Getting a new apartment in Roanoke, VA can be invigorating—everything is so shiny and full of possibilities! Finding a new apartment? Not so much. If you’re renting in a hot market, near a college, and finding a place that’s both affordable and available isn’t usually easy.
The proof is in the numbers: In the third quarter of 2016, the average nationwide vacancy rate was 6.8%—down from the same time the year before. To make matters worse, rent prices are still high. A recent report by GoBankingRates found the national average for rent is hovering around $1,234 a month for a 678-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment. And experts say rent prices aren’t going down any time soon.
This combo creates a sort of special supply-and-demand challenge that only renters understand. If you’re apartment hunting soon, you might as well prepare yourself now for that unique cycle of heartache and despair that’s about to play out. This post will help guide you through the five stages of grief—err, apartment hunting.
Stage 1: Denial
We’ve all done it. As soon as we pop open the laptop to start our apartment search, we expect to find a ton of awesome listings just ready and waiting. And then we don’t.
We keep the listings tab open all day on our browsers, refreshing every 20 minutes, and wait for Mr. Dream Rental to pop up, all the while growing more and more desperate.
How to cope: The solution might be simple, if startling: Get offline.
Take a drive and talk to friends. We know it’s shocking in this digital age, but not everything is posted on rental listing sites. Sometimes you’ll have to dig a little deeper. As you scour the neighborhood, write down names of apartment complexes you want to look into, and then look them up online—they should have floor plans, pricing, and even availability on their respective websites.
Still nothing? Try a Realtor or a rental broker.
As a renter, a broker can be extremely useful, especially if you’re not that familiar with the neighborhood. Their knowledge of the renting market and the neighborhoods can be very helpful in uncovering a hidden gem.
Stage 2: Anger
Once you’re knee-deep in your apartment search, you suddenly remember why you hate renting. Every single place seems to have at least one enormous downside. You get only one parking spot. Or your washer and dryer are outside on the patio (true story). Or maybe the landlord won’t take your dog.
How to cope: Don’t lose hope just yet. Take a deep breath, and try to change your approach: Remind yourself of the upsides to renting—such as free maintenance and cheaper insurance. Stop focusing on the smaller issues and instead focus on the bigger ones: Find a couple of places that meet your immediate needs and then narrow them down by the biggest factor of all: location.
If everything else is equal, then you should go with the preferred locale. You can change almost everything else. But the location is staying the same.
Stage 3: Bargaining
You’ve done all your homework, viewed a few apartments, and narrowed it down to three or four places that will meet your needs—at least for now.
And then the reality starts to sink in: This is going to be expensive. Maybe there’s a special promotion you don’t know about?
How to cope: Don’t count on any discounts. Yep, it’s time for the tough talk. You might get lucky and score a deal, but here’s what you need to remember: The national rental market is tight right now, and there are plenty of other renters out there happy to fork over the cash. If affording a particular place is going to be a squeeze, you might have to readjust your plan.
Apartment hunting is all about expectations and being realistic. If a renter is having trouble finding something that they can afford, then they may need to sacrifice in some manner.
It won’t be fun, but start trimming that wish list again. As you cut out “must-haves,” you’ll find cheaper apartments that fit the bill.