks like a dishwasher.
- Location: How close is the prospective apartment to your new job? Good schools? Public parks? Museums and art galleries?
- Pet policy: Whether you move with a pet or adopt one after you move, you must know and understand your apartment complex’s stance on pets.
- Rent costs: As a general rule, rent should represent no more than 30% of your income. You can narrow your options using an affordability calculator, like the ones offered from MyApartmentMap (http://www.myapartmentmap.com/affordable_housing/calculator/) and HousingConnections.org (http://www.housingconnections.org/index.php?option=com_calculator). Also consider how an area’s cost of living compares to other locations you’re considering.
- Square footage: Compare your current dimensions to all your apartment prospects. Do you have enough room to entertain? Do you have storage space for your belongings?
- Utilities included: Some complexes include utilities like water, garbage, and heating in your rent cost. Take a look at which utilities each apartment covers. If you plan to move to a colder climate, consider an apartment that covers heat for you.
Create a list or spreadsheet of the factors that matter most to you. This can help you eliminate options that won’t work immediately.
If you have no renting experience, consider the list above and consult with a renter you know. He or she can help you define your expectations.
You may end up needing to compromise on some of your conditions, especially if you must move quickly. However, you should not try to compromise on availability or rent cost. Ask your renter if they offer short-term leases. If you end up with a less-than perfect apartment, a short-term lease gives you time to find another place to live without having to spend the entire time in hotels.
To begin your hunt, do a simple online search. Try terms like “2 bedroom apartments in Indianapolis” or “renovated apartments near Indianapolis” instead of just a search term and a city. This way, you avoid wasting time on some prospects that just won’t appeal to you. Take note of each promising apartment you find.
While you can decide a lot based on a complex’s website, you still have to make calls to the property management office. Notice how staff members interact with you-if they sound brusque or rude, you may not want to deal with them for a whole lease.
Travel Beyond the Complex’s Website
Property managers have an obvious bias. To get a better grasp on your options, go beyond a single phone call and the specs on the website. Try these tools:
- Google street view
- Local classifieds
- Tenant reviews
- University housing guides
Work with Someone in the Area
If you have friends or family members near your prospective apartments, have them take a tour. You may get more specific answers from the questions they ask in person than from a phone conversation. Have them take pictures of the complex and the apartment, especially if they notice something amiss.
If you don’t have a ready-made scout, contact local real estate brokers. Brokers have less of an inherent bias than property managers. Plus, brokers have access to most local listings, so they can let you know if you’ve missed any promising options.
Renting from out of state can feel frustrating. But with a clear goal, some diligent work, and a trustworthy ally, you can find your next home.