Here are a few things to consider when looking for a flat.
1. Consider your lifestyle
When looking for a flat, there are a number of factors related to your lifestyle that need to be considered.
For example, if you are moving in with others, have children or want to work from home, think about your space requirements. In most cases, if you need more space, the price will be higher than moving into a studio or one-bedroom flat.
In fact, based on current rental trends, the median monthly rent for a one-bedroom flat in the United States is $1,637. If you add another bedroom, the median monthly rent jumps to $1,901.
So, determine how much space you need and what type of rental you need to match your lifestyle.
2. Determine what you want in a flat
Make a list of what is unacceptable and what you are willing to sacrifice for the right property. This could be an in-unit laundry or a community centre with a gym. Consider whether these are amenities you will use regularly or are nice to have but not essential.
Once you've listed your priorities, visit a rental app like Realtor.com®, where you can add a variety of filters to find flats that fit your budget, have accurate information, include 3D tours, and more. This way, it's easier than ever to search for the features you want in your ideal home, and you'll have a comprehensive view of the flat on your first viewing.
Now, you may be asking: What about pets?
Whether or not you currently own a pet or plan on owning one during your rental is one of the main factors you should consider when searching for a flat.
According to the 2023-2024 APPA National Pet Ownership Survey, 66% of American households own some type of pet, which is why more and more flats now allow pets.
However, you need a flat that caters to pets without charging exorbitant fees. Here are some tips to help you navigate the rental process:
Look for flats that are safe for pets. For example, if you have a balcony, the balcony should be safe, and you may also want to avoid living on a busy street.
The type of animal you have will determine if the flat is suitable. For example, a border collie would not be suitable for a small flat. Cats, on the other hand, are the best choice for this type of flat.
Be prepared to pay extra pet rent or other related pet fees to secure the property.
Train, spay/neuter, and respect your neighbours (e.g., keep your pet quiet when it's indoors).
Use the Realtor.com Pet Friendly Apartments filter to find pet-friendly rentals for your pet.
3. Set a budget
Setting a clear budget can help ease financial stress in the short and long term. Add up your monthly income and expenses to determine your budget.
In addition to monthly rent, there may be other initial expenses such as application fees, move-in fees, security deposits and pet fees.
Also consider the regular bills you will need to pay in addition to rent, such as food, utilities and transport.
With a set budget in place, you can start looking for available rentals in your ideal location.
4. Research the location
Location is a key factor that affects commuting, local amenities, neighbourhood characteristics and more. When you're looking at potential relocation locations, consider what you want it to offer.
For example, Pew Research found that 32% of Americans want to live where there is a strong sense of community, and 58% of Americans prioritise "living in a child-friendly area". You can also look for these characteristics based on your specific needs.
To determine your needs, go back to your priority list. What is your travelling time to work? Are there schools, hospitals and grocery shops nearby? If you like to eat out, cafes and restaurants may also be important to you. In addition, proximity to family and friends, the sea or public transport may also be factors for you to consider.
Checking out properties online can give you a good idea of the price range of flats and also give you an idea of what type of home you can get for your money.
If you want to live near a city, you can enjoy the convenience of nearby amenities. However, you will generally get a smaller space at a higher rent. On the other hand, moving to the suburbs can give you extra space at a more affordable price.
5. Start searching for flats
The rental market in certain areas is highly competitive. Low supply and high demand make finding a rental even more difficult - which is why it's wise to use your network of contacts.
Consult your friends and acquaintances to see if they know anyone with an apartment for rent. If you're lucky, someone in a friend's flat block might be looking for a rental. You can also chat to real estate agents, as they may know of upcoming rentals in your preferred postcode.
Still, the quickest and easiest way to find nearby availability is through rental apps. With Realtor.com, for example, you can not only find the most up-to-date listings, but you can also filter them by price, location and whether pets are allowed.
6. View properties in person
Photos and virtual 3D tours can give you an idea of the condition and layout of a flat, but there's nothing better than viewing a property in person. This allows you to look more closely and ask questions to help you decide if it's right for you.
Additionally, you may notice issues that you know would bother you if you moved in. For example, a bedroom may be too small for a king-size bed, or a kitchen countertop may be too low to use comfortably.
Check for leaky faucets and look inside cabinets for hidden problems.
You should check for signs of a musty smell or blistered, cracked or peeling paint. Mould can be detrimental to your health and can signal potential problems such as broken pipes or a leaking roof.
Finally, if the building is vandalised or has bars on the windows, this could indicate that the area is unsafe.
8. Know your neighbours
In a flat setting, you may have neighbours next to, above and below you. Knowing who lives next door to you could make or break your decision.
If your neighbour's dog barks a lot, it may interfere with your work at home. Loud music and all-night parties may also be red flags.
You may also have neighbours who are difficult to live with, so it's important to know about these issues beforehand.
Even with the best neighbours, you want privacy. How soundproof are the walls? Can you see other flats from your windows? If so, keep in mind that they can also see into your flat.
9. Prepare your landlord with questions
Don't be afraid to ask questions to get the information you need. The questions you ask will depend on your unique situation and lifestyle. Here are a few examples of questions you can ask the property manager:
Are pets allowed in the property?
Why did the previous tenant leave?
Who is the best person to contact if there is a problem?
If there is a problem with the property, how is it resolved?
When is the rent due and how will it be paid?
Does the house have extra security?
Are utilities included in the rent?
Is it possible to extend the rental period?
Are there any additional costs that I should know about?
Can I have other people stay with me?
10. Choose the flat that best meets your criteria
Looking for an apartment can be an overwhelming process, and it's easy to get swept up in your emotions. You may end up choosing a home that you fall in love with, but for all the wrong reasons.
Be sure to be honest with yourself, as the novelty of a new flat can wear off quickly. While at first glance it may seem like the flat of your dreams, you may have overlooked items on your must-have list.
If the commute to your workplace doubles, or the residence is not in your child's school district, you may begin to regret your decision. So choose a flat that meets most of your criteria.
11. Read the fine print
Your apartment search is over and you are ready to take the next step. Before you sign, read the fine print of the rental agreement carefully.
The rental agreement is important because it includes a description of the property, the address, the length of the lease, and the landlord's rules and expectations.
The agreement will also have information about rent payments. It will detail how payments will be made, as well as your obligations and rights. These documents are usually straightforward, but there may be some outstanding issues.
If you are unsure about anything in the contract, ask a friend or solicitor to look it over for you.
When you know what you want, your next flat can be your dream home. Make a list of essential items and another list of items you can live without. Network with people around you and research the locations you want to see what is available.
If you can, view the property in person and ask questions to learn more. While you're looking at properties, keep an eye out for any warning signs such as unattended, mould or vandalism.