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APARTMENT HUNTING ON A BUDGET

When I say I’ve moved a lot, I seriously mean I’ve moved a lot! I’ve moved to 3 different apartments/houses in the past 2 years and don’t get me started on moving during University *shudder*. Though it was a total pain, each move helped me learn some new skills, new questions to ask and to be more aware of what I can afford. So to help out those of you moving soon or considering a move in the near future, here are my tips for you!

RESEARCH
Research may seem like a weird thing to do, but it will save you tons of time in the long run. You’re probably thinking, “Umm Karyn, of course I’m going to research apartments, how else would I find them?” Yes, yes you’re right, but when I say research I mean check the internet to see if there have been any news regarding your possible house/apartment. Just typing in the address could bring up stories about bed bugs, crime in the neighbourhood, or issues with tenants and landlords. Hey, I almost lived in a place with a Breaking Bad situation, so utilize the world-wide web to make sure you are getting the best place for your money. You don’t want to end up moving right after getting settled in.

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BUDGET
Everyone wants to find that perfect place that meets all of your criteria and more, but sometimes your dream place won’t fit in your budget. Please do not justify going over it. I have lived in places where I paid 150.00 over my budget and it really hit me hard. You’ve created your budget for a reason. If you go over you may not be able to afford food, transportation or other things that you need to live. Just having a roof over your head isn’t enough. SICK. TO. YOUR. BUDGET!

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TRANSPORTATION/ACCESSIBILITY
How do you get around? Do you have a car? Do you take transit? Bike or walk? You will find that this will play a HUGE factor in getting a new place. If you have a car you need to find out if they have a designated parking spot for you. Sometimes your apartment comes with its own parking spot, other times you have to pay separately for it. You might need to even buy it from a tenant who isn’t using theirs. It can get complicated real fast.

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For those of you like myself, public transportation is necessary in order to get anywhere. This means you have to tie in a transportation budget with your rent. You have to make sure you can afford your new place on top of paying for public transit and if you can’t you may have to find a place closer to your work or a cheaper place to live.

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Peeps with bikes make sure you’re aware of the building’s policy regarding whether or not you can bring it inside or if they have a designated place for you to lock it up. Some places even have lockers/storage areas specifically for bikes, but that may mean an extra fee.

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NEIGHBOURHOOD
Making sure you scope out your new ‘hood is very important. This is where you will be living so you want to make sure it’s a safe space. Sure, in the day time everything looks hunky dory, but you defs should be giving it a looksee at night. Some neighbourhoods can have a different atmosphere when the sun is gone and this may affect whether you want to live there at all.

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Also, see what your neighbourhood has to offer you. Does it have an accessible grocery store? How far away is the nearest mall? Is there a park nearby? How about a gym? Make sure the neighbourhood you live in fits what you like to do. If everything is super far away you’ll be paying extra to get to where you need. If the stores are super expensive and you can’t really afford to shop there, what kind of sacrifices will you (and your wallet) be making?

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TAKE PICTURES
When you go and look at your possible new place take oodles of pics. It may feel all kinds of awko taco, but as a person who has gone to multiple showings in a day, each apartment starts to blend together. Taking pictures will make sure you remember which place is which. This will also allow you to really get a sense of where things are and what you’ll need to buy when you move in. That trip to Ikea will go a lot smoother if you already have a plan of action when it comes to furniture.

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BRING A MEASURING TAPE
Speaking of furniture you are going to probably buy some or bring some with you when you move in to your new place. To make sure that queen sized bed will fit in your room you will need to measure ALL THE THINGS! Door frames, stairwells, the size of your room, that spot where your couch will go etc. You don’t want to be caught on move-in day and find that you can’t get your bed into your room because it won’t fit through the doorway or that the new stools you bought are too tall for your table. It seems like such a small thing, but having a measuring tape might just save you some money in the long-run.

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ASK QUESTIONS
While you have the landlord with you ask them anything and everything. Make sure that you aren’t going in blind. Does this place have a washer/dryer? What are the neighbours like? Is it pet friendly? Can the walls be painted? What happens when something breaks? By asking these things now you won’t have to hunt them down later on. This may be the only chance you get to really talk to them since they have tons of other people to cater to (or they may just be super elusive when it comes to getting help).

Also, don’t be afraid to talk to people in the building. Whether you chat them up in the elevator or in the lobby, they will really know what the building is like. After talking to them it may help you decide if you really want to sign that lease or not.

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COME PREPARED
If you have a good feeling about the place that you are going to look at and you want the landlords to believe that you are a responsible adult with their life together (when you are actually a child that was eating cake for breakfast and cereal for dinner), you will need to bring a couple of things to the showing.

Bring a resume with references. Why you ask? To show the landlord that you actually had/have legitimate job(s). References will let them know that you have other real adults to vouch for your “adultness” and that way they won’t have to ask you to send them to you later on. Also, get your previous landlords as references. This is a sure-fire way to get a foot in the door. Knowing that you were a good tenant in the past will let them know you’ll be a good tenant to them.

Bring a letter of employment to show them that you currently have a job, or for you freelancers, bring past receipts of invoices or a current contract that you are working on. They want to know that you have a job so that you can actually pay rent (which makes sense).

Also, if you don’t have cheques, GET THEM. You will need to give the landlord first and last months rent and if you bring it with you they’ll know how serious you are about wanting the place. Coming prepared could mean the difference between getting your dream apartment and being so close, but because someone else brought the money or the info you get shut out.

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READ THE FINE PRINT
When filling out your application read everything! Sure, it may take some time and in the excitement you just want to sign and start moving in, but seriously, this is the moment to slow down and get smart. Reading the fine print can save you in the long run. You could say screw it, but 3 months into your lease your rent goes up, or if you decide to move again they won’t let you break the lease, or worse you could get evicted because you didn’t follow some crazy rule about overnight guests (I lived in a place where you could only have a guest stay for a week, tops, or else they would have to start paying rent…). Reading the fine print is a must.

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Let me know if this helped or if you have tips of your own by leaving a comment below!
Good luck apartment hunting!

-Karyn

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