Despite our best wishes, 2021 has been pretty wild so far. Of course this has had ripple effects into every industry, but real estate has been fascinating. People have new opportunities to negotiate lower rents and the prices of living in cities have dropped while the price of living in small towns has been on the rise. If you’re someone who’s looking to move, here are four things you need to know when apartment hunting.
Be Super Organized
Most landlords require proof of employment, one or two bank statements, and a photocopy of your driver’s license or passport as part of the lease signing process. You should also have a check ready to make the security deposit, should you decide to rent. And by the way, a check is better than cash because you have a record of it; if you lose the receipt from the landlord and you paid in cash, you’re SOL. Make several copies of these documents ahead of time and bring them with you while you look at rentals. If you see a place you like, you’ll be a baby step ahead of anyone else vying for it and, yes, sometimes it’s that competitive.
Don’t Overlook Less Desirable Units
You can often get a good deal on a lower floor, say, or a place at the back of the building, that you can “deal” with not having a view. But at the same time, here’s another: Don’t sell yourself short by skipping over listings for newer developments or high-rise buildings. Look for the grand opening. Management companies often want to fill a building as quickly as possible after opening to boost its profile and exclusivity. It’s simple: empty apartments don’t turn a profit. Pay attention to when new apartment buildings hit the market, and you may be able to sneak in under the listed price. Yes, sometimes newer can be cheaper.
Pay Attention to Detail
No matter the location, take a close look at all of the rental’s fixtures, tiling, AC/heat units, floors, paint, and all that jazz to make sure they’re in tip-top shape before you sign. Turn the shower on to check the water pressure (especially on high floors). Count the electrical outlets (some smaller or older apartments might have only one or two, and you’ll find yourself dangerously overloading your extension cords). Landlords are more likely to fix any problems—and fast—if they think that not doing so might be a deal breaker on signing the lease.
Get Your Negotiating On
If you think you’ll stay in one place for a while, ask your potential landlords if they will lower the monthly rent if you sign for longer than twelve months. An eighteen-month or two-year lease means less work for them trying to find a new tenant, touch up the apartment or home, and market the property at year’s end, all of which could translate into major savings for you. If you plan on staying for a while and there are improvements you’re willing to pay for, such as installing a dishwasher, ask the landlords if they’d split the cost with you (usually by forgiving part of your rent). They may go for it; after all, they ultimately get to keep the improvement.
With so many of us working from home last year, we have really been prioritizing living in a home we love. All of this adds up to a lot of people shuffling around and moving. It’s important to be smart and prepared when apartment hunting. Don’t just go into the process without a plan. Know what to look for and what you’re looking for. It’s super competitive, but with the right knowledge, you’ll land the apartment you want.
A version of this article was originally published on Forbes.