For the last 6 years I have moved houses every August, save for one year where my college best friend and I lived in the same little apartment for two years together. But it hasn’t been until now that I’ve really had to be picky about where I live because this is the first year I have paid my own rent. I’ve been lucky, I know, and believe me I’m grateful for the years that I didn’t spend all my money on rent.
But in this time in my life, I have learned a LOT about house hunting and how to do it well, or at least how to find a house that meets all your needs without murdering your wallet. Welcome to House Hunting 101.
1. First thing you should do is know your monetary limit. It’s so easy to start looking at what’s on the market and getting caught up in the tiled floors, built in bookcases, and dark wood kitchen cabinets and before you know it you are lusting after homes that are way beyond your pay grade.
2. Know your roommate’s monetary limits. For college or 20-something year old renters, I think it makes the most sense to divvy up rent based on the size of the bedroom. For instance, in my current house the two that have the “kids” rooms and share a bathroom pay less than the two that have larger rooms with their own bathrooms. That way whoever makes the least amount of income can opt for the small room and save on rent. Plus no one feels cheated by having to pay the same for less space.
3. Start early. So you don’t move in till August but you have already started looking in February? I’d say you’re right on track! The early bird gets the best worm! You’ll see houses as soon as they come on the market and in the long run you get to be a lot picker about where you end up than someone that waits till the last minute.
4. Use Apps and Websites that track houses coming on the market. In a city like Raleigh, there is no way that I am gonna be able to know every house that goes up for rent. Not quickly anyway. So I highly suggest using sites like Realtor, Zillow, Hotpads (where Mike found his house) and my favorite Trulia. Craigslist works as well I suppose, but I always feel safer using actual realty companies. And finding houses quickly brings me to my next point…
5. Act fast! As soon as you see a house with the right number of bedrooms, in a good location and at a reasonable price, call the realtor immediately! Guaranteed you won’t be the only person that thinks that house is adorable, but you do want to be one of the first to express interest. I ALWAYS call the realtor instead of doing the generic email that most websites have as their contact method. That way you make sure they got your call and you can set up a house showing on the spot. Also, once you have seen the house, if you want it, put in the required paperwork IMMEDIATELY so someone doesn’t beat you to it. The only reason I have the house that I do right now, is because my roommates and I turned in our paperwork the day we went to the house showing.
6. Never go to house showings alone. My mother’s voice is playing in my head right now. But even though I’m a petite girl, I still think even men should never go to a house showing alone. Safety first, of course, since you never know the kind of people that are showing the house. Secondly, you’re probably gonna need your roommate’s (or family’s) approval and there’s no way to get a feel for a house when they see tiny photos or videos on your cell phone.
7. Know what are your must-haves and what you can live without. My two main must-haves are a yard of some sort for Radley and an in house washer and dryer. Things I don’t really care about are the size of my closet (I’m a master of storage) or whether we have a dishwasher (I eat out a lot, plus I kind of like cleaning dishes as soon as I’m done so that nothing sits in filth for several days).
8. Don’t sacrifice safety for price. Last year I was looking at house for rent right downtown. It was well out of my price range but it was really cute and in a great location. As I scrolled across the map, I came to another house on the same street, same bedroom count, but less than half the price. I was shocked and immediately excited. Then I clicked on the tab that told about crime in the area, and wouldn’t you believe it, the crime was exponentially greater at that end of the street (it was a really long street) and frankly that entire side of the city had some of the worst crime in the city. The money you save is NOT worth risking your safety, or coming home to your belongs being stolen. No thank you!
9. Be flexible. Unless you are building a house, chances are you aren’t gonna find a house that fits your ideal image. Houses for rent also tend to be on the low end as far as long term upkeep and maintenance (it’s not uncommon to have to call you landlord to have something fixed). So even though you should definitely find something you are happy with, be open to the idea of each location and what each house could look like with your stylish touch.
10. Don’t give up! If you missed out on your dream house, it’s okay! Nothing is permanent unless you are ready and want it to be. Something just as good will come along, and if not, choose something you can live with for a year and next time you’ll be more prepared. At some point everything will come together and you’ll find a place you absolutely love!
I wish you lots of luck in your house hunting! And if you have any other tips I’d love to hear them!