Growing up, my family lived in three houses within the same 1-mile radius of St. Louis. It took 22 years for me to learn all of the important details about my suburban area: the best grocery store, the shadiest running routes and the closest movie theaters.
But when I graduated from college and got my first full-time job, I knew I wanted to move closer to the city. I wanted to shorten my commute to work and be closer to restaurants and entertainment. So I set out to find the perfect apartment to fit my needs. Here’s how you can do it, too:
1. Pick your ideal move-in time
One of the biggest adjustments for my post-college apartment search was figuring out when to reach out to potential landlords. Unlike a college town, where student housing complexes start signing leases 6-9 months before the next school year, most apartments for professionals aren’t posted more than two months before the move-in date.
When I made the decision to move out, I knew financially I wanted to wait as long as possible before the school year started, so my boyfriend and I set our sights on a July move-in date.
2. Find your ideal location.
Once you know your move-in period, you can begin searching for an apartment. I recommend starting 1-2 months before you are planning to move in.
We perused Zillow, Trulia and Craigslist like mad, looking at what we thought were our “preferred” neighborhoods in St. Louis. I used Google maps to pinpoint areas that included amenities like grocery stores and restaurants nearby. I also utilized the “street view” feature to see if a unit was worth a tour.
3. Tour several apartments, especially if you aren’t familiar with your target area.
You never know what you’ll discover about your picture-perfect neighborhood. Even all the online research in the world doesn’t make up for touring in person.
We toured a few units in what I had pegged as my ideal neighborhood, only to discover several things I disliked about city living. The street parking, the choppy layouts of the old, multi-family units we were looking at, and the severe lack of storage space were a reality check for this suburban girl. I began to feel overwhelmed.
4. If it doesn’t work out, be open to redefining your search parameters.
It can be frustrating to discover a neighborhood you once thought of as perfect isn’t all you expected. But don’t fret! Your perfect apartment is out there. Don’t hesitate to look outside your original search parameters.
After touring several apartments in our original “ideal” neighborhood, I realized I wouldn’t be happy there. So we moved our search out just a bit from the city center. We found a great city just outside St. Louis that had walkability to restaurants and a little more elbowroom. It took us two tries to find the apartment we knew would be ours.
5. When you find the perfect place, don’t hesitate!
Something they don’t tell you about searching for an apartment is that it is a slow process until you find “the one.” We found the listing for what would become our first apartment on a Wednesday, immediately emailed the landlord to schedule a tour for Thursday or Friday, saw it on Friday and submitted our applications within 30 minutes of touring. It had everything we wanted: off-street parking, a great kitchen, two bedrooms, a rent price within our budget and a quiet location close to the city.
We signed the lease a few days later, and I was so excited. Fast forward two months, and we’re all moved in. So far we love the location, the layout of the apartment and the luxuriously spacious kitchen.