If the Shoe Fits: Your First Apartment Checklist

My front doorBy: Lev Novak, uCribs.com
Finding your first apartment can be a difficult thing.
If you’ve never done it before, you might not know where to start. Paperwork, sketchy options, and budgetary concerns lurk behind every corner, and the pressure of time and organization can make the whole process a headache. Plus, you know, you have your actual life to live in the meantime.
To help you out, though, we at uCribs have come up with a quick checklist of options, broken up into helpful sections. You can keep this with you every step of the way to solve problems before they even happen.
The best part? Just by clicking this link, you’ve been productive. Painless, right? Read on and brag to your parents.
The Listing
Finding and ranking your options is the first step in any apartment hunt. Regardless of how you find your apartment, there are things you have to know.
– Avoid an apartment advertised in all caps. If they have to LOUDLY PERSUADE YOU to be interested, something’s up.
– Be wary if your landlord goes by a flashy nickname. Most landlords are understated and professional. “Goofball Vinnie,” meanwhile, may be unreliable.
– Don’t go to an apartment without a picture. Our phones are cameras. We all have cameras. So, why won’t they show you a picture?
– Be careful about apartments that show very specific angles. Smoke and mirrors can make rooms look larger than they are, and if they only show one bedroom, for example, know in advance that’s the big one.
– If the listing repeatedly obsesses about a minor detail (hardwood floors! Solid flooring! Wood!), it means they have nothing else good to say. Be careful.
– If the listing gets creative (can house four!) be very, very careful. “Can” is very different than “should.”
– If something sounds too good to be true, it is.
– If an apartment sounds good, has good pictures and is in a solid area, visit it, even if it’s outside your price range. Worst case, you’ll have a better idea of what you do like. Best case, the apartment is so terrific that you decide to get it anyway. Either way, it’ll be a more productive trip than gambling on sketchy options over and over.
Where you live isn’t just the apartment; it’s where the apartment is. Finding the right area can be just as good as the right apartment.
– A laundry-mat. The nearer the better. Every second counts when you’re lugging smelly clothes in December.
– At least one real option for groceries. You need cold cuts and apples. In New York, a fancy bodega counts.
– One cheap and not-totally unhealthy food option, because you are going to eat there way more than you think. A cheap, good bahn-mi place can change your life.
– One late-night food option. It doesn’t have to be great, but it does have to be close (because trekking is not going to be an option late at night).
– A convenience store. They’re convenient for a reason; sometimes you need some tea bags, a candy bar, a pack of cigarettes and some toilet paper. If you can pick up these things quickly and easily, you’ll be happier.
– Public transportation. Even if you have a car, someone else might be using it to visit. Having it close-by always comes in handy.
– Cool flyers (concerts, block parties) or cool artistic graffiti show a lively, young area. However! Sketchy flyers (“wanted” posters, weird mysterious ravings) or dark, sketchy graffiti (you’ll know it) are signs that this might not be the best spot.
– Do your friends live close by? With enough people, you don’t need a location; you are the location.
The Apartment.
Finally, the apartment itself. You’ve narrowed down the listing and location, and now it’s time to separate the best from the rest. Your home is your castle; make sure yours feels like one.
– Square footage is good, but usable footage is better. Long, narrow hallways are less important than a wide, open kitchen or living room.
– Check out the shower before you sign. How’s the water pressure? The temperature? Neither of these things will ever improve, so if they’re not great now, good luck. A good shower is a gift from the heavens; if you have one, count your blessings.
– Have a washer/dryer? It’s great. Being able to do laundry over-night and not worry is a huge advantage.
– A dishwasher is clutch. No matter what you think, you won’t clean them by hand.
– Windows and natural light! This might seem like a super nerdy thing to get excited about, but it’s a great thing to have. You’ll feel much more alert and inspired with lots of natural sunlight in your home.
– A good porch or roof access is always good. In a warm climate, though, it’s fantastic.
– Even a crummy basement has value as a place for storage. But a non-crummy basement is a party room/ extra living room/ whatever you want. Cherish it. Use it wisely.
– Air conditioning and good heat. This is super-duper important. You don’t care about it until you need it, and then it’s the only thing you care about.
Bonus Tips
Because things aren’t always so cut and dry. 
– Don’t wait for your friends to commit to a place. Do it yourself, otherwise it’s a terrible game of chicken where everyone’s anxious. Everyone will be grateful, and you’ll look awesome.
– Emailing landlords is good, but calling them is better. The quicker you move, the less time you’ll have to spend anxious.
– Don’t set a budget. Let the market tell you what things cost, then decide. It’ll save you a lot of time and anguish.
– If possible, buy furniture from the guys who lived there before. I don’t care if you like the couch or not- a couch is a couch. And moving a couch is the worst.
So, there you have it! Tips for the listing, the location, and the apartment itself. Print this out, or tattoo it on your face for easy access. With these tips, you’ll get a good apartment, without all the headache and panic.
One last tip is to try out uCribs.com; our site lets you find apartments in your area, compare them by price, location, amenities, and even landlords, and it puts together a wide array of options you might not even know you had. uCribs makes it easy, simple, and awesome to find the perfect place, and, with our blog, you can come back anytime for more help.
Good luck in your search! Knowledge is power, and with this list, you’re Superman.


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