An Online Guide to Apartment Hunting

The elation and excitement of signing a lease to a new home opens the imagination. You think of all the things you get to buy while chasing the dream of having the coolest pad in the neighborhood. Everyone wants their place to be “that place” where people walk in the door and say, “This. Is. AWESOME.” Too bad that elation lasts about a millisecond. While you’re straining your back and shouting swear words as you try to maneuver a stupid futon up two flights of stairs, you think to yourself, “I’m so over this.”

Yes, moving is a pain in the ass and sadly most of us move too frequently; either we get tired of the commute to get to where we want to be, our rent gets jacked up, or most frequently, we end up in an epic battle between killing ourselves or our roommate. It’s risky business out there. Thankfully, technology and creative thinkers have developed some resources that ease this pain just a tiny bit.

Nabewise.com – Your guide to neighborhoods

This website is fantastic because it allows you to select which metropolis you want to inhabit and also select what you’re looking for: trendy, safety, shopping, singles, etc. It has a humorous edge with its descriptions of different neighborhoods and features reviews of the area by natives or by those who travel there frequently. Reading an insider’s view helps paint a more realistic picture of the area as opposed to any tourism-fed marketing. This will at least help you decide what part of town should be the focus of your search.

This website is fantastic because it allows you to select which metropolis you want to inhabit and also select what you’re looking for: trendy, safety, shopping, singles, etc. It has a humorous edge with its descriptions of different neighborhoods and features reviews of the area by natives or by those who travel there frequently. Reading an insider’s view helps paint a more realistic picture of the area as opposed to any tourism-fed marketing. This will at least help you decide what part of town should be the focus of your search.

Walkscore.com- How walkable is the area?

WalkScore.com caters to those who prefer transportation other than personal cars. You can find an apartment by narrowing down your criteria of commute times, specific neighborhoods and the number of transit stops. The website rates different parts of a city with a “walk score” that indicates its friendliness towards pedestrian traffic. The walk score is definitely useful in major cities where public transportation actually works. WalkScore also has an iPhone app.

Padmapper.com- A map of pads

I find this website to be the most helpful. It provides a visual representation of different apartment/housing listings by aggregating Google maps and Craigslist.org data. You can narrow down your search by specifying number of rooms, price of rent, number of bathrooms, pet friendliness, etc. and Padmapper displays all the posts on a map so you can visually see where they are located in a city. Another cool detail Padmapper offers is that it denotes if the rental rate is higher or lower than other listings in the same area and by how much percentage. It could be a red flag if a listing is 50% lower than similar posts (either there is something seriously wrong with the residence, it’s a scam, or the owner is incredibly desperate). Padmapper also offers a mobile app but I personally find the website to be easier to navigate.

Craigslist.org- A virtual newspaper

The days of looking at listings in the paper are not over. But now I’d recommend perusing Craigslist.org in conjunction with scanning the classifieds. This resource has proven to be very useful when looking for something privately owned instead of a major complex or some corporate-owned housing.  If you’re looking for that mom and pop listing to give you a month-to-month rental, this is your best bet. It does require a little patience – the kind you need when shopping at a bargain blow out or Black Friday – but if you are committed, you can get pretty lucky.

As with everything online, it is a hodge-podge frontier of the unknown, especially on user-generated content sites (i.e. Craigslist). Rental scams are prevalent, as is the desperation oozing from some listings. If you pay attention, there are some tell-tale signs that should activate your bullshit radar:

  1. There are no pictures to be found of any kind. No matter how detailed the worded description of a place is, if there are no pictures and especially not even a mention of pictures, then there is probably a reason. They don’t want you to see the chalk body outline on the floor in the corner.
  2. Incorrect spelling. If a person doesn’t take the time to spell check their listing, do you think they are going to care when the air conditioner goes out? A reliable and responsible landlord or housing development would most likely be smart enough to catch those typos before sending a signal of irresponsibility.
  3. There is an obvious sense of desperation. In all cases, people will go take a tour of the potential residence. There is a game to play here and if the owner/landlord is oozing desperation, stop and ask why? There’s a reason. Find out before you sign your name away and end up in a hellhole.
  4. The age-old adage: if it’s too good to be true, then it probably is. There are rare stories out there of sweet deals and great apartments, but it’s tough to find those fairytale living arrangements. Be cautious, rational and always ask a lot of questions.

Don’t believe me? A simple Google search will result in story after story of people getting swindled.

Casey Schoelen I am a recent college graduate trying to figure out my next step in life. Until then, I'm living life day by day. I'm enjoying spending time with my friends and family, doing some traveling and relaxing, and finally reading a book for fun for the first time in years. I am extremely outgoing and love meeting new people. Everyone has their own exciting story to share. I love traveling, sports, history, reading, Europe, cooking, and reality television. Some of my goals are to visit all seven continents, learn another language, and see the north pole. Every day is the chance for a new adventure.

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