A place of your own: Finding an apartment

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Looking at potential apartments is often overwhelming.
A leasing coordinator welcomes you into his or her office by running down a list of expenses with the same speed as a used-car-salesman, then pushes you through a sparsely furnished model apartment, barely giving you time to take a few photos on your phone. As you try to ask the few questions you thought up in the car ride over, he or she is already walking you back to the office explaining credit-checks, pro-rated move-in rates, and pet policies, and you leave with more questions than you had answered.

For students and young professionals looking at an apartment for the first time, there are several things that can be done to simplify this process and make the “great apartment hunt” less stressful.

1.) Take a friend.
If you plan to have a roommate, go together to look at potential locations. Not only will this give you better insight into how the two of you plan to live together, but it will also make sure that there is a second brain thinking through the leasing process. If you plan to live alone, take a friend or family member that can help you maintain your confidence and ask the questions you might not think of.
2.) Bring a list.
Write down a list of questions you absolutely need the answers to to make a decision, and inform the leasing coordinator that you have them. As different topics come up, be confident in asking your questions—it is that person’s job to answer them. Ask questions such as, “Are there any additional fees when moving in,” or “Is there a grace period for paying rent.” Questions like these may or may not be addressed in the information materials available, but are important when considering how much a unit will cost.
3.) Take notes and regroup.
Immediately after seeing an apartment, write down everything that comes to mind, even if that means sitting in your car in a parking lot for 10 minutes. Write down any issues you saw with the unit, any questions you need to call back and ask, and how it compares to other places you have looked.

In Birmingham, it is also important to keep in mind utility costs, pest-control fees, and other factors that are unique to the area. Many complexes also require a significant income before tenants can be approved, so it is important to maintain communication with the leasing coordinator throughout the process.

For information about different locations, sights like apartmentfinder.com and apartmentratings.com can give insight and reviews that can be helpful as well.