Apartment Hunting | Tips & Tools

Fun news alert: I’m moving into an apartment!

As I’m sure you know (or have gathered if you’ve been here before), I’m a bit of a control freak. I love a good list (this blog was originally even called The List Lover), some conditional formatting, and a plan.

During our whirlwind apartment search, I used a few tools that I thought were worthwhile and wanted to share them with y’all!

Side note: what kind of apartment/moving/packing content would you like to see? Let me know in the comments below!

First up –

Apartments.com – Plan My Commute

Apartments.com is already a great resource (in addition to Zillow.com, both of which I used extensively in the beginning stages of this process) due to their ability to filter quite specifically. We knew we wanted a 2 bedroom/2 bath, a general location we wanted to stick within, and a budget.

Here comes the best part – the commute planner.

I think this is such a cool feature, especially for roommates. For privacy, I have picked two completely random locations in NYC instead of where I work and where my roommate picks up the train (the locations I used for our search), but essentially the website allows you to create a Ven Diagram based on where you’d be okay commuting from/to.

Here is the basic search when you search “New York, NY.”

The green shape below shows everything within a 45-minute rush-hour drive from the location I chose.

This last image shows the green map from above and overlays this additional criterion. Everything remaining falls, in this example, within 45-minutes in rush-hour for both locations.

 You can then add additional filters such as rate, size, appliances, and more!

Google Spreadsheet

Another obvious thing about me: I live in spreadsheets. While I typically use Excel at work and Google Sheets for personal spreadsheets, I’m consistent with my favorite functions: conditional formatting and filters. Don’t get me wrong, I love a VLOOKUP as much as the next gal, but if you don’t know about conditional formatting you are definitely missing out. It’s an easy way to pull out certain values to stand out or, in my case, show extremes. I’ve set up the document to compare the rates, distances, and time, respectively so that we can see immediately where we’re at (especially in scenarios that are incredibly subjective).

If you want to use this template to help you with your search, click here to open – just make a copy for your use!

The great thing is that you can adjust this to your needs – add and delete columns/filters to help you see what makes the most sense for you. (For example: Absolutely need a washer-dryer already in your place? Add a column for that.)

You can also add your roommate to the spreadsheet to easily get in at the same time to make notes.

Google Maps

Again for privacy reasons, I’m using another random map I’ve created via Google Maps, but my roommate and I mapped out each of the locations of potential apartments so we could get an even better feel for where they were situated.

If you want to see how I went about making this map, click here to read all about it on my Trip Planning post.

Once we narrowed it down to the five we were going to visit, we mapped them! We wanted to schedule our appointments in a way that we would not have to run back and forth across town.

Utilize Your Calendar

We allotted 1.5 hours between visits to make sure that we had enough time for visits, travel, and the inevitable wait time. If you arrive early, you’re likely to have no problem, but it all depends on how many people are there around the same time.

I added a calendar event so that each time I swiped down on my phone it was at easy access, but Cassie had also suggested having it all saved as your phone background. It’s obviously ALL going to shift as places have availability changes or you have to wait, but we kept getting confused about where to go next.

Here’s a glimpse at our planned schedule (adjusted based on the availability of appointments) vs. what actually happened:

We learned quickly that what is listed online isn’t necessarily accurate or 100% up to date, so we visited a few that said, “we don’t have any availability yet, but will take your information down in case something comes up.” With my roommate’s strict timeline based on when her lease ends, we were able to walk away easily.

Be flexible!

Extra Tips:

  • Make appointments as possible! This way you won’t need to sit around waiting for so long, especially in busy seasons.
  • Ask around – who do you know that has lived in an apartment you’ve visiting? Did they renew the lease? Did they feel safe? What did they like? Not like?
  • What are your priorities? Hopefully you’re able to meet all of them, but knowing what you’re flexible on and what are firm requirements is helpful in knowing when to walk away. For us, security and parking were our two priorities.
  • Visit visit visit! People are really good at taking pictures and making everything look great online. Some places are actually really great online and others are just meh.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s your home, your money, and your life. If something feels wrong or you want to hear more about something, ask. They want to make sure you’re a good fit as well,

Do you have any tips that you found helpful when apartment hunting? Please let us know in the comments below!



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