Getting a new apartment can be invigorating—everything is so shiny and full of possibilities! Finding a new apartment? Not so much. If you’re renting in a hot market, near a college, or you’re not a Trump (and yes, we’re counting Tiffany), finding a place that’s both affordable and available isn’t usually easy.
The proof is in the numbers: In the third quarter of 2016, the average nationwide vacancy rate was 6.8%—down from the same time the year before, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. To make matters worse, rent prices are still sky-high. A recent report by GoBankingRates found the national average for rent is hovering around $1,234 a month for a 678-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment. And experts say rent prices aren’t going down any time soon. Wheee!
This unholy combo creates a sort of special supply-and-demand hell that only renters understand. If you’re apartment hunting soon, you might as well prepare yourself now for that unique cycle of heartache and despair that’s about to play out. With apologies to Kübler-Ross, we’re here to help guide you through the five stages of grief—err, apartment hunting.
Stage 1: Denial
We’ve all done it. As soon as we pop open the laptop to start our apartment search, we expect to find a ton of awesome listings just ready and waiting. And then we don’t.
We keep the listings tab open all day on our browsers, refreshing every 20 minutes, and wait for Mr. Dream Rental to pop up, all the while growing more and more desperate. Wait, I thought you said this was going to be fun?
How to cope: The solution might be simple, if startling: Get offline.
Take a drive (or walk) around the hood and check for rental signs. We know it’s shocking in this digital age, but not everything is posted on rental listing sites. Sometimes you’ll have to dig a little deeper. As you scour the neighborhood, write down names of apartment complexes you want to look into, and then look them up online—they should have floor plans, pricing, and even availability on their respective websites.
Still nothing? Try a Realtor® or a rental broker.
“As a renter, a broker can be extremely useful, especially if you’re not that familiar with the neighborhood,” says Moshe Goykhman, director of leasing for Dreamtown Realty in Chicago. “Their knowledge of the renting market and the neighborhoods can be very helpful in uncovering a hidden gem.”
Stage 2: Anger
Once you’re knee-deep in your apartment search, you suddenly remember why you hate renting. Every. Single. Place. seems to have at least one enormous downside. You get only one parking spot. Or your washer and dryer are outside on the patio (true story). Or maybe the landlord won’t take your (perfectly behaved) Great Dane. Agh!
How to cope: Don’t lose hope just yet. Take a deep breath, and try to change your approach: Remind yourself of the upsides to renting—such as free maintenance and cheaper insurance. Stop focusing on the smaller issues and instead focus on the bigger ones: Find a couple of places that meet your immediate needs and then narrow them down by the biggest factor of all: location.
“If everything else is equal, then you should go with the preferred locale,” Goykhman says. “You can change almost everything else. But the location is staying the same.”
Read the rest of the stages at Realtor.com.