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How to Snag an Apartment Before Starting Your New Job

New York City intersection with traffic
Use this 5-step guide to find a new apartment — fast.

Scenario: You aced your interview (or interviews) and landed the job of your dreams. The only problem? It’s not in your neighborhood.

Actually, it’s not even in the city in which you currently live — possibly not even in the same state. Your new employer is great and all, but it’s not their job (necessarily; more on that below) to help find you a new place called “home.” With your start date quickly approaching, you’ve got to find a place to go — and fast.

Fear not, go-getter: we’ve got a five-step guide to help snag an apartment ASAP. All we ask is that you be willing to flex a few unconventional muscles — and be willing to take a deep breath. Everything will work out; we promise!

1. First things first: get cozy with your network

Especially if you’re moving to unfamiliar territory, you’ll want to rely on your network of friends who are familiar with your new area code so that you’ll have a better idea of neighborhoods in which you’ll want to live.

No network of which to speak? Well, you can work on that for the future — but in the meantime, get chatting: word of mouth spreads fast. Send an email out to everyone and anyone you know, letting them know your circumstances, your start date, and other pertinent information so that any leads they have (including names of real estate agents they trust) can circle back to you.

You can also research those real estate agents on your own — while renting directly from an owner can be convenient, sometimes paying a finder’s fee is worth the headaches you’ll save down the road.

2. Preparation and patience

So you’ve scheduled a viewing (or several). Fantastic! Now you’ll want to flex another important set of muscles: those of the preparatory and patient kind.

Be prepared, meaning: do not roll up to the viewing (or open house) empty-handed. Ever. Keep on hand, at a minimum:

  • Your identification (a passport is ideal)
  • Your offer letter or other documentation identifying your place of employ and salary
  • Current pay stubs or bank information that can help prove you can afford the space
  • References from previous landlords, or personal references
  • Your checkbook — especially in cities where the demand for rental units often outstrips supply, you’ll likely be contending with at least a few other prospective renters

As far as the patience goes: know that especially in tight markets — we’re looking at you, New York, San Francisco, and Boston — apartments are often snapped up in seconds. You’ll probably have to view at least a few places, if not more, before you find a place you like. And even if a place looked great online, in person, it might not have the same level of pizazz that you thought it would.

As the saying goes: Keep calm and carry on.

3. Compromise

Great apartment, but not necessarily in an ideal neighborhood? Ideal neighborhood, but the unit could use some improvement? Here’s where the art of compromise rolls in. Especially if you’re on a deadline, you’ll have to get a bit crafty with what you want and what’s available.

If you can see the potential in a place, even if it’s not what you initially imagined you’d want, take it. You can always move again down the line. It’s not “settling” if it’s going to work for your needs in some way, shape, or form.

4. Or, if you need to, hold out

Maybe truly nothing is fitting the bill, and you’ve got not a second more to spare. Again — breathe. You’ve got this.

In some cases, depending on your employer and job, the company you’ll be working for has temporary executive housing available for new employees to stay in while they settle into their new jobs and neighborhoods. If it’s available to you, take advantage of it. If not, consider housing alternatives, which can offer short- to long-term stays for residents in transition.

5. Sign your lease — and celebrate!

Before you break out the bubbly, make sure all of your i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed, and that you’ve wrapped up any loose ends with your current abode, as well as having movers scheduled (and confirmed) and all of your belongings properly insured for transit. You also should have transferred your rental and auto insurance (where applicable) to your new address.

Then it’s time to party — and please don’t forget to invite your friends at Trulia who helped you figure it all out.