Finding an Apartment in a City You Don't Live in

...or really know anything about the neighborhoods. It is definitely not easy. I'll start off my backtracking with a bit of a description on how we found our apartment in the first place.

We wanted to find a place that would be a decent commute for both of us. E really didn't want anything longer than half an hour each way since he'd be driving, and I was willing to do up to an hour each way since I'd be taking the metro. So our search was already pretty limited to the Laurel/Beltsville/Greenbelt/Silver Spring area, since anywhere farther west would add way too much time to E's commute and anything farther south we would be in the ghetto. We also wanted to be in a relatively safe area where I would feel comfortable walking from my car to our apartment at night by myself when I'd be getting home from school. I especially wanted a balcony and E especially wanted a fitness center, and we both really wanted a washing machine and dryer, so we narrowed our search down to apartments that offered these things. Ideally we wanted two bedrooms (to have one be an office/workout room). Oh and we wanted it to be inexpensive enough that a poor graduate student and a fresh-out of grad school would be able to afford it. And did I mention we need to be able to move in within a week and a half?

We looked at 13 apartments in less than 3 days. We were tired and frustrated because the places we had researched online turned out to be in shady neighborhoods, looked run down, and/or had all sorts of things wrong with the actual apartment. A couple of the complexes we really liked couldn't show us the actual apartment we'd be getting since it was being cleaned/remodeled/etc, so we put those aside since there was no way we'd rent a place without getting to see it first.

The place we ended up taking was the second-to-last complex we looked at. It was the smallest apartment that made it to our final consideration round. And it was the most expensive (of course!). So we don't have our second bedroom (the office desk and workout equipment are packed into the living room), but we do have a giant balcony and a nice-enough fitness center and pool. And we have a laundry nook with doors that shut so the noise gets blocked out. And the area seems to be safe enough; our neighborhood is nice-looking apartments and townhomes with good sidewalks and lots of neighbors with dogs. And mileage-wise, we live right smack in the middle between E's work and my school. It's less than 30 minutes each way for him to get to and from work, and it should be about an hour for me to get to school.

My tips for anyone looking for an apartment in a city you don't live in yet (and also currently live very far from) is to do a lot of research. Research about the neighborhoods, apartment complexes, crime reports, grocery stores, and anything else that's important to you (parks, public transportation, etc) is very important. However, even doing all this research is secondary to actually visiting the city and the apartments you want to look at. We saw a lot of nice-looking places online that looked terrible in real life (ah, the joys of digital photography). Don't be surprised when this happens to you. Be flexible. Give yourself plenty of time to see each apartment and walk around the grounds. If there are places you really like, go back to visit them at night. We basically eliminated one place after doing this because there was no way I was going to feel comfortable walking from the car to our front door when I came home when it was dark out.

I don't know what to tell you if you can't actually go visit. We were lucky that we got to take a few days beforehand to look at all the apartments. We were also lucky that we have a lot of friends (and some family) out here who know a bit about the area as well, and could give us tips and a second opinion about the places we were really considering. I suppose the moral here is to use all the resources you can.
Finding an Apartment in a City You Don't Live in Finding an Apartment in a City You Don't Live in Reviewed by Maria on 12:42:00 PM Rating: 5

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