Shopping for an apartment anywhere is rarely an easygoing experience. Finding someone who loves everything about the apartment they live in is about as rare as someone who gets along with every member of their family. It’s difficult enough if you’re searching for a new place to live in the same city – imagine having to find an apartment when you’re a few states away.
With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of the most important things to remember when hunting for your next pad in Austin. Some of these we’ve gathered from personal experience, others were imparted to us by experts on Austin’s monthly rental scene. So, if you’re thinking about moving to town, or just moving from another part of the city, we’ve got you covered.
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Don’t hesitate to use an apartment locator
With so many ways to hunt for apartments online, you’d think apartment locators would have gone the way of the travel agent. Which begs the question: why are they so many in Austin? Yes, it’s possible to find an an apartment that meets all your needs online, but it takes a lot of time. You likely have a job and you also have to pack because, you know, you’re moving soon and you have a hundred other things that need your attention. This isn’t like finding the best price on a flight to Vegas – this is where you’re going to live.
Apartment locators, on the other hand, do this all day. It’s their jobs. And they’re not charging you a cent to help you. If you rent an apartment through them, they get paid. If they find you a great place to live, you’re probably going to tell your friends on what a great job they did. On top of everything else, they can help you get special deals that you couldn’t get on your own.
If you don’t have the time or the energy to do it yourself, let an apartment locator do it for you. Here are a number of Apartment Locating Services in Austin to get you started,
Timing is everything when it comes to specials
How many times have you driven by an apartment complex to see a sign proclaiming “Move In Special – $1!” or “No Deposit!” or”First Month Free!”? It’s not just the buildings in the less reputable neighborhoods that run these specials. Like any other business, rental properties have slow periods and busy periods. The summer tends to be the busiest season for apartments in Austin, so don’t expect too much in the way of bargains. And if you see a property that’s offering amazing, unreal deals no matter what time of the year it is, you may want to ask yourself exactly why that is.
Online reviews are your friend
Looking at the photos on the website of an apartment complex is like looking at the photos of food on the menu at a fast food joint. There is no way it looks that nice in real life. Plus, a photo can’t tell you what the office staff, neighborhood or feral cat population is like (and, let’s face it, there’s gonna be cats). You know what can, though? THE INTERNET! That’s right, sites like Yelp are around to people can get other opinions on things such as dim sum restaurants, touchless car washes and apartments. Sure, every now and then you’ll get some bitter guy who felt like he should have gotten his deposit back even though he set the carpet on fire. Astute readers, however, should be able to notice a trend in the reviews. It’s also prudent to look for the most recent reviews, as properties often change when new management takes over.
How many owners has this place had?
If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to find a great apartment that’s owned and operated by a small, local company.
Can’t find any, can you? Yeah, those don’t stick around very long. Chances are, you’re going to be looking at places run by one of the larger property management companies in town, which can also be a very nice experience. Companies like that tend to be able to afford to hire multiple service technicians – so you don’t have to wait long if your sink explodes – and even a security team to keep drunks from getting into fistfights in the parking lot. You’re more likely to have a pool and a dog park and other cool amenities.
However, there are some certain complexes that have chronic issues, and a long list of owners. If you’re looking at a complex that’s had three or more companies running it over the last 10 years, you may want to reconsider.
You may not be able to take your TV/Internet service with you
One of the nice things about the Austin area is that when it comes to both TV and high-speed Internet service, you’re not stuck with just one choice. Usually. Time Warner Cable, AT&T U-Verse and Grande Communications all handle high speed Internet service in various areas around town, plus you can add the major satellite TV providers to that list for television options. On top of that, Google Fiber is slowly making its way to the city, giving us even more options.
If you’re moving from out of state, there’s a good chance this is a given – the company you used before may simply not do business here. Simply moving in town, however, can cause you some headaches on this front. You’ll find that a number of apartment complexes have exclusive deals with some providers. Which means if you have AT&T and your new building is in tight with Time Warner, you’ll either need to switch to Time Warner for TV, get a satellite service, buy an over-the-air antennae or go without TV altogether.
Speaking of satellite TV, if you plan on keeping your Dish or DirecTV service, there are a few factors to consider. You’ll need to make sure your new apartment faces the right direction or you’re not getting any signal. Also, every building has different policies regarding satellite dishes on their property. Some merely insist that the equipment isn’t attached to any part of their property, others will require you to carry renter’s insurance and others will require a deposit ranging from the reasonable to the ridiculous. By law, a rental company cannot outright prohibit you from having a dish, but they’re well within their rights to make having one as inconvenient as possible.
Finally, when it comes to Internet speeds, the age of the building can be a determining factor in just how fast a signal you’ll be able to get. If you’re moving from a relatively new building to one that was built in the 1970s, don’t expect the same speeds you had before.
There are plenty of other elements to consider when searching for a new place to live. The best advice we can give is that you can’t prepare too much. Chances are, you’re going to be living here for at least a year, you’re well within your rights to make sure it’s as perfect for you as it can be.
Happy hunting, Austin!