Apartment Hunting Remotely: Little Tips & Experience


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?)

Advice on packing up and moving big


Wherever there is a chore, therein lies a service providing, money making opportunity –or conversely, a chance to save money doing it yourself. Plumbing, painting, cooking, cutting grass, hanging Christmas lightsthe list goes on. People who hire out their shopping, well, I don’t understand those people (but would love to meet them –who’s hiring?)

Right now, the full potential of the professional moving industry is crystal clear:  I’m drowning in boxes. And in paper. And in anxiety concerning the things in the boxes staying in one piece, respectively, 834 miles to Texas.

boxandpaperAlso, I think my hands may be stained with newsprint permanently.

Bliss would be leaving, returning, and finding all my valuables clad in bubble wrap and stowed securely in cardboard boxes stacked ceiling high. Unfortunately, my control-issues would probably never let that happen (or maybe just my lack of funds. Details.)

So here I sit, a non-professional mover moving DIY with very little experience and a stack of old papers and a tape dispenser. I don’t believe my insights would be worth much, so that’s not what the meat of this post is about. I’m not experienced and smart yet at moving, but I’m smart enough to ask smart people who do have a lot more experience to share the most wise or creative emotional and/or logistical advice they could.

(Names removed to protect the innocent.)

“In the past 13 years, I have moved 13 times. You read that correctly.  I’m not smart, apparently.
My biggest piece of advice goes something like this: Throw stuff away.
If, while you’re packing, you find things you haven’t looked at/used/needed in 6 months or more, throw them away. If you’re packing things, and whilst wondering how to protect an item, you realize it would be a relief if it broke, throw it away. If you’re holding onto something because it was a wedding gift, and the person who gave it to you might come around 6 Christmases from now, throw it away.
Why wouldn’t I say donate stuff or give stuff away? Because I’ve got a corner in my garage full of clothes in boxes that say ‘Donation’ on the outside, and I haven’t donated one bit of it. It’s not selfishness or a lack of empathy, I just never think about it. You won’t either. Throw that crap away!”

“Use regular trash bags (the flex kind so hangers don’t poke holes in the bag), cut a little hole in the middle of the bottom of the bag, then pull about 10-15 hangers through the hole.  Pull the trash bag down and around your clothes and tie the strings of the trash bag…TA-DA!! Homemade garment bags that make moving even the biggest of closets easy and efficient.” (I got this one twice. The first time, I felt amazed. Like, what a freaking simple and cool idea. The second time, I felt super dumb. Am I the only one left still stuffing clothes in boxes? Not anymore!)

“Keep in mind the way your new place is laid out so you know how to pack your moving truck.  Pack your front of the house things like living room and kitchen first and your back of the house things like bedrooms or office last.  This way when you unpack the truck you are working from the back of the house forward.”

“I think my biggest moving tip is to label your boxes to make it easier to find stuff later.”

“It’s so much cheaper to pack breakables in plastic Saran Wrap instead of paper or bubble wrap. The plastic sticks and adds cushion. It’s a pain unpacking when you get there, but everything is in one piece for a fraction of the cost.”

“I don’t really have any moving advice, but this scripture really helped me:  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV) I just kept meditating on ‘peace which transcends all understanding.'”

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