I'll be honest with you. The majority of people get stressed out by apartment hunting and house searching, and while I do agree that it can be very stressful, I enjoy all the new possible homes!
But let's face it - looking for a new place can be very time consuming, and not all of us have the time. But take it from me, speaking as someone who has moved 10 times in 12 years, the time investment you put in to finding your perfect home will be well worth it!
After switching apartments almost every year since I was 18 (for many different reasons), my husband and I finally became home owners in the summer of 2012. As anyone can imagine, owning a home is a HUGE investment, so why wouldn't you spend the time thinking it over? When you're ready to buy, there are many things to start thinking about: Do you want to be close to the city, or more out in the suburbs? Even if you don't have kids, don't you want to make sure you're in a good school district? What about a fix-me-upper or move-in ready? All these questions aren't meant to stress you out. The fact is, you'll start noticing these things more as you look at different homes. But that's my point: look at different homes!
My husband and I found our dream home in only 1.5 months - but we looked at about 15 houses! Now, I don't want to sound contradictory, but this was probably overboard. Really, after 10 houses, they all start to look alike. But those first 3 to 5 homes are really key to your search, because those are the ones that start to formulate thoughts in your mind. Those are the houses that make you realize the little things that are important to you: do you need a fenced in yard for your pets? Is there an attic for storage? Do you need a basement? What about a Master bathroom? After seeing so many examples of what you do and don't want, by the 7th or 8th house, you'll find what you're looking for!
This is why it is important to have a patient and caring realtor. I was lucky enough to have a friend who we trusted to help us look for a place. But the fact is most realtors only want your commission, so by the 3rd home, they just want you to put an offer in because if you don't, "your dream home will be taken!" Not to sound all philosophical, but if your supposed "dream home" was meant to be, it will be there when you're ready. Do not let anyone pressure you! Who is putting the 20% down for this house? YOU!
The same rule of thumb applies no matter if you're buying or renting: do not be pressured into getting a place you don't want! Just because you're not putting a huge monetary investment towards a rental property, doesn't mean that you shouldn't care about where you're living. This is your home - your place of sanctuary.
Most rental properties can be found easily off Craigslist, but even on Craigslist, there are many apartment-finding services that are eagerly waiting to make money off of you. I am not usually one to use such a service, but the first - and needless to say last - time I did, it was absolutely disastrous!
The service we used was the Apartment Guys. Over the phone someone took our information: what type of amenities we were looking for in a place, the TWO different neighborhoods we were interested in, and of course our price range. It turned out that they were actually available that same day to show us 3 places that met our criteria. All 3 were located in only one of the neighborhoods we were interested in, but my impatient-self was very excited to see what they had regardless of. We met them at the 1st house, and right away he tells us that 1 of the 3 houses is not available to show. Ok. kind of disappointing, but we can live with that. But then, the 1st house we did see was well above our price range! How does that help us any?? The 2nd and final home we saw was within our price, but it just wasn't what we were looking for - our Apartment Guy was none too happy to hear that we weren't interested. He immediately goes on about how we need to make a decision, and that we should sign the lease now before it gets snatched up. Naturally, his pushiness completely turned me off from the entire situation.
I however did not want to give up just yet, so I gave him AMPLE opportunity to show us more places - I said things like, "well, we still would like to see some places up north if you have any availability" or "we're open to looking at more places next week" but to him, waiting until next week was absurd. Instead, he kept pushing us to sign on this one place. When he finally realized we wouldn't budge, he quickly walked out and said, "We'll keep in touch then." and left without walking us out.
I of course never heard from him again.
... which was totally fine with me!!