Top Tips for Apartment Hunters

Editors note: A big thank you to Jordann! I’m extremely greatful for the chance to take a break from blogging! Plus, this post relates really closely to my current life as even though I’m not actively looking, I will be soon enough!

Apartment hunting is a pain in the ass. Checking the classifieds daily, weeding out the undesirables, and when I finally find a place that’s in my target neighbourhood at my target price – the place turns out to be a dump. As fun as it is searching for an apartment, the inevitable let down upon viewing ruins everything.

Apartment hunting doesn’t have to be that bad. I’ve learned over the past few years that the main reason I was having a hard time apartment hunting is because I wasn’t going about it in the right way. I was making key mistakes that not only made the whole project more difficult, it made it take longer to execute.

Here are my top tips for apartment hunting:

Check the Season

If you’re a young person living in a university town, looking for a one or two bedroom place, a lot of one year leases are going to end in May or September. This protects the landlords, who don’t want to get caught with an empty apartment for the summer. While the leases may end in May or September, they will be advertised as available long before that. In one particular city that I lived in, May leases started to be advertised in January. To make the best of your options, start looking early.

Make a Short Wish List

Another mistake I was making was that my wish list was way too long and specific. I needed good lighting, an open kitchen, laundry that wasn’t too far away, good sized bedrooms, my own thermostat, etc, etc. How could I possibly expect an apartment to hold up to that? These days, with two pets, my wish list is pretty simple: Good location, access to green space, pet friendly, good landlord, quiet neighbours This is a pretty basic list, because these are things I can’t live without. Everything else is pretty much doable, at least for a short period of time.

Figure Out the Landlord

Probably the single most important thing that will define your renting experience is your landlord. I’ve had bad ones (entering the apartment without notice, without even knocking) and awesome ones (actively helped me hide the fact that I had a cat from the building owners for two years) and I’ve gotta say, I’m a lot more willing to put up with the weird quirks a place has, if the landlord is good. The easiest way to get the truth about a landlord (because he/she will seem awesome while showing the place, the true personality not emerging until the lease is signed) is to interview the tenants.

Interview the Current Tenants

I’m not saying you need to sit down and have an hour long conversation with them, but if they happen to be in the apartment, ask for their email or phone number so that you can start up a dialogue without the land lord present. If they say no, oh well. But if they say yes, they’ll be able to give you the little known facts that may make or break your renting experience. Plus, since they’re leaving, they’ll probably be candid. Are the neighbours super scary or loud in the middle of the night? Does the garbage truck come at six in the morning on Sundays? Is the land lord really evil incarnate? The current tenants will know.

Know Your Rights

Every province has a Tenants Act or some equivalent, detailing the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants. Read yours. Knowledge is power after all, and by knowing the ins and outs of your rights as a tenant will help you make sure that you get what you want with minimal fuss. Think the place needs some repairs or a fresh coat of paint before you move in? Your Tenant’s Act will probably stipulate that things like that need to be included in writing, on the lease, before it’s signed.

Following tips like these has allowed me to vastly improve my renting experience over the past few years, to the point where I have no interest in buying a house for awhile. Renting can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience, if you go about it properly.

Everyone has their renting horror stories. I want to hear yours!

Jordann is a part time runner, yogi, local foodie and personal finance aficionado, and a full time marketing professional living and working in Atlantic Canada. She writes about her life at her blog, My Alternate Life.


13 Comments on “Top Tips for Apartment Hunters”

  1. Lots of great tips there for the readers. Renting a space can be just as important as buying a space and it’s important to think out the process. Cheers Mr.CBB Have a great weekend.

  2. These are good tips for anyone looking to rent! I think it’s weird though that there are bad landlords out there that don’t fix things. Why wouldn’t they want to fix their own property? I know there are landlords like that but I think it’s very strange~!

  3. SWR says:

    I would be careful about interviewing current tenants. In one city I lived in, current tenants got a bonus ($250 or so) if they helped fill the apartment for the next lease.

    Also- when you’re talking with a landlord, make sure you know whether that person is working under another company. In that same city, buildings would be advertised as being owned by individual managers, but in reality all of the managers worked under a major management company. (And that company was awful.) A quick google search of that major company let everyone know NOT to rent from them.

  4. […] Money Update Today’s post is a bit of a mish mash, but first and foremost head over to Bog Of Debt where I’m guest posting about apartment […]

  5. John S @ Frugal Rules says:

    Great tips. I think getting to know the landlord is key. Even if the property isn’t your dream apartment, they can make your life much easier if they’re good as opposed to plain negligent. Knowing your rights is also important. We had to take a former landlord to court because they did not want to return our security deposit. Thankfully since we knew our rights we were able to take her to court and ended up winning and getting our money back.

  6. We searched for a new place over the summer – actually it was fun! We really like our new place but we’re not crazy about the property management company. We asked if they could give our contact info to the previous tenants so we could ask a few questions and they refused!

  7. Great tips, especially about speaking to the current tenants. Hopefully they didn’t get a bonus so they’ll provide info.

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