So you’re looking for a new apartment in the mile high city. You may envisage your search as an episode of House Hunters, being led from one gorgeous apartment to another by a patient real estate agent. Reality is quite different. When you finally get a leasing agent to call you back, not only has the apartment you’re interested in been rented, but there won’t be another one available till May. There’s no denying that the Denver housing market has become increasingly cutthroat as prices skyrocket. So what can you do to increase your chances of actually renting a decent apartment? Lucky for you, I am a Denver leasing agent, and I’m here to spill the secrets.
Step 1: Do Your Research
The word “research” may bring up terrible memories of high school History papers, but housing research is a whole lot more fun. Use the map feature on craigslist.com and Zillow.com to zoom in on the area you’d like to live in to see the available apartments. Look up the address on Google street view so it’s not a huge surprise when you arrive for a showing that the building is right next to a garbage dump. People always ask me what the closest grocery stores, bus lines, and restaurants are. Find all this out beforehand on walkscore.com, and determine if the neighborhood is a good match for your lifestyle.
A common question is what the other tenants are like. Due to the Fair Housing Laws, leasing agents are forbidden from telling you anything about the neighbors. So we can’t say if they’re young or old, if there are lots of kids, or there are mostly college students. To get a feel for the building and neighborhood, show up early for your showing and scope out the area. Stalking residents from your car with binoculars is optional.
Another frequent inquiry is whether the building has bed bugs or cockroaches. Now I rarely know which units are infested, because that information is sent to the property manager not the leasing agent. Our job is to sell you the apartment, so the chances that we’d tell you if it was infested even we knew are small. You can see if any bedbug issues have been reported at the building you’re interested in at http://www.bedbugregistry.com/ .
Step 2: Read the Ad CAREFULLY
Before you contact the leasing agent, make sure to read the entire ad. I always make sure to post the pet policy, lease terms, and tenant qualifications. Any decent property management company will have that information on their ad or website. Please don’t leave a message that says, “Hey uh, saw that apartment online. Don’t know the address; think it’s around $900 a month…Yeah so I have 2 felonies and 5 dogs hope that’s okay. Call me back.”
Step 3: Have Realistic Expectations
We’d all love to live in a newly renovated flat with exposed brick walls and stainless steel appliances. While those apartments certainly exist, be prepared to shell out the big bucks for it. The average price of a 1 Bedroom in Denver is currently $1080/month, so finding a nice place for less than that is a steal. From what I’ve seen, if you’re looking to stay under $800/month, you’ll end up in a 400 square foot studio that hasn’t been updated since 1940. These will be advertised as “cozy” and “vintage.”
Step 4: Ask ALL The Questions
Before you contact the ad poster, be sure to know your credit score and the management company’s income requirements. When you finally get in contact with the leasing agent (texting works best!), be sure to clarify the following:
-When will the unit be available?
– What is the pet policy and fee?
-Do they accept cosigners?
-Is it street parking?
-How much is the application fee?
-What is needed to take the unit off the market?
While all the information should be on the ad, it never hurts to make sure everybody’s on the same page.
Step 5: Like Scar said, Be Prepared!!
The most important things to bring to a showing are an open mind and your checkbook. By this stage you should know if the apartment is in your budget and in an area that you’d want to live in. Even the nicest apartments can look weird while empty, so use your imagination. Where would your furniture go? Would a few precisely placed paintings cover the ugly yellow walls? If you think the place is decent enough to crash there for a bit, snag it immediately. If you decide to mull it over for a day or two, chances are it will be rented by the person who saw it after you. Have enough time eked out in your schedule to go to the leasing office immediately after your showing to pay the application fee and put down a deposit. In most cases that’s the only way to prevent someone else from snagging it from under your feet.
Finding an apartment in Denver is difficult, but not impossible. There are deals to be found if you’re willing to look a bit outside of the most desired neighborhoods like Capitol Hill, and Lower Downtown. Looking just a few miles farther may save you hundreds of dollars in rent. Know your budget and what you need in an apartment, as opposed to what you may want. Happy hunting!