Find an Apartment in 20226 min read

Pic of my current apartment common area.

Introduction

“How did you find a place like this at that price?” my friend asked me after seeing my new apartment. In the middle of 2021 I found myself searching for an apartment in Orange County, CA when housing costs were at an all-time high. I searched apartments for rent, spoke to dozens of potential roommates, joined Facebook groups, and almost got scammed by a Facebook user to discover the great apartment I currently live in. This article discusses what I did to find an apartment.

It was the beginning of October 2021. I was sitting in the leasing office of this 56 unit apartment building in Newport Beach, CA putting down a deposit for $1,000 ($500ea for my potential roommate and I) on a 2 bedroom 2 bath apartment with a move-in date of November 28th. We hadn’t finalized our background and employment history checks, but the property manager (only working the job for 6mo) believed we were exactly what upper management was looking for.

“I am asking for my deposit back tomorrow man. These people rub me the wrong way.” Casey, was upset that his offer letter for a $90,000/yr job and 800 FICO wasn’t sufficient in proving he was a reliable renter. Management had determined Casey was in-between jobs, and therefore couldn’t prove sufficient income stability.

Requirements for Apartments

The apartment complex we applied to had the same management since it was first built in 1975. My understanding is the rental requirements for this apartment complex were pretty standard across the industry:

  • FICO over 650 (they wouldn’t budge on this one)
  • Combined monthly income of 3X rent
  • 1 yr of employment at current job

After Casey bailed, I told the apartment complex, “I realize you will be showing the unit to others, just know I will be coming back to get this apartment.” Within the next month, I messaged and spoke to dozens of potential roommates and even introduced 5 different roommates to the property manager of this complex.

I made it very clear to people, the criteria for this complex are strict. Being in between jobs, Casey realized he had two main options. He could either pay the additional security deposit of 2 months rent upfront ($2550 per month for 2 months is $5100, of which I kindly offered to pay half) or he would have to search for a house that’s being rented by owner rather than by a corporate entity. Since the current complex was asking to see his savings accounts and other sensitive banking information (typical requests when work history can’t be proven) he was put off by this and discouraged altogether.

My search began with trying to find a roommate because I knew I wanted 1 roommate to lower living costs and once I had one I could quickly make a move on an apartment. At the time, each apartment I called had at least 5 other candidates in front of me and were asking to check my credit just to put me on the waitlist. Once I had a roommate I could make a move quickly on something that comes up.

I created this Apartment Search Template to track all apartments I was interested in. I used the following apartment rental websites:

  • Apartments.com
  • Zillow.com
  • Realtor.com
  • Trulia.com
  • Facebook Marketplace
  • Facebook Groups (check what groups are in your local area)

The best rental app I found was Trulia.com, because it allowed me to insert my preferred criteria, and the apartments listed were better aligned with my preferences.

Casey had changed his preferences to be a place near the beach preferably with a garage for his car and surfboard. With his criteria combined with mine, I created the following list:

  • $2800/mo max
  • 3mi from the beach
  • 2 Bed 2 Bath
  • 1,000+sqft
  • 12mo lease
  • In Orange County

This specific list made the search to find an apartment harder. However, now that him and I were both searching, within 1 week we found a fourplex with a 2×2 available on Trulia. We both liked it for the location and price. However, I said to keep looking as we applied for this. By the time our credit was approved we put a deposit on another complex we liked better that Casey found on Craigslist around a week later. Had Casey not found this complex on Craigslist I wouldn’t be living here now.

Budgeting for an Apartment

I also created a budget to be aware of all costs I would have to determine what income would be like monthly. 

50/30/20 Rule

  • 50 percent of your take-home income goes to necessities (rent, food, etc.)
  • 30 percent goes to “wants,” like travel and restaurants
  • 20 percent goes to savings and/or debt payments
  • Note: Pay yourself first.
  • Note: Save up to 3-6mo of living expenses just in case.

I created this template for budgeting monthly costs.

After more than a month of searching, it was the middle of November when I found myself sitting in the same leasing office once again with a new roommate. This was my first time meeting this new roommate in person! We had just taken a walk-through of the apartment to see the new flooring, paint, mirrors, fixtures, etc. from the renovation. My potential roommate was very pleased with the apartment. The property manager was also much more pleased with this roommate than the previous one I had brought in last week whom we had a conversation for five minutes straight about what happens if she breaks the lease… not the best first impression.

Colorful sunset behind silhouette of a palm tree located in Newport Beach
Sunset on my walk the other night near my apartment. Perks of living near the beach.

Securing the Apartment

We put down a deposit after being approved by management. I have spent about a month and a half in this new apartment. Things are going well with management and we have good neighbors. The process of searching for an apartment took me about 3 months in total. I had many failed attempts finding an apartment by first reaching out to roommates and then reaching out to apartments. Sometimes the best apartment choice wasn’t marketed very well online. I also found some decent options just by driving around the area I wanted to live and looking at local apartments.

If you found this article interesting, check out other articles I have written about topics that interest me.

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