Author Topic: Pound the pavement for a good apartment deal - what are your strategies?  (Read 5921 times)

fumanchu282

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Seems like these days it's harder to find good deals and hidden gems with so much listed on the internet for all to see. But, I still hear people talk about "if you just hustle, you'll find a deal" or "all it takes is getting out there and pounding the pavement"... what does this really mean? I found this in another thread on here...

I was in NYC (on a gov't salary) for 8 years before coming to Boston (9 years).  Chicago ain't got nothing on those two cities, expense-wise.  Even in those places, with enough legwork, I always managed to find a good deal on an apartment.  I was paying $1100/month in a Brooklyn neighborhood where $2,000 was closer to the going rate at the time.  Ditto for Boston -- $1300 in an area where $1800-$2000 was the norm.  You have to pound the pavement and really get out there looking for the best deals.  There's always a landlord looking for a good, no-hassle tenant they feel they can trust.  I was that guy.  I own now, but my neighbor across the street rents units in his 3-unit place for well under market (which in my hood is now $2500-$3000!).  He just looks for a certain kind of tenant (typically, young-ish, well-educated professionals), and he's always gotten them.

Do I do what my folks did in the olden days and just go walk around the area I want to rent looking for "For Rent" signs? What other tricks are there?

I'm a good, no-hassle tenant that can be trusted, willing to put in the time and effort. How do I find one of these setups?

Lagom

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Posting to follow. I will say my fiance and I found our current residence, which is about ~$300-400/month below market (in Silicon Valley, so only a ~10% discount), exactly by walking around a neighborhood we liked. I have no idea if that was dumb luck or not, though. We weren't actually expecting to find a rental, we just wanted to scope it out from a walkability standpoint as we were considering a nearby apartment complex.

In about a year we'll be looking to move, so I'll be interested to see whether this is a viable strategy or if we just got lucky.

randymarsh

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Does obsessively checking Craigslist count as a strategy?

That's what I just did and it seemed to work out. I spent about a month checking Craigslist multiple times a day. As soon as I found a possibility, I scheduled a showing. Once I saw one I liked and met my must haves, I applied ASAP and then called the next day to make sure the owner had everything they needed. Made the deposit as soon as I was approved. Flexible move in was beneficial as well. The apartment was vacant so there was no incentive for the owner to hold it. I ended up paying rent on 2 apartments in April, but I think it was worth it to lock this place in for a year.

Paying $895 for a 1BR with parking when you can easily spend $1200 in this same neighborhood on that.

So the key ingredients are obsession, urgency, patience, and flexibility.

Obvious things you probably already know:

  • Stay away from new construction. Most is faux luxury and priced skyhigh because of superficial amenities.
  • Accept tradeoffs. My new place has "eh" carpet with what appear to be cigarette burns. Whatever.
  • Use wide price ranges when searching and compare what's included in rent. I saw all these "cheap" apts, but then you find out there's a $100 utility bill back and parking is $100 and pet rent is $50...
  • Sacrifice a bit on location. Living right next to the city park can be much more expensive than living 6 blocks away. Similar to how a reusable water bottle is $10, but you can sell it for $30 as an "eco-friendly hydrating vessel"   


Eric

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Does obsessively checking Craigslist count as a strategy?

Yes, this is today's pound the pavement.  This is how I pay $1400/mo in Silicon Valley (less than 600 sq ft, but still).  Jump on the ad right away.  Offer to show up as soon as can possibly be arranged (on the landlord's schedule, not yours).  Be the first one at the showing if it's an open showing.  Bring your checkbook and be prepared to write a check on the spot.  Schmooze the landlord/agent a bit*.  They're going to have multiple applications.  Be persistent.  I think I looked at 15 apartments or so before finding this one, but I was just as aggressive every time.

*I specifically told the agent at the place I now live how perfect it was and how excited I was to get a chance to live there.  The place is pretty old and kind of a jump, so I think this stuck out in his mind.  He uncontrollably guffawed when I first said it.  Things worked out well.

VladTheImpaler

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Look for Apartment complexes that offer move-in specials.
I got a 6 weeks FREE move-in deal with my apartment.

Use Trulia, Zillow as well as Craigslist.

Also do a search for Apartment Locators. They can be very helpful, especially if you are new to a city or unfamiliar with a part of town.
Tell them your criteria (ex: 2 bed/2 bath/covered parking $1400 max)
They will input it into the MLS and get a report of everything that matches your requirements in the area.
They are FREE and get paid by the Apartment if you decide to lease and write them down as the referral.

Hope that helps! Let us know how it turns out.

sonjak

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I like the other suggestions already posted.

Previously I had had really good luck with Craigslist but this time, everything was crazy overpriced on there and I was feeling frustrated.  This place didn't post on Craigslist and I ended up paying $250 less than I would have for the same thing (except I ended up in a city I love living in). 

I found my current apartment by doing a Google maps search for apartments in the various neighboring cities that I wanted to live in.  Clicked on all the dots for each one - read the reviews on google and every other site I could find (if it looked promising), looked up their site directly (if they had one) to see if they had the amenities I wanted, checked for availability, etc.  Then when something looked like a match, I called and asked for more info and (as others have mentioned) drove right over there to look when it was.  I put applied and put a deposit on this place the same day.  Love it here and hope they don't jack the rent up too much at renewal so I can stay.

fumanchu282

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Another thing that might be a one time fluke but worked for me - we found an apartment that was new construction, and made them an offer for rent that was lower than what they'd asked. The idea was that they weren't really in tune to what the market for their new apartment was worth -- they wanted 2200 per month and we offered them 2000.

