renting an apartment

[ Timi Burke, ]

So, you’ve been admitted to a college or hired by a new employer. Congrats! Here are five things to do if you’re facing relocation to an unfamiliar town, with no friends or relatives to offer guidance.

1. Scope Out the Area Online.
Enter the ZIP code for your new school or place of employment into an online apartment search site. If the available rental communities are displayed in “list view,” click “map view” and evaluate roadway access in the area. If a car is not your mode of transportation, zoom in to see bus, rail or subway stops near the communities displayed.

2. Research Neighborhoods.
Once you’ve found a few communities with rental amounts, photos and amenities you like, enter the various neighborhood names into Wikipedia. Next, do a general online search of the neighborhood names (remember to add the state) to read reviews and comments. An example of a search term is “Living in West Hollywood, CA.”

3. Make a Short-Term Commitment.
With a spirit of adventure, pack some luggage as if you’re heading out on vacation for a few weeks, then put your remaining possessions into a self-storage facility in your new town. You’ll save money if you bring your own heavy-duty padlock.

Stay in a short-term place—through Airbnb or an extended-stay motel chain—for a couple of weeks near your targeted neighborhood. You’ll be glad you took this extra effort to find a place where you’re happy to live, instead of risking a commitment to an apartment that you might end up regretting.

4. Settle in Slowly.
You’ll find the adjustment to your new locale will be much easier without rushing through a chaotic unpacking of all your possessions at once.

In the meantime, spend your free time exploring your new town, focusing on the apartment communities that you’ve considered. What’s within walking distance? How is the atmosphere at nearby coffee shops and restaurants? Are you annoyed by the noise on a Friday or Saturday night? What parking options are there? Perhaps your new acquaintances at school or work can help answer some of your questions.

5. Choose Your Pad.
All your exploration has paid off, and you’ve picked an apartment you love. Sure, living out of suitcases was mildly annoying, but this extra effort brings an added convenience: You can move possessions out of your storage unit over several days, rather than all at once.

Because you made sure to meet your apartment community’s staff and neighbors—and to walk through your apartment before you signed on the dotted line—you’ve paved the way for a comfortable stay in your new digs.