Austin Apartment Hunting Tips

Megan Aune

Looking for the perfect apartment can be a bit like dating–there’s a period of online perusal, asking how they feel about pets, continually repeating “I’m just keeping my options open,” and when you meet The One, you HAVE to tell your mom. The whole process is so exciting! Sometimes, you’ll even find yourself making a Pinterest board before you’ve picked out a place, dreaming of the perfect stick-on wallpaper, all the plants you’ll buy, the DIY candles you can make out of seashells…wow, uh…what was I saying? Right. You have to pick an apartment first. Don’t stress, these ATX apartment-hunting tips will help you find your perfect match in no time. 

Start Your Search Early

Early bird gets the worm! Or, in this case, the deals. You’ll want to begin your search as early as you can; apartments will sometimes start raising their rates as early as December. If you don’t have a lease by spring, though–or maybe haven’t even started searching–no worries! Unless it’s two weeks before your move-in date, there’s still plenty of time, and lots of apartments run deals all year long. 

Ask Around

Odds are people you know will have been through this process too! They probably have advice on which places are best, what pricing is reasonable for certain areas, or if a certain landlord should be avoided. You may even have apartment-savvy friends that are willing to go on tours with you and point out any red flags. If not, try checking out reddit! Posts there can give you a really good idea of what the community is like or anything else you may have missed on the official website.

Know Your Budget

There are a bunch of guides to this all over the internet, about how much of your paycheck to save, how much should go to rent, etc. but something important to remember is that rent usually isn’t the total cost. There’s the security deposit, application fees, utilities, parking if you have a car–in Austin, a lot of places even have pet rent that you pay monthly. Make sure you read up on all the fees and extra costs that are tacked on to your rent at any apartment you’re considering, and don’t be afraid to ask about it if you tour.

Write Down Questions Beforehand

This one may seem self-explanatory, but you’d be surprised how many of your most important inquiries flee your mind when you come face-to-face with some beautiful hardwood floors. Try to scribble down a few on a slip of paper or in your phone before you leave, just in case.

Test It Out

Act like you already live there! Okay, maybe don’t put a load in the dishwasher or anything, but there are definitely some things you’ll want to check up on before signing a lease. How’s the water pressure? Do you get cell service in every room? Take a second to listen. Can you hear the person on the floor above you walking around, or the conversations of the people next door? Also, try driving around the area at night–or if you don’t have a car, maybe walk with a buddy–to see if you’d feel safe walking home at night. And if you notice a cute coffee shop nearby, seal the deal!

Make a Spreadsheet

Assuming you’re looking at more than a couple of potential apartments, it can be helpful to have a place to keep track of the information about each of them. A spreadsheet can help you organize your thoughts and compare the pricing, location, and pros and cons of every place you’re interested in. And if you already have roommates picked out, add them as editors! It can be a great way for you all to compare notes and/or preferences. 

Bonus Tip: Bring a Bag

If you happen to be touring multiple apartments in one day, it’s possible that a few of them will have some free stuff to offer you. I can’t tell you how many places I’ve toured where they say “look at all this fridge space!” and open up a refrigerator that is stocked full of snacks and drinks, which they then offer you FOR FREE. And if you don’t mind logos, there may be plenty of free t-shirts and reusable water bottles in your future. I’m not saying you should wait to go grocery shopping until after you finish touring apartments for the day, but just something to consider…