Apartment Hunting 102 – The In-Person Visits

For our second trip down to the Raleigh area, we kind of procrastinated on booking flights, so when we finally got around to it, everything was expensive, and we ended up having flights at odd hours because they were cheapest. We flew in Thursday night late (I think we got in at 11:00pm) and flew out Sunday morning at 6:00am, not leaving ourselves much time to check out places, but determined to get things done. Raleigh welcomed us with a torrential downpour Thursday night, but our spirits were lifted when we found out what vehicle we would be driving around town in:

The hamster mobile. Cue the dancing hamsters with huge gold chains and bling. Also, a side note on the car rental, we used Budget for the first time and discovered that they do not charge you to add a spouse as an extra driver like other companies we’ve used. Will definitely be using them again and they are not paying me to say that. (But Budget, if you are listening and would like to pay me, hit me up!)

Anyway, we ended up staying in the same AirBnb as our first trip, and even though we got in late, our host stayed up to greet us and made us chocolate chip cookies. (Seriously, if anyone is thinking of taking a trip to the area and wants to use AirBnb, use her place! She goes above and beyond as a host. We even ended up hanging out with her, her parents who were in town visiting, and the other AirBnb guest and went to a local Greek festival.) 

We set out Friday morning to check out some apartment complexes and the first place we went to looked nice, had a spacious gym in the leasing office area, but otherwise was a bummer straight off the bat. I previously emailed with the sales agent, confirming both an appointment for 10:00am and what we were looking for in an apartment, but when we walked in, she had no clue who we were or what we were looking for in a home. Besides for that, after assuring me in the email that they had 2-bedroom, 2-baths available for our budget and move-in time frame, we found that they had none. They had one 2-bed/2-bath unit available, but it was $300 more than we were looking to spend due to the fact that it had an attached garage and it was available for move in May 19th, nearly 2 weeks before we would be moving. She kept asking us if we could move sooner, could we just talk to our landlord and move sooner? Or maybe move later! Could we talk to our landlord and move later? Uh, no.

The agent also strangely brought up out of the blue that the apartment complex does not have a website because it does not need one as the apartments go like hot cakes. That is all fine and dandy – I honestly didn’t look at any of the complexes’ actual websites – but it struck both Jason and me as strange because everyone has a website these days, and a website helps keep you better connected with your residents, allowing them to pay rent online or put in maintenance work orders. Also, you can just tell me that your apartments go quickly – I don’t think the complex not having a website proves that any more or less. Anyway, as I’m sure you can tell, place #1 was an absolute no.

The second place we went was instantly better. I originally planned a visit at the second complex later in the afternoon in case the first place took a while, but when the first place only took 30 minutes, I emailed the second complex asking if we could move up the time. I got an immediate response that moving up the time was perfectly fine and we were on our way. The complex, leasing office/clubhouse area, and sales agent were absolutely lovely at this place. Unfortunately, though, the unit they had available wasn’t great. To start, it was small and it FELT small. (I think that says a lot coming from someone looking to leave New York City, the land of rented broom closets.) The kitchen had barely any cabinet space: 

With keeping kosher in our home, we have two sets of everything – dishes, silverware, pots & pans – so this was not going to work. Also, the bathrooms looked dingy and the lighting didn’t really help:

While the people and public amenities were nice here, we knew this place was not for us.

With our first two stops turning out to be duds, I was starting to get a little nervous that maybe all the places would be the same. Thankfully, when we got to the third place, we found that this was not the case. This complex was remodeling their leasing office/clubhouse/gym building, so they had the leasing office in a two-bedroom apartment, which was the floor-plan that would have been available for us. I was instantly happier with this place as a potential home because the kitchen was big and open:

It was a bit difficult to visualize the place as an apartment because it was done up as an office, but it was still leaps and bounds better than what we saw previously. It was also only 5 minutes away from Jason’s office, the clubhouse/gym/pool area would be finished about a week after we moved in, and if it wasn’t, we could go to the company’s other locations to use their facilities free of charge. The complex only had one apartment available when we were looking to move in, so we thought about putting an application in right then and there because that would take the apartment off the market for other renters while our application was processed. However, there was a $100.00 non-refundable application fee, so didn’t want to just throw away money – what if we found a place we liked better? Jason smartly reasoned that it was already Friday afternoon and it was unlikely more people would be coming through looking at places today. More likely they would be stopping by this weekend. If after we visited the other places today and we liked this one, we would put the application in online and still be able to beat out the weekend apartment hunters. We high-fived and moved on to our next complex.

