We’ve all been there…
You find a broker or an agent online and all of a sudden, you are thrown into the world of apartment hunting. You have a budget and an area you’d like to stay in, but somehow you end up seeing apartments that are completely out of your price range and the apartment ends up being in a basement that feels more like a prison. Although this situation is one that everyone wants to avoid, rest assured that it happens to the best of us. Sometimes, you just can’t avoid ending up with an agent/broker who tries to squeeze every last penny out of you for a place you don’t love.
“This is the best you’re going to find right now.”
“You’re looking late in the game and need to raise your budget.”
“You can’t amend this lease, trust me.”
These are just three of the lines I was fed while looking for my apartment by brokers and agents alike. It’s all a crock. My best friend and I ended up finding a place that’s a two minute walk to our school and for tons less money than we’re shelling out for our current apartments. On top of that, we each get our own bedroom, a beautiful kitchen, a modern bathroom, and even a pretty big sitting area. After searching for apartments within the last few months, and through experience searching for multiple apartments in past years, it is safe to say that I have some pretty good advice for finding the perfect apartment with an agent/broker. Therefore, here are a few tips to follow when trying to find your new home.
1. Don’t tell anyone your budget
An agent/broker will ask you for your budget right off the bat. DON’T DO THIS. Asking an agent or broker to see apartments in a certain area and then telling them that you want to get the best deal for your dollar, is the best way to not box yourself in. If you see that he/she is offering you places that are too expensive, you can then say you’d like to stay under “X” amount. Let the broker/agent show you what they have and avoid restricting yourself and your agent/brokers’ resources.
2. ASK QUESTIONS
Don’t think that you are annoying an agent/broker by asking questions. If they want to do their job right, rather than looking to make a quick buck off of you, they will have no problem answering any and all questions you have (even if you have an obsessive amount of questions). Make sure that you know what you are and are not getting for your money. Your environment is important and you should make sure that the space you will move into meets your expectations. Most importantly, make sure that all of the legal documents meet your requirements.
3. Never settle for less and never feel pressured
For example, do not let an agent/broker tell you that your price range is too low and that you need to either, expect less from your future home or, raise your budget. In addition, do not let the excuse of, “You came into the market late in the game, there aren’t as many places for me to show you because of this”, scare you into settling for what you don’t really want. Believe me, there is always another apartment just waiting for you to find – that WILL be in your budget, and WILL have what you’re looking for.
You’re NEVER too late to find your dream apartment! There are apartments going on the market all the time. All you have to do is stick to your guns and be adamant about what you want. If you are working with an agent/broker that shows you his bottom-of-the-barrel spaces, doesn’t give you the time of day, or wants to rush you into making a decision in any way, he/she is not doing their job correctly. They are there to make you happy, and if they aren’t doing that, ditch that agent/broker and find someone who will do the right thing by you.
4. Inspect everything and talk to tenants who already live in the building!
You never really know the quality of an apartment by just looking at it. Yes, you can get a good idea of what you’ll be getting, but you’ll never really know until you inspect the apartment yourself AND talk to tenants in the building. When I say inspect an apartment, this doesn’t mean merely doing a walk-through of the space. A couple things you should absolutely do are:
- Check for cracks/holes throughout the apartment.
- Turn the heat on and off in the bedrooms
- Touch to feel the temperatures of prominent pipes within the apartment and overall building, to make sure that the temperature of the metal won’t burn you in the future.
- Open and close the windows and the blinds to make sure they are in working condition.
- Turn on the water for all of the sinks and even the shower, to make sure the temperature of the water is working correctly and that the water pressure is working in an appropriate manner – flush the toilet to make sure that it also works!
- Turn on the oven and stove to make sure it’s working appropriately.
- Look at the laundry facility and find out the prices.
- Find out if there are set days where you can throw out your garbage OR if you can throw out your trash whenever you want.
These are all little things to check that will definitely make a difference. Before agreeing to take an apartment, remember that the agent/broker, many times, will tell you everything positive about a place but conveniently forget to mention the negatives. Speaking with a tenant who either lives in the apartment itself, or in the same building, is the best way to get an inside view about what you’ll be getting by living there. For example, a few things you’d want to ask a tenant is:
- How the landlord and superintendent treats their tenants.
- How long it takes the superintendent and landlord to address complaints/address work orders.
- You can also find out – especially if the building doesn’t have a concierge – if the tenant has ever had packages stolen from the lobby of the apartment.
These are all great things to ask that will allow you to make sure that you know what you are getting. Don’t be afraid to step out of the box to get answers!
5. Negotiate, Negotiate, Negotiate!
Finally, never listen to an agent/broker who tells you that a lease is as-is and cannot be changed. This is complete bologna! I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard stories about a tenant accepting a lease as-is and ending up with a ton of problems in the end. Go into the office knowing your non-negotiables, and advocate for what you want. If what you are asking to add or amend to the lease is fair, there should be no reason that you cannot be accommodated. Remember though, you get more with honey than you do salt! Try to get on the good side of your agent/broker and work with him/her to make what you want a reality.
Comment below and let me know if these tips help at all! Good luck finding and securing your dream apartment!