I enjoyed apartment hunting halfway across the country so much when we did it 9 months ago, I was simply itching to go through the process again…
No. It is a seriously painful process –and I don’t mean that figuratively. It literally caused me physical pain: throbbing eyes & head from starring at a glowing laptop, severe tension buildup in this one particular region in my inner right shoulder blade, and immediate stomach aches every time Google broke the news that the apartment I had already begun fanatically decorating in my mind had an ongoing roach or violent gang problem the company somehow failed to list in the “community amenities.”
It absolutely sucks.
Silver lining: I had Austin. My husband was there to sweat and panic alongside me in 4 hour hunting binges as our moving date loomed closer by the necessary bathroom break (you can only sit in one spot refreshing apartment listings for so long.) Having duel gender points of view every time one of us found a potential home was so, so useful. I tended to look for things like washer/dryer hookups, flooring, and counter space. He was more keen on little particulars like, oh you know, area crime rate and building maintenance. We struck a good balance, and before long figured out exactly the key words to search for, questions to ask potential landlords, and tools to use for every apartment we found.
Neighborhood Livability Score
This gem of a website, Area Vibes, is really super useful and easy. It rates different neighborhoods or zip codes and gives them a “livability score” based on Amenities, Cost of Living, Crime, Education, Employment, Housing, & Weather. (Crime, Education, sure those make sense. Weather rating? Isn’t that a little subjective? It’s 91 degrees in Dallas right now and I would rather it be snowing. Contrary to their scoring, I would not give Dallas “A” weather.)
Google Street View
Creeping down the street and around the complexes looking at businesses, vehicle types, and pedestrians was probably the most fun way of scoping out an area 800 miles away. It gave us a relatively good idea of who our potential neighbors would be. (Also, we knew it probably wasn’t going to work if there wasn’t a Little Caesar’s Pizza and a Starbucks within about a mile of the apartment. This way, we could see it with our own eyes. Priorities.)
Aggregate Listing Websites
Common sense: we used websites that gathered listings that allowed you to specify things like number of bedrooms, pets, hardwood floors, and extra storage. The the most user friendly I found were Apartments.Com and Zillow. I really like the layout and map feature of Zillow that lets you see exactly where on the globe you’re looking at.
Boots on the ground
Having physical eyes & ears are simply irreplaceable if at all possible, that’s all there is to it. Major shout out to our dear friend Lauren who ultimately saved our butts from renting a residence she “wouldn’t want to visit us at.” Pictures can be deceiving, and crummy townhouses can stand in beautiful neighborhoods that get reasonably good livability scores. At the end of the day, it’s scary, no matter how many tools you’re using. You have to be able to trust your instincts, or have a friend whose opinions are worth trusting, and be willing to be flexible when you get there and open the front door.
Now after a couple weeks in our new space I confidently say we’ve had good luck with our two remote apartment hunts this past year, and I hope to never do it again.
Saying Goodbye to #4 Brownsboro Rd, our first little place. (Moving Day, because every girl should have their photo plastered on the Internet after hauling furniture all afternoon, right?)