10 Tips for Apartment Hunting in Cold Weather

By Lorena Roberts on January 17, 2019

Now that the new year has rolled around (what’s up 2019), many people have made New Year’s Resolutions. Whether this is to save money, lose weight, eat healthier, be happier, or walk your dog more, NYR are some of the best ways to keep your eye on bettering yourself. For those of us who are re-evaluating our budgets, an area where we might be splurging a little too much is housing. Others of us may be re-considering our living situation because of less-than-ideal roommates or location. Then there are those of us who just want to move in order to have something new to decorate.

Usually, freshman students live on-campus. But as you get older, you want your own place, off campus. Especially when you start wanting to host get-togethers with alcoholic beverages, it’ll become more and more important to you to live in a place that’s yours, even if you share it with a few other people. During college, you might move apartment complexes multiple times. If you don’t, you might move apartments within the same complex a few times. There’s also a chance you might not move at all (which is rare, I would say). College towns tend to have many apartment complexes with several options. There are definitely nicer apartment complexes and not-so-nice complexes. Regardless of where you choose to live, remember that these apartments are managed by people who have one concern: fill up the apartments and take home their paycheck. At the end of the day, it’s not that important to them that your washer and dryer performs perfectly, your utility bill is high, or the light in your refrigerator keeps going out. So when you’re looking for a new place to live, it’s important for you to evaluate the management.

Most leases end in the summer, I would say. So as we get closer and closer to the end of the semester, college students are starting to look at where they want to live for the next school year. In many college towns, apartments are going up left and right, offering students a variety of floor plans and number of bedrooms. You might have decided that you don’t want to live with three other people anymore. Instead, you might be looking for a two bedroom. Maybe you’re done looking for a multi-bedroom altogether, and you’re on the prowl for a studio. Regardless of what you’re looking for, apartment hunting is overwhelming. Not only is it overwhelming, but in January, it’s freezing cold outside, so no one wants to be traipsing around the city looking at apartments. If you’re beginning the journey of looking for a new place to live, here are some tips you can follow:

via Pexels.com

1. Utilize the internet.

The beauty of the internet is that there are literally thousands of resources right at our fingertips. Much like you’re reading this article right now, utilize the tools you have embedded on the internet to help you with your apartment hunting journey and keep you from waltzing through your town in the cold. You can learn so much about an apartment complex from the internet. Look up their Yelp reviews, check out their floor plans, see what other students have to say about their experiences there, get an estimate on the cost of living, and see photos of the complex.

You’ll probably be able to see if they allow pets, what the pet fee is, and if there are breed restrictions. You might even be able to look at a virtual tour! It’ll be like you’re standing on the property without having to actually be there!

2. Call apartment complexes with questions before you go visit.

Going to visit an apartment complex when it’s warm outside isn’t too much of a hassle. It’s actually kind of fun to go on a guided tour when it’s springtime. You get to see all kinds of benefits to an apartment complex when you’re on a guided tour. But when it’s cold outside, that’s probably not something you want to spend your time doing. So instead, call the complex and ask as many questions as you can without having to be on the actual grounds. There might even be a way to get your hands on a virtual tour so you don’t have to endure the low temps just to experience the complex.

Infographic by Lorena Roberts

3. Use social media to your benefit.

There’s nothing wrong with asking for opinions of apartments around town on social media. Some of the best advice you can get is through people who have actually experienced it. Post on Facebook that you’re looking for complex recommendations and you’re likely to get some honest feedback. The BEST thing you can do for yourself is to ask multiple opinions of multiple people before you make a decision.

4. Ride around town with the heat on in your car.

When it’s cold outside, it’s tough to motivate yourself to drive around looking at apartments. Stop for coffee, crank up the heat, and see what there is to see from the comfort of your own car. Take someone with you so it’s not a lonely ride and remember to take notes while you’re riding around. You’ll want to do things like time yourself driving to the grocery store, your first class in the morning, your favorite coffee shop, and the closest dog park. You’ll want to know where the closest gas station is, how close you are to your pals, and if there’s anything good within walking distance. I recommend taking someone with you to tagalong because there’s no way you can drive and write things down at the same time.

