Twenty Something: The Big Apartment Hunt

How to find that perfect first apartment right here in the District.
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If you thought trying to find a man in D.C. was hard, try finding the right apartment.

When it comes to apartment hunting, most ’s are doing it for the very first time. And because it’s our first time, we have ABSOLUTELY no idea how to go about it. With classes and internships back in session, tons of us are looking for housing; so we must be strategic when we embark on the big apartment hunt. Yes it can get tough, but darn it we’re tougher!

Here are some sure fire tips to land you in that perfect first apartment:

1. Know your resources

The Internet, realtors, the newspaper, listservs and friends and family are all the resources you need. Craigslist can be your best friend and worst nightmare. Know how to weed out scams and always look at a place before you commit to anything or put any money down. If you are out of town, take a trip or have a trusted friend look at places for you.

Tell everyone you know that you’re looking for a place to live. Ask them to keep an eye out for you and to suggest neighborhoods, roommates and unpublished listings they may know about.

2. Have realistic expectations

Unless you’re willing to live on the outskirts of the city, a budget of $1000 a month or less will not get you a mansion. Get your priorities together. Your location is the most important thing. If you find a decent place right next to where you’re working, the fact that the entire place is the size of your room back home with your parents should not be a reason to dismiss the place.

Did you really think you were going to move out to the city and live like Kim K on intern money? Take comfort in knowing that that reality hits us all just as hard.

3. Be aggressive

If you want something, you have to go after it. These days everyone is making the move to major cities like DC and NY. Because of a ripe job market and a host of other opportunities, the landscape is staying the same while the population is expanding. Come prepared to make an offer. Bring all the necessary documents and a check for your security deposit. Some of the best places are first come first served. So don’t drag your feet on a place that meets your location and price points thinking you’re going to find something better. If anything, being early and organized will give you more choices, not limit them.

4. Negotiate

In my world, everything is negotiable. Offer to pay direct deposit and use that to negotiate paying your rent later in the month. Or ask that your rent be reduced by 50-100 bucks since your rent is guaranteed. Even if it doesn’t happen, the point is you asked. And if it does happen, then you’ll never go without negotiating again.

When all these steps are said and done and you move into that well-earned apartment, make sure to be a good tenant. And if you have a roommate, set up rules that make living together more enjoyable. Now go and live this life to the fullest.

You’re welcome, Twenty Somethings.

Ursula Lauriston is the author of Twenty Something, a social diary blog where she sounds off weekly on dating, D.C nightlife and events, career etiquette, and more.  Follow me on Twitter.

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2 Responses

  1. Thomas says:

    Great info here, Ursula! Yes, Craigslist is a good resource but you have to make sure you are vigilant for scams. We came up with MapThatPad to especially help twenty somethings stay organized as they go hunting on Craigslist and other online marketplaces.

    Yes, definitely be aggressive! In addition to bringing the right documents along, asking the right questions of landlords and brokers also signals that you are a responsible renter. Here’s a list of 10 questions to ask while apartment hunting (written for NYC but def applies for DC):
    http://blog.mapthatpad.com/10-questions-to-ask-when-apartment-hunting-in

  2. Tina says:

    Hey Ursula. 🙂 I came across your blog while looking for tips on apartment searching. I’ve been using one of these sites and have found a lot of potential places. Now I just have to put into play, your “Be aggressive”, and “Negotiate” tips. Wish me luck! and thanks much for your help.

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