Guide to Apartment Hunting

How to find an apartment in another state

Moving to an apartment out of state is an exciting change, especially if it’s your first big move. But actually finding the apartment can be a little more difficult when you’re not able to see everything in person. Being prepared will make long-distance apartment hunting much easier to manage. Once you’ve figured out where you want to live, it’s time to begin the search to find the best apartment to meet your needs.

Woman standing near apartment buildings.


Set a budget

Most financial advisors recommend spending no more than 30% of gross monthly pay on rent. To calculate this, multiply your monthly take-home pay by 0.3.

For example, if you bring home $3,000 per month, 3,000 x 0.3 = 900, so look for an apartment with rent less than $900 per month. If you bring home $1,500 per month, 1,500 x 0.3 = 450, so a monthly rent budget would be $450 or less.

Things to consider:

  1. Can I afford to live alone or do I need a roommate? Sharing an apartment is a great way to save on costs, especially if you’re moving to an expensive area. Costs for rent, utilities and furnishings can be split between roommates.
  2. What utilities are included in the rent? Keep this in mind when comparing apartment costs. Some apartments have all utilities included in the cost of rent, while others might have some or no utilities included.
  3. How will the apartment’s location impact the commute time for work or school? Decide how far you can reasonably commute to work or school based on transportation options. Sometimes increasing commute times can reduce rent costs, but don’t forget to include any added transportation fees to your budget.
  4. What are the must-haves? Make a list of priorities which might include location, in-unit laundry, air conditioning or an included parking space.
  5. What are the negotiables? Can you live without a dishwasher? Do you need a bathroom for each roommate? Make sure to separate wants from needs to help narrow the search.

Search online or within your network

When looking for an apartment to rent in a new city, there are many ways to look.

  • Travel to look for rental signs in your desired neighborhood.
  • Ask friends and family.
  • Check local property management companies for rentals.
  • Reach out to coworkers about a good apartment complex close to a new job.
  • Search online for apartment rentals on social media and websites like Zillow®, Apartmentguide®,™,® and®.


Filter online search results to find the best listing

Filter search results to make sure you’re only viewing apartments that are right for you. Common filters include location, cost of rent, number of bedrooms/bathrooms, accessibility and amenities such as pools, gyms, laundry and access to public transportation.

Tour apartments

Now that you have a short list, it’s time to see which apartment is best. It’s a good idea to visit potential neighborhoods at different times of the day to see what they’re like. If you can’t tour apartments in person, there’s no need to stress. Many complexes offer virtual tours. Map programs with satellite images such as Google Maps™ can be helpful to view the area surrounding apartment buildings to get a feel for the neighborhood if you’re not able to visit in person.

Tips while touring apartments  

When touring apartments, pay close attention to things like the noise level, safety issues (like door and window locks or lighting), damage to walls or ceilings and evidence of leaks or pests. If possible, talk to neighbors about utility costs and their thoughts on management and the building. It can also be a great time to measure with a tape measure or digital device so you can plan out a furniture layout. 

Talk to the landlord or agent

Be prepared with questions for the landlord or agent.

  • Will I tour the exact apartment available for rent?
  • Are any utilities included in the cost of the rent?
  • What are the average costs for utilities that aren’t covered in the rent?
  • How do I pay rent? (Online, via check, etc.)
  • Are pets allowed, and if so, what are the rules for those pets?
  • What costs must be paid upfront? (Security deposits, pet deposits, last month’s rent or broker fees?)
  • What is the lease term? (Some apartments lease for 1 year, while others lease for 6 months or less.)
  • What is the penalty for breaking the lease?
  • Are the locks rekeyed or changed between tenants?
  • Am I allowed to paint the walls in the apartment?
  • Are there rules against burning candles in the apartment?
  • Is renter’s insurance required?


Prepare to sign the lease

Once you’ve found an apartment, it’s time to sign the lease — but not just yet.

Be ready

Have a photo ID, Social Security card, pay stubs, and any other documents on hand that are needed for the application. Make sure to have money ready to pay for any upfront fees, and always get a receipt.

What if I’m signing lease documents from a long distance? Be prepared with photos or scans of the documents to save time during the process.

Before signing

Read the lease thoroughly to understand all the apartment rules and everything else in the agreement before signing. Document any problems in the apartment before moving in to make sure you’re not held liable for any damage done by previous tenants. Time-stamped photographs work well for this task along with written records. Make a copy of these records for the landlord or building manager.

Get a copy of everything you’re signing, including any documentation provided to management.

Time to move

When you’re ready to move, check out this ultimate guide to apartment moving for helpful information about the packing and moving process. Looking for a moving company who can handle any apartment parking situation? For long-distance moves, U-Pack® is a great option. Get a free online quote or talk with a U-Pack consultant at 844-362-5303844-594-3077 to see how much your move will cost.