The fourth complex was actually one that I never heard back from after using apartments.com’s portal to reach out to the company. I was skeptical about the complex because of this, but because we had so much time left before our next appointment, we figured we might as well stop by and see if they could give us a tour. Sure enough, the agent was available, very friendly, and able to show us the staged version of their largest 2-bed/2-bath. I have to say, we were instantly blow away by this place. The living/dining room area were spacious. The kitchen had cabinet space AND an island. Both the guest and master bedrooms could easily fit king-size beds. The closets in both rooms were huge, with the one in the master being a walk-in. The master bath had two sinks. The apartment’s patio/terrace area was large. And the public amenities were fantastic. This complex instantly became the top contender. 

The fifth place we visited was nice, but they had a tough act to follow honestly. The agent we were working with said we could stop by to see her anytime between 3:00 and 7:00pm. She turned out not to be there when when we arrived a little after 3:00pm, but thankfully there was another agent available to show us around the complex. The whole time we were with this other woman, though, it felt like she was trying to rush us. When she’d ask us a question, the second we’d finish answering, she’d moved on to the next question. When showing us the apartment, she started to turn off all the lights and usher us toward the exit before we were even really finished looking at the place. And I have to say, this apartment had one of the most curious things we saw during the entire apartment hunt. The outdoor balcony was just about as large as the entire apartment itself. 

These pictures do not even do it justice. The master bedroom was tiny and would barely be able to fit a king-size bed, let alone any other furniture, so it did not make sense to us why so much space was cut out for the balcony when it could have been used to enlarge the other rooms. Obviously we understand that there was nothing the agent can do about that, but it was strange nonetheless, and definitely took the apartment off the list of contenders. 

The sixth complex was a sister property of the fourth place we visited and their staged apartment was just as nice and spacious as the one we saw at the other location. There were a few things that we liked a bit less about this place, though. The unit they had available when we were looking to move in was in a bit of a strange location. Because the complex was on a hill, the first floor where you parked was not actually the first floor of the building itself. To get to the unit we would be moving into, we would have to park, and then go down a flight of stairs to get to the front door. Also, once you got down to the unit, the stairwell area opened up right out to the street. Not only that, but the apartment’s patio was also completely open to the street – not even fenced in – so anything you left on the patio, someone could just walk up and take. 

Besides for this, the complex was also renovating their fitness center and leasing office, which would not be something we would have to deal with at the sister property. And finally, this makes me feel so old saying this, but when we were visiting, there were a lot of noisy and raucous young people by the pool and around the complex in general. These kids were probably about late-high school/college age, and they have every right to be noisy! I’m just old and have to be an adult now, and don’t want to live in a college apartment complex. 

If you have made it this far in the apartment search saga, you can probably guess we ended up going with complex number four. This came as a shock even to me considering that at the beginning of the day, we weren’t even going to stop by because we never heard from anyone after reaching out through apartments.com. (P.S., I also do not get paid by apartments.com, it’s just the site we ended up using.) But both Jason and I were really so impressed with the model unit, the amenities, and that the staff we met were very friendly and on the ball. Also, as I am writing this post a bit later than expected, I can tell you even with the no-contact initial hiccup, things are working out great. More to come on that later!

Anyway, as I did on my last post, Apartment Hunting 101, I want to leave you with a few tips that may be helpful when you’re visiting apartment complexes in search of your new home:

1. Make a list of any special amenities or necessities you are looking for before you go out looking at apartments. For example, we need a double sink in our kitchen – one side for meat, one side for dairy – because we keep kosher in our house, so this was something we checked for in every apartment. This list shouldn’t be huge, but it is important if there are things you cannot live without.
2. Check the water pressure in the showers if possible. There’s nothing worse than a shower with a lackluster stream of water. 
3. Ask your sales agent if they have a list of preferred employers and see if your company is on the list. This can get you perks like having an application fee waived or reduced. 
4. Have a good poker face and realize when people are trying to sell you. In visiting these complexes, literally every agent told us that their apartments go quickly. At least one place told us a horror story of people viewing a place in the morning, not putting in an application, and the unit was gone by the afternoon. And at least one of those places then followed up with us over and over and over again to see if we were still interested in the unit they showed us. I’m not saying be laissez-faire about the situation, but don’t let yourself get whipped up in a frenzy because (shockingly) the sales person may be trying to use sales tactics on you. 
5. Spread your search out over a few days if possible. While we were able to cram everything into one day, including applying and getting pre-approved for our apartment, seeing 6 different complexes in one day was a bit much. By number 6, everything was starting to blur together, and if you don’t have one stand-out like we did, it could be stressful trying to make a decision. 
6. Take lots of pictures. Trust me, the relatives and your friends will want to see them. Plus, these help out with #5.

I hope this post was helpful and if you have any other tips to share, feel free to leave them in the comments! 

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