Apartment Hunting In 2021: Finding Your Next Home

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Updated April 5, 2021
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In 2020, the way we all live and work changed drastically. In fact, almost 16 million people filed a change of address request in 2020, which was a 4% increase in total movers and a whopping 27% percent increase in temporary moves [source: mymove.com].

Come 2021, this trend will continue as people find the perfect place to be able to live and work from home in a place they can truly make their own. We’ve realized the importance of having a space you can call home, no matter what it is. But also that it is us who makes it a home.

So as we enter into the warmer months of the year, more people will be on the hunt for that perfect apartment. But the whole process can be very overwhelming and quite daunting as so many people are making the same moves. So this guide lays out apartment hunting tips so you can find your next home in 2021.

Best Tools For Apartment Hunting

So you’re starting the process of looking for your next apartment; where do you start? Once upon a time, before the internet, people would grab their local paper, look for the latest apartment ads, and call them hoping the unit was still available. Well, those days aren’t completely gone, but using apartment search tools on the internet makes it that much easier. Now prospective tenants can use craigslist.com, online apartment search websites, the apartment websites themselves, and simply drive around looking for “for rent” signs. More specifically, some of the best tools for apartment hunting include:

Of course, you can use sites like Bigos.com, which can narrow down all of our many properties into one easy-to-navigate search page where you can apply filters and order by price.

Bigos CTA graphic

What To Look For In A New Apartment

There are a few things you’ll want to jot down so you know what to look for in a new apartment. You’ll want one that suits your budget (which you should thoroughly detail before deciding how much rent you can afford), one that fits all of your stuff (and people), and a convenient location to work and have fun activities. Here’s a handy checklist of all of the things to look for in a new apartment:

  • Fits your budget
  • Location, location, location
  • Parking options
  • Closet space and storage options
  • Good neighbors and neighborhood
  • Walkability score and distance to restaurants and activities
  • Move-in specials
  • A nice and attentive landlord—property is in good shape
  • Deal breakers vs. non-negotiables
  • And, of course, length of the lease (flexible, notice to vacate, etc.)

Types Of Apartments To Consider

There are dozens and dozens of apartment types that you can consider, depending on your needs and budget. At Bigos, for example, many of our apartments are in mid to high-rise buildings and feature studios, 1, 2, and 3 bedrooms. But there are also duplexes, triplexes, low-rise buildings, walk-ups, garden levels with access to a private garden/yard space, etc. Other types of apartments include, but are not limited to;

  • Alcove
  • Co-op/Cooperative
  • Convertible
  • Duplex
  • Garden
  • Loft
  • Low-Rise
  • Mid-Rise
  • Micro
  • Railroad
  • Studio
  • Triplex
  • Walk-up

Read more in our post about these 13 types of apartments to consider. [link when published]

Best Time to Start Hunting For An Apartment

The best time to start hunting for an apartment is as early as possible. If your apartment requires you to give a 30 or 60 days notice to move, you may want to start looking even before you put in your notice, especially if you have just 30 days to find a place.

Also, the season plays a big factor in when is the best time to move. Most people move in the summer months when it’s nice weather, and you don’t have to worry about snow, ice, or rain. However, there is an equally high supply and demand, and apartments can get snatched up pretty quickly. Moving in the winter or fall months might suck weather-wise, but it can also mean rent prices are a little lower, and incentives are better because it’s less busy and they want to fill units.

Apartment Hunting In A New City

Are you thinking about moving to a new city? Relocating became quite the trend last year as more people had remote working options that gave them the opportunity to move elsewhere. Or maybe you got a new job and now have to move to a new city. Either way, it can definitely change how you look for your next apartment, especially not knowing much about the area. So, there are a few tips for apartment hunting in a new city that can help ease the transition.

  1. Research your new city and its neighborhoods.
  2. Chose some of the best neighborhoods you’re interested in and start looking there.
  3. Calculate your budget, taking into consideration any changes in the cost of living in that city.
  4. Talk to anyone familiar with the area. Maybe they can recommend a good area or even a specific apartment building.
  5. Virtual viewings can be helpful if you haven’t moved yet, but if you can, seeing it in person will give you a much better idea of where it is, how the area is, and how easy it is to get to.
  6. Consider finding a roommate in the area so you can get to know someone familiar with the new city and can ease you into your new surroundings. People always post about seeking a roommate for their existing apartment.

Virtual Apartment Viewings & Socially Distanced Tours

The COVID-19 pandemic has definitely changed the landscape of apartment hunting in that more and more places had to shift to a more socially distanced friendly scenario. So many apartments will offer both 3D tours or virtual viewings plus socially distanced tours.

These situations will mean everyone wears masks, and you may or may not actually go in the apartment with the property manager at the same time. They may wait outside while you go in, do your own walk-through, and then answer any questions you may have afterward, where you can be outside and socially distanced.

Property managers will also film video tours or 3D tours so anyone can get a good idea of what the apartment is like on the inside without ever stepping foot in the building. This can help save a lot of time and narrow down ones you absolutely do not want to see in person.

Important Questions to Ask When Hunting for an Apartment

Finding the right apartment is something that you should spend plenty of time finding just the right place. The last thing you want to do is jump in too quickly without looking out for your own interests. So along with the physical attributes you want to have in an apartment, there are also all of the fine details that can affect whether or not the place you move to is right for your needs. So here are some critical questions to ask in your search.

What are your move-in specials? Are there any coming up that would be worth waiting for?

What are the lease length options? Does the lease become month-to-month after that time?

Are there penalties for breaking a lease early? Can I sublet my lease if I need to?

Is the unit in the advertisement the one available? If the layout is different than the actual available unit?

Is parking free? How much does it cost to park in a garage?

