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How to find an apartment

The quest to find an apartment can be both fun and stressful. There are so many exciting possibilities and as many potential obstacles. This article will guide you through the process, so you can find an apartment with confidence. Difficulty: Average Time Required: 1-3 months (includes research and the search) Here's How:

  1. How long will you live in this space?

    This question will determine what kind of apartment you need. Most leases require at least one year's commitment, so if this is too long for you, consider a sublet or a month-to-month lease.


  2. Decide whether or not you want roommates.

    Whether or not you want a roommate will determine how you find an apartment. Before deciding, you may want to research the cost of rent in the area. Living with a roommate is much cheaper than living alone, and it's good to know now what you can afford.

    Suggested Reading: To Roommate or Not to Roommate 


  3. Find a compatible roommate.

    Ask your friends if they know of anyone who is looking for a roommate or apartment.

    If they don't know anyone, then the best method is to find an apartment by finding a person with a spare room. Online roommate listings typically list these kind of postings.

    Suggested Reading: Tips to Choosing a Roommate 


  4. Determine your living needs and the maximum amount of rent you can afford.

    Avoid renter's remorse by ascertaining how much space you need, how much you can afford and the types of amenities you would like.

    Suggested Reading: What to Consider Before You Look for an Apartment 


  5. Research and explore different neighborhoods.

    Ask yourself what kind of environment you want to live in. A neighborhood with many young families? Or young professionals? Explore different neighborhoods. Do a test commute from the area to work.

    Also confirm whether the apartments in the area are affordable by researching apartment listings and developing an idea of the range of rent being listed.


  6. Find out how early you need to start answering ads.

    Ask locals, family members, or brokers when to begin answering listings. The market differs from city to city. In some areas you can begin looking a month or two before you need the place, while in other areas you must be ready to move in within 2-3 weeks.


  7. Make sure you have enough money in your bank account.

    If you're new to the city, open the account before you find an apartment. Landlords often require first month's rent and security deposit to be paid with a certified check, money order, or other cash equivalent.


  8. Begin viewing apartments.

    Check out the top six ways to learn about available apartments and then set up an appointment to view those that interest you.

    Suggested Reading: Apartment Inspection Checklist 


  9. Bring all necessary materials when viewing available units.

    In some cities, apartment units can be snatched up in one day. Always be prepared to submit your application or sign the lease the same day. Bring:

    • your checkbook
    • two recent bank statements
    • last year's tax return (first page and the signature page)
    • two recent pay stubs
    • letter of employment
    • letter of reference from a previous landlord or their contact information
    • tape measurer
    • camera and notebook


  10. Sign the Lease. 

Once you've found the apartment you love, you are now ready to begin the process to signing the lease. Read up on how to sign the lease to avoid any errors or regrets.


  1. Make sure to open your bank account at least two weeks before you need the certified checks. Personal checks often take a few days to clear, and until then, you will not be able to access your money.
  2. Always use more than one method to find an apartment--online, newspaper, referrals--because each one yields different results.