How to Find Your First Apartment


I’ve been getting a lot of questions about how to locate your first apartment after college. It can be extremely overwhelming, especially if you are moving to a new city or moving out of state! I walk you through the steps of getting your very own adult apartment below 🙂

1) Determine Your Budget

It can be really easy to think you can spend half of your income on your apartment, but that just isn’t realistic. I’ve always been told 1/3 is a good benchmark, but there are some cities where you’ll have to up that. Just make sure you have a set number in mind that you know is the limit before you begin searching. It’s easy to think “$50 more a month won’t matter” once you find a beautiful unit, so you need the cutoff.

2) Research Neighborhoods

Find out the average price of units in neighborhoods. Look up crime rates and use Google Street View to get a glimpse into each neighborhood. Chances are, just by Googling “City Name Best Neighborhoods for Young Professionals” you’ll get some names to start looking at.

3) Find a Roommate (If Needed)

You may consider finding a roommate to help lower costs and get you more amenities than you’d be able to afford alone. There are lots of roommate groups on Facebook. You can also reach out to local alumni chapters of your college, fraternity or sorority to see if they have any programs because an awful lot do!

4) Make a List of Non-neogiables

Since this is your first real apartment, this list can’t be very long 🙂 but it is still good to write down what you absolutely need. For me, this was a dishwasher and AC. I wanted a washer and dryer so incredibly bad, but I knew that in the area of Chicago I wanted with my budget, that wasn’t a possibility.

5) Start Searching

Zillow, Trulia, Hotpads and Craigslist were the sites I used to find my first apartment. However, there are some city specific sites that will be good resources as well. Don’t be sketched out by Craigslist, either – there are a lot of older landlords who only use it and I’ve found that the best deals are only listed there!

6) Consider Transportation 

Look for units close to public transit or with parking spots. I didn’t really consider how far my first apartment was from the L, which was a rookie mistake. Luckily, I was close to a bus stop, but I still wish I was within a 10 minute walk to the train. I’d use Google maps to figure out the potential commutes you’d have from each unit you’re interested in. Sometimes a 30 minute walk to a train station is a deal breaker, even if the unit is super cheap!

7) Tour Units

DO NOT SIGN A LEASE UNTIL YOU TOUR THE UNIT. I had a friend of mine move to Chicago from out of state with just FaceTiming a landlord to see the unit. She moved in and saw that the unit was not the same that was shown to her on FaceTime – can you imagine?!?! Buildings often post pictures of nicer units with the same layout as the one available to you, so I strongly suggest going to see the units yourself.

8) Weigh Your Options

I am a big fan of pro / con lists, so get out some pen and paper to write out the good and bad of each unit. Similar to the House Hunters graphic, it’s helpful to see what each unit offers compared to the others.

9) Apply!

A lot of applications nowadays are online which makes things super convenient. You will fill out information about your job, proof of income (offer letters work for this) and the leasing company will run a credit check on you. Only apply to the unit you want most. Applying multiple places at once can lower your credit score – steer away from that!

Happy apartment hunting!


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  • Reply
    May 31, 2017 at 10:22 AM

    I made so many pros/cons lists when finding my first apartment! Great tips 🙂

  • Reply
    May 31, 2017 at 10:33 AM

    Love your list and blog it’s so cute and insightful!

  • Reply
    May 31, 2017 at 2:47 PM

    These tips are great! Literally needed something like this back when I was searching for my first place. Transportation is a big thing.

  • Reply
    Jean Neuhart
    May 31, 2017 at 2:59 PM

    #4 – Make a list of non-negotiables is an excellent tip, and I bet one that is often forgotten.

  • Reply
    May 31, 2017 at 3:41 PM

    Great list!! I have found that transportation was a huge part of my decision for my current apartment and i could not be happier!

  • Reply
    Calee Shea
    May 31, 2017 at 5:30 PM

    Moving into a new apartment and trying to figure out everything is super scary and intimidating!! This list is super helpful and I think a lot of people will benefit from it!

  • Reply
    June 6, 2017 at 9:22 AM

    Very helpful post! Now i`m just looking for a new (first one) home for me and that post it`s so on time! 🙂

  • Reply
    June 9, 2017 at 9:50 AM

    This was so helpful to me. Plus I’m actually been searching for my first apartment myself. Thanks for writing this and helping a newbie out.

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