What utilities am I responsible for as a tenant?

Is there a storage unit available? Or are there nearby storage options?

I order a lot of things online: will the front desk accept and hold packages for me?

Are pets allowed? Is there a fee for cats or dogs?

This is just a starting point for vital questions to ask, and it’s important to note that no question is too silly or too repetitive to ask when it comes to your living situation. This will be your home, and it should meet all of your expectations, if not exceed them! So ask away.

Things to Look for While Looking At An Apartment

When you see an apartment in person, this is your opportunity to ask all of the questions you need to ask and check off your boxes of deal-breakers and must-haves. We’ve come up with a long, fully comprehensive list of things to look for and questions to ask to get the most out of your apartment viewing. Here is a small example of some of the most vital things to watch for as you tour your potential next apartment.

  1. Open and close all doors and windows.
  2. Check all of the electrical work.
  3. Ask about sprinkler systems or security systems.
  4. Check cell reception (people forget this all the time!)
  5. Check the water pressure and flow.
  6. Check the stove burners, the oven, and the microwave.
  7. Look for signs of stains, mildew, or mold.
  8. Bring a tape measure and measure to see if your furniture will fit.
  9. Ensure the entryways are safe and secure to the apartment building.
  10. Make sure shared amenities are clean, functional, and well-kept.

Go in With Deal-Breakers and Must-Haves

When it comes to apartment hunting, you can help eliminate the bad apartments and narrow in on the good ones by clearly defining your “deal-breakers” and “must-haves” very early on. Your must-haves are the things the apartment or apartment building absolutely must have to meet your needs and wants. The deal-breakers are, of course, the things that an apartment may have or not have that immediately adds them to the “no” column.

Some examples of must-haves might be:

You deserve to have the best of the best in your new apartment home, so laying out some ground rules and your must-have amenities is critical to ensuring you get everything you hope for. Some examples of must-haves (or nice-t0-haves) might be:

  • Convenient location for shopping and commuting to work
  • Good price for what you get
  • Lots of windows for natural light
  • Pet-friendly amenities such as a dog park nearby or paths to take your dog for walks
  • A den or additional office space in your 1 bedroom apartment
  • You may want a corner unit if you want fewer neighbors on either side
  • All utilities included
  • Elevator vs. stairs (makes moving much easier)
  • Flexible lease options
  • Near public transit for commuters
  • Affordable parking options
  • Move-in specials
  • Storage unit

These are some things that people often require in order to make their move into a new apartment worthwhile. Being able to conveniently travel to and from work is a huge one, especially in a metropolitan area like Minneapolis-St. Paul. Move-in deals and a vast array of amenities included in the rent are also something that people expect out of an apartment, especially in 2021. However, if you don’t advocate for yourself and list out your absolute musts, you can end up moving into a place that doesn’t have everything you need, and then you’re stuck in a lease and can’t back out. So get your ducks in a row early on to avoid any disappointment later on.

Some examples of deal-breakers might be:

In the same vein as your must-have amenities, there have got to be some deal-breakers as well. Deal breakers are things that if this apartment does or does not have it, you have to turn it down. Deal breakers help save you the pain of experiencing a poor living situation or moving into a place that lacks the required amenities you need to live your life. Some examples of deal-breakers might be:

  • Building cleanliness – if the building or the grounds look dirty and unkempt, that’s a good sign of poor maintenance and you should walk away
  • Building safety – look for security around the property such as the property manager using secure keys or keycodes to enter all outside entrances to the building. Do they have a security guard or 24/7 front desk? Do the apartment doors have deadbolts or chain locks in addition to the door handle? These are things that ensure your safety and if these are not present, you may want to find a new place.
  • Damage in the unit or appliances that do not work. The importance of testing out outlets and appliances when you tour an apartment is critical to avoid moving into a junker.
  • Poor reviews. If you are reading through reviews of past tenants and find a pattern in their complaints, definitely don’t go with that place.

As you look for your new apartment home, making sure you don’t settle for an apartment is very important. Some apartments may have some of your deal-breakers, but also some of your must-haves. You shouldn’t have to settle for less than what you want to deserve, so bringing with you a written list can make sure you check off all of the necessary must-haves, nice-to-haves, and deal-breakers.

How To Find Honest Reviews About An Apartment

Reviews can be the #1 factor in finding the best apartment to move into. But you must be wary when searching apartment reviews because they often come from two kinds of people: people who had an awful experience or were incentivized to leave a good review. Syphering through the weedy reviews can be a process, but here are a few tips to make sure you’re getting honest reviews.

Check the star ratings.

Sometimes it can be a good idea to check the 1 and 2-star reviews first to find any recurring themes. If all of the 1-star reviews are complaining about poor management or maintenance issues, that can be a big red flag, and you should move on.

Read recent reviews.

If you see older reviews up on top, you can definitely read them. Still, it’s common for apartment companies to read these reviews and rectify those issues so that current reviews would be a more accurate representation of them now. If 2 years ago, everyone’s grievance was the dirty hallways and common areas, but they’ve since hired a new cleaning company and resolved the issue, those reviews will be irrelevant.

How long is the review?

If people left a short review like “love it here” or “worst management.” be mindful that those may have just been people incentivized for their response, or they were having a bad day. Often when you receive an email to leave a review for something, you cannot post your star rating without leaving a comment, and these are just thoughtless responses that didn’t take much thought or effort. These can still be valuable and honest, but the longer, more detailed responses give a better idea of what tenants feel.

Apartment hunting can be a lengthy, annoying process. But we’re here to support you and give you the tools and tactics you need to find your new home in 2021! To make this process even easier, here is a link to all of our beautiful, available units at Bigos properties. To schedule a showing, or if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to us today!

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