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Tips for Apartment Hunting With Roommates

By Alyssa Laffitte

Apartment hunting is even more fun when you’re doing it with friends! It’s exciting to picture yourself and your best friends living in a cute three-bedroom apartment. However, when you apartment hunt with other people, there needs to be clear communication and agreement every step of the way. Here are some tips to help you apartment hunt when you already have your roommates.

Image via Isorepublic.com

Make sure everyone is on the same page

When you are looking for an apartment with roommates, you need to make sure everyone is on the same page in many areas. For example, you must be on the same page when it comes to budget, location, and rules for living in the apartment. It would be a good idea to have a meeting with all the new roommates to discuss these things. You can make decisions, as a group, during this meeting. When everyone communicates clearly and is on the same page, there will be fewer arguments.

Discuss everyone’s rental history

When multiple people live in an apartment, the potential landlord will look at each tenant’s credit history. Before you decide for sure who will live in the apartment, all your potential roommates need to be transparent about their rental history, since rental and credit history could affect your rent amount, or it could even cause your apartment application to be rejected. You will want to know these things before you start applying for apartments with your roommates. It would be a good idea for all roommates to know these things about each other: Did they have any problems with their previous property manager? Do they have bad credit that might cause the apartment application to be rejected? Have they had problems paying their share of rent in the past? This will be a hard conversation to have, but it’s important to be aware of any potential problems that might come up during the application process.

Set a budget

Of course, one of the most important discussions roommates need to have is about finances. You all need to decide together how much you are willing to pay for household expenses like rent, electricity, gas, water, trash removal, heating/cooling, Internet, and cable. You can easily search online to find out what reasonable rates for these utilities are in your area, and decide an amount from there. To keep things crystal clear, make sure each roommate knows the amount they would be responsible for paying each month. You can also discuss if you’re willing to go over your budget (and by how much) to get a better place. Figuring out a budget with all your potential roommates is a great starting point when looking for an apartment.

Keep a shared spreadsheet of potential places

Since there will be multiple people involved in this apartment search, it might be a good idea to keep track of the places you are interested in. You and your roommates could set up a shared spreadsheet (all roommates should have access to edit it) with potential apartments. More specifically, you can include apartment address, monthly rent, any amenities, and which utilities (if any) are included in the rent. If you go see the apartment, you can also include your impressions of the place and of the property manager. This will help you keep track of which apartments you like and which you have already looked at. It will also be a good visual reference for how much money you will be spending and the types of apartments that are available. Making sure the spreadsheet is shareable is a great way to make sure all your roommates can have access to it and can add places, too.

Make sure everyone understands the terms of the lease

Before anyone signs a leasing agreement, they should read it thoroughly and understand what it says. Many people don’t understand their agreement because it is usually a long, dry, and boring legal document. However, it’s important to understand your lease. Here is a list of things you should definitely know:

  • What utilities are included in the rent?
  • What happens if you need to break your lease?
  • What happens if a roommate doesn’t pay their share of the rent? (This might not be outlined in the leasing agreement, because issues between roommates are not the property manager’s problem. However, it would still be a good question to discuss as you draft a roommate agreement, more on that later in the article.)
  • What happens if a roommate unexpectedly leaves, or needs to be kicked out of the apartment? (Again, this might not be outlined in the leasing agreement, but should definitely be discussed. Even if you and your roommates get along really well, and you’re positive they would never leave unexpectedly, it’s still a good idea to have a plan in case it does happen.)
  • How does your property manager accept rent money? (Can you pay online with a credit card, or are only paper checks accepted?)
  • Are pets allowed?
  • What is the parking policy?

Although the above list is not exhaustive by any means, it’s a good guideline for lease rules that each roommate should understand.

Decide your “non-negotiables” together

When looking for an apartment, there are certain things you can do without (for example, some people are okay with not having a dishwasher). However, there are some things that are absolutely not negotiable (for example, if you have a car, parking is a must-have!). These “non-negotiables” will be different depending on the person. When you meet with your roommates, discuss what everyone’s non-negotiables are. Discuss together and come up with a final, master list of things your apartment must absolutely have. This list will guide you and your roommates as you search for an apartment that meets everyone’s needs.

Check out the neighborhood together

A great way to spend time with your roommates and to familiarize yourself with a potential new area is to simply check out a new neighborhood together! After you go to see an apartment, it would be a good idea to walk or drive around the neighborhood for a little bit. A walk around the neighborhood will show you what the “vibe” is like in the area. This is important because you don’t want to live in a bad neighborhood. This could be the deciding factor between one apartment and another, so pay attention to the vibe of the neighborhood!