5. Check Yelp reviews.

Take these with a grain of salt. People don’t usually leave Yelp reviews unless they get angry, so just keep that in mind as you read them. However, Yelp can be a wonderful place to get opinions from people that you don’t know — and Yelp is where you hear about people’s real experiences. It might give you some insight into what it’s like to live there. Just remember that they may not be as accurate as we paint them to be.

The Yelp tip I like to give people is to scroll to the bottom of the reviews section and click the button that says “# reviews currently not recommended” and read them! For whatever reason, management has decided to “hide” these reviews about their business — which is why they’re my favorite place to start. Sure, the reviews might be from people who use a bunch of profanity or tell a story that’s not relevant. But I know from experience that the reviews I’ve written from the heart, places where I’ve had really bad experiences, have hidden my review. That’s how I know they’re still ripping people off!

6. Give yourself plenty of time to consider your options.

Instead of waiting to start researching apartment complexes until a few weeks before you have to move out, give yourself plenty of time. When you’re in the “researching” stage, I would say you need at least six months, especially if you’re moving to a completely different area of town or a new place altogether. If you aren’t moving to a new place and you’re just looking for a place for you and three of your friends to crash, you might only need a few weeks. Regardless, when it’s time to make a big decision in life, you have to make sure you give yourself time. If you don’t, you could get yourself into a situation that’s not ideal.

7. Ask your friends for recommendations.

If you have friends who live in places other than your current apartment complex, ask them all the personal questions about where they live! How’s the management? Is it terribly inconvenient for them to carry their laundry to another building and wait for it to finish? Is there a shortage of parking spaces? Do they feel like it’s party central and it’s hard to sleep? Is it mostly students, young professionals, or families? The best way to make an informed decision is to get lots of information from a variety of resources. As you’re doing research on the best apartment to move into, getting opinions from people you trust is a must.

8. Make it a priority to ride through the neighborhood.

Location, location, location. As you’re riding around, looking at prospective places to reside, make sure you’re taking note of the type of neighborhood where the complex is located. For those of us who are trying to stay between the lines of a pretty strict budget, the cheaper complexes might mean they’re located in bad areas of town.

9. Don’t rush into signing a new lease.

As you make your decision, the apartment where you’re looking is going to try to get your signature as quickly as possible. Your $200 deposit is special to them! Instead of feeling rushed into signing something, when you’re apartment-hunting, make sure that you have plenty of time to make an informed decision. I like to “sleep on it” instead of rushing into making a decision before I know that it’s absolutely the right one. When you sign a lease, you’re signing a legal document. Don’t discount how important this is. Make sure you know exactly what you’re getting into before you do it.

via Pexels.com

10. Reach out to upperclassmen you admire.

Much like using Facebook to reach out to people you know for opinions, reach out to people who have already lived in various apartment complexes throughout college. They won’t be afraid to give you their honest opinion. Most upperclassmen will do what they can to help you — because your success is important to them. There’s something about being an alumnus of a university that just makes you want to help the students who go there. If you reach out to someone you knew from a previous semester who has already graduated, there’s a good chance they’ll want to give you some advice on where to live while you’re in school.

Deciding where you want to live while you’re in college is a tough decision. Choosing roommates, an apartment, and trying to stay on top of your studies can get to be too much. You need to be sure that your living situation is a decision you make when you’re well-informed. It can be tough to do this when the weather is cold. You might not feel like going out to scout out neighborhoods or walk the premises of different complexes. When it’s cold, apartment-hunting is way less fun. You don’t want to think about moving when it’s cold outside, so your motivation to find a new apartment might be pretty low. However, as you’re apartment hunting, remember that you’re getting ahead on the work you’ll need to have completed in order to make an informed decision and live your best life while you’re in college.

Lorena graduated from The University of Tennessee in Knoxville last December with a BA in Honors Psychology. After some serious soul-searching, she's decided to pursue a Master's in teaching in order to teach middle school math! In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her Whippet mix, Gio, at the dog park and binge watching Netflix with endless cups of Hot Cocoa.

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