If you're a first-time apartment renter, this adds on to the excitement. Here are some things you might want to keep in mind.
Consider your budget.
Although Austin is less expensive to live in than some other parts of the country, apartment rents have risen significantly. Look at more than the monthly rent; depending on your lease, you may have additional costs for utilities, trash, Internet, and cable.
Many apartments also require renter’s insurance, and it’s a good idea in any case, so factor that in as well.
Choose your location carefully.
Renting is not quite the same as buying, but it's still a fairly long-term proposition. Moving is a hefty proposition, and you probably don't want to go through it more than necessary. Likely you will be in your apartment at least a year, maybe longer. Here are some things to think about:
- How long does it take to get to work, and other places I will go regularly? Austin's traffic is notoriously atrocious. It's best to avoid that if you can. Sitting in traffic in the 100+ degree summer heat is no fun.
- Are there amenities nearby that I need or want, such as health clubs, restaurants, shopping, supermarkets, pharmacy, hospital/urgent care, day care, and parks/playgrounds?
- Do I feel comfortable in this neighborhood? Many parts of Austin are fine, day and night. Some other areas ... maybe not so much. Visit the crime map for information.
If possible, visit the area around the apartment complex at various times of the day and week to get a complete picture.
Decide what you really want.
Choosing an apartment may involve a tradeoff between location, rent, and amenities. Maybe you're willing to live closer to work and not have a walk-in closet or brand-new, stainless steel appliances. Maybe you need bigger rooms but not a loud bar next door. Maybe you need an extra bedroom for visiting relatives or friends.
You need to know your priorities, what you must have, and what you're willing to compromise on.
Read your lease carefully
Read your lease completely before signing and ask about anything you don't understand. Remember that your lease is a legally binding contract. What alterations and customizations are you allowed to make, like painting or new drapes? Is 24 hr emergency maintenance available? What if you decide to get a pet? What about late payments? What happens if you need to break the lease?
Inspect the apartment thoroughly before signing the move-in checklist. Annotate any damage. If in doubt, go ahead and annotate it on the list. Take pictures of significant discrepancies – they might come in handy.
Hear some tips on choosing an apartment:
Here are some links to help you find apartments in Austin, Texas:
1. Forrent lists apartments based on location, rent range, and other criteria.
2. Craigslist is also an option for finding rentals in Austin.
3. Another good idea is to use an apartment locator service. They know the area and the apartment complexes, and their services are typically free for you, the tenant. New apartment complexes are being built all the time, all over town, and apartment locators know what's just opened and what's in the plans.
There are many locator services in Austin. It’s good to try out a few until you find one that listens to your needs.
Click this link to begin searching for apartment locator services in Austin: Google search for Austin apartment locators
4. PadMapper shows rentals on a map based on criteria you specify, such as rent range and number of rooms. You can then click on each rental for more information.
View a map of Austin rentals in the page below, provided by PadMapper.
Click here to reset the page
5. Finally, you could visit the neighborhoods page to choose one or more neighborhoods, and then start looking for apartments in those areas.
What if you're looking for a short-term rental? Maybe you'll be in town for a few days or couple of weeks, during South By Southwest, Austin City Limits, or another Austin event. And you don't feel like paying $150 per night for a hotel?
Many locals rent out part of their homes to folks during these large events, and throughout the year. But if you're coming during SXSW, ACL, or another peak time, you have to plan early and move fast, as the prime bookings go quickly.
Where to find these rentals? The aforementioned Craigslist is always an option.
If the idea of staying with a total stranger, sight unseen, makes you a little uneasy, you can try Airbnb and Homeaway, which allow guests and hosts to prescreen each other beforehand.
You might also be interested in Austin's new short term rental licensing ordinance, passed in late 2012. This requires all rentals of 30 days or less to be inspected and licensed by the city, though not everyone abides by it.