Additionally, a walk around the neighborhood will give you a chance to explore any restaurants or stores in the area. (Bonus points if there’s a coffee shop near your new apartment!) You might just find your new favorite place to eat or shop.

Of course, if you can’t physically go and check out the neighborhood, you can at least check out the area on Google Maps or Street View to check out what’s nearby.

As you look for an apartment with your roommates, it’s important to learn about the area you might be living in. Walking or driving around the neighborhood is a good way to do this.

Read reviews for multiple apartment complexes

Some apartment complexes have reviews online. If you do a quick search for the name of the apartment complex and the word “reviews”, you will likely find something helpful. You should spend time reading the reviews of the apartments you are interested in. This way, you can read what other tenants have to say about living in that particular apartment complex. Reviews are helpful because tenants are usually very honest about the pros and cons of their living situation. Reading these comments can guide you to which apartment would best suit you and your roommates. (Bonus points if you and your roommates can all read the reviews together!)

Draft a roommate contract

For any roommate situation, it would be a good idea for all the roommates to get together and draft a roommate contract. This contract will outline the expectations the roommates have for each other. For example, it should mention things like expectations for things like overnight guests (how much advance notice should be given? Is there a limit to how many days guests can stay over? What about significant others?). Here are more examples of things that should be mentioned in a roommate contract:

  • What food items are shared? What items do you need to ask for permission to eat?
  • What’s the policy on borrowing personal belongings, like an item of clothing or a hair straightener?
  • Who will ensure that all the bills get paid? How will everyone send in their share of the rent?
  • How will you divide the chores?
  • Any quiet hours that should be respected?
  • How will you resolve any conflicts that come up?
  • What will happen if one roommate doesn’t pay their share of the rent, or unexpectedly moves out?

Having these policies in writing will protect you and your roommates. It will serve as a guideline for how you guys will live together.

Consult the Internet

Now that you know what kind of apartment you and your roommates are looking for, and you have a budget and a target neighborhood, you can start looking for apartments. One of the easiest ways to find an apartment nowadays is to look online. There are many websites you can use to find a place. Some of these websites might even have reviews from tenants, as I mentioned before. The Internet is a great way to start your apartment search.

Don’t pay for more than you need

As you and your roommate discuss your negotiables and your non-negotiables, you should also make sure you don’t pay for more than you need. A place that has many amenities will likely cost more money. If you don’t need many amenities, choose a place with fewer amenities, as this will save you money. Again, which amenities you need is a topic you should discuss with your roommates.

Decide how you will deal with bigger rooms

Another important topic to discuss with your roommates before you move in is how you will deal with rooms of different sizes, or if one room is the master bedroom. First, you should discuss who will get the bigger room. Then, you should discuss the difference in how much they should pay in rent and utilities. Of course, the main question is: how much more? This is a topic that should be discussed beforehand and should be agreed upon by everyone. Again, everyone should know how much they should expect to contribute to housing expenses every month.

Image via Isorepublic.com

Decide how bills will be paid

After deciding how the bills will be split among the roommates, it’s also important to decide how they will be paid. For example, will one person be responsible for making sure rent is paid, while the other person makes sure the utilities are paid? Or will one person be in charge of sending in the payments for all the bills? Will you need to send the money via Venmo or Zelle to this person? How far in advance of the bill due date will you need to do this? What happens if someone can’t pay their share? These are all important questions that need to be addressed before you start paying bills.

Getting an apartment with your friends is a lot of fun. Still, when you leave with roommates, it’s important to set clear, ground rules from the start. (If you are already good friends with your roommates, some people would say it’s even MORE important to set these rules.) When these rules are in place, everyone will know their responsibilities and what to expect from the other roommates.

The first thing you should do when you decide to get an apartment with your friends is to discuss what everyone wants or needs in a living space. For example, what neighborhood does everyone want to live in? What amenities do people need? Will they need a parking spot or a pet-friendly place? You should also set a budget for each of your housing expenses, not just rent. Make sure everyone is on the same page with what they can afford. Once you do this, you’re ready to start looking for your place! The Internet is a great place to start looking. If you find a place that interests you, check out the neighborhood together. When you’re sure you want to apply for that apartment, take a look at the leasing agreement and ensure you (and your roommates) agree with everything written there. In doing these things, you should have a smooth time finding an apartment with your roommates.


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