The other thing that contributed to our success here was being off-cycle. In Chicago, there's a great shuffle in the summer months and 80% of all leases start/end June 1 or July 1. We were looking in December, and the other thought was that they would trade lower rent for a few months rather than having the apartment sit unoccupied until June 1. So, looking off cycle helps here but you have fewer options to choose from...

MMMarbleheader

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I usually list my rental in the news paper classifieds. Not craigslist, or any online media.

Why? Because I always get calls from elderly ladies or couples who are great tenants. My grandfather does the same for this apartments.



Catbert

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Not so much about finding a below market place, but how to get "picked"

Printout out a copy of your credit report or FICO score.  Make it easy to pick you as a tenant.

Treat meeting a prospective landlord like a first date.. or job interview.  Be clean, neat, polite and on time.  Don't bad mouth your current landlord. 




onlykelsey

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Not so much about finding a below market place, but how to get "picked"

Printout out a copy of your credit report or FICO score.  Make it easy to pick you as a tenant.

Treat meeting a prospective landlord like a first date.. or job interview.  Be clean, neat, polite and on time.  Don't bad mouth your current landlord. 


Agreed with Mary W on getting picked.  They'll probably pull your report anyway, but it seems like a good way to show you have nothing to hide and that they should spend a few hours evaluating you.  Treating it like a first date otherwise is great advice.

Lagom

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I usually list my rental in the news paper classifieds. Not craigslist, or any online media.

Why? Because I always get calls from elderly ladies or couples who are great tenants. My grandfather does the same for this apartments.

Very interesting point! I know my current landlord didn't advertise anywhere online. I thought maybe they had just put up a for rent sign, but I wonder if they also posted an ad in the paper.

Cranky

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Put out the word that you're looking. Every great apartment we got was from family/friends of friends, and most of them never advertised at all - they only rented to people with personal recommendations.

LouLou

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I found a place exploring the neighborhood once. It was not listed online at all. I would still walk around neighborhoods if I were renting.

I would also recommend making a housing wanted ad on craigslist. You can describe yourself and what you want, let the landlords come to you.

McBuck

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I'll add another +1 for going around the neighbourhood looking for rent signs. I would scour kijiji every couple of hours looking for gems, but it was mostly full of the large rental companies spamming their overpriced listings twice a day. I decided to drive around the area I wanted and write down the info for the places I liked. A lot of times they are listed on the property agency's website that I wouldn't have found otherwise, or just have a phone number to call.

I moved in to my new 1bdrm recently for $700 all in when comparable properties are $800-$1000.

Side-note: I added a year til FIRE by a year by not having roommates anymore, but it is SO WORTH IT! Can't even describe how great it feels to have my own place.

10dollarsatatime

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I found all my cheap apartments on craigslist.  My rents were:

SLC 1 bdr, one block from the university - $340
Provo 1bdr, 6 blocks from a university - $405
Provo 2bdr, 4 blocks from a university - $400 (raised to $425 after a couple of years)

All of these rents were less than 75% of comparable rents.

I would always start stalking craigslist a couple of months before I actually needed to move.  Once a good possibility popped up, I'd call and make it clear that I could be there to see the apartment at any time, whatever the landlord needed.  I'd also offer to write a check for the deposit on the spot if I decided I wanted the place.  Getting the cheaper places always seemed to be about timing and speed.

Loretta

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Be able to move in the February timeframe and ask for employer of choice discounts.  Worth a shot. 

matchewed

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Depends on your location. Where I live is mostly blue collar. I found my place by driving around, writing numbers, and following up to determine prices. If you live in a larger city, perhaps more affluent, craigslist may be the better route.

Determine how they're communicating opportunity first. Then use that.

SeanMC

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I have a piggyback question - does it make sense to post your own "wanted" on CL (or online equivalent site for room sharing)?

I will be looking for a room/boarding type situation in a relatively HCOL to move in (approx June 1). I've started scouting online, since I don't live in the area, just to get a feel for price point and geography. The timing for my move-in isn't great but the city and nearby area has colleges/student population that might be moving out then too. I also am starting to get word out through professional and personal networks, in case someone knows of potential room/boarder options. And I have a quick visit more than 1 month in advance, where I can at least drive around the city to get a better sense of lay out.

My instincts tell me that posting a generic wanted online is a good way to get lots of spam and scammers without much gain beyond pounding the pavement yourself. But maybe there is someone looking to rent out that browses these wanted listings and then never lists their lodging?

Any thoughts? Anyone have success with this?

nobodyspecial

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I would be suspicous that it was a scammy agency wanting to sign up landlords for a fee.

But here in Vancouver people wanting to buy houses for less than a $M over list price have resorted to plastering neighborhoods with flyers showing pregnant wives or young children desperate for a garden to play in   

rachael talcott

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I am a landlord and use the strategy of keeping rent low but being very picky about tenants.  I get lots of "pavement pounders" stopping by when I'm fixing a property up.  If someone were to tell me that they had excellent credit, no pets, were not smokers, have no criminal history, and had a stable work history with sufficient income, I would take their information and give them first shot before putting the listing on craigslist.  Usually they focus on telling me how much they like the place and that they really want to rent it rather than providing reasons that they are a good risk. 

A surprising number of people lie about their financial situation in the initial interview, and so if you're going to provide a credit report, be sure to clarify that you don't expect to get out of the requirement for an official credit report. 

If someone comes off as pushy, this is a red flag.  So make your case, but don't push for a commitment or keep pestering the landlord. 

HenryDavid

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What rachael Talcott said.

Best apartments I ever got came from walking around, noticing gorgeous buildings, and talking to the super, honestly and respectfully and before I needed to move. When a place came up I got a call.