Apartment Hunting

I've called Dallas home my entire life, but that's all about to change. Being a first time "mover" (in the across-the-country sense), I want to chronicle my experience in hopes that it will help others. I have to start by saying there is no way this is the typical relocation experience, unless you're being aggressively pursued by Amazon. I was very fortunate to get a more-than-generous relocation package to cover any and everything I could think so. I write this as I'm on a flight headed back to Dallas after a house hunting trip in Seattle - 4 days, 3 nights to check out the city. I found a place my first full day in the city, and used the other two remaining days to catch up with some friends in the area and just walk around and take it all in.

Amazon set me up with a house/apartment hunting specialist, who I cannot speak of highly enough. I got a list of recommended places based on what I was looking for, a wonderful, personalized tour of the neighborhoods of Seattle, and she setup all of the appointments to view the buildings. I specifically requested a high-rise building (usually 10+ stories tall), something within a 15 minute walk of the office, something with A/C (something I'm very accustom to being from Texas), and bike storage in-building but not in-unit. I was scheduled for two days of tours, 5 properties each day. I had varied experiences at each property, but here's what I found:

  • Cirrus Apartments: This is the first place I looked, and where I ultimately ended up leasing. Outside of the requirements I mentioned above, I was looking for a few things as I toured properties... is the staff friendly? Is the building quiet? Is it clean and well kept? This building met everything. On top of that, the views were spectacular, and there was an awesome deck with a lily pond and places to work/enjoy larger groups of people.
  • Aspira Apartments: This was quite the opposite.. the paint in the hallways needed touching up, the staff was rude and very pushy. I'll never recommend or consider living at this property.
  • Dimension: Great layouts, but no A/C and a little far from the office.
  • Metropolitan: The staff here was superb, but the finish-outs weren't quite my style. Reminded me a lot of the Venetian in Vegas.
  • Via6: This is the last building I looked at and loved the units, but the first floor has a very trendy restaurant, bar, and small market, and required you to go through all of this to get to the residential towers. It seemed awesome, but I'm afraid after a couple months, the newness would wear off and it would be annoying.

Cirrus was great - it was the building I was pulled to when I was in Seattle for my interview, and it's the one building I knew I wanted to see. There was a unit that became available during the day Monday as I was looking at other properties, and as soon as I saw it, I jumped on it. Great size, good price, and I wanted to lock it in. I put in an application online, and had a call back from the staff within 30 minutes welcoming me to the property, advising that no deposit would be required, and letting me know what next steps would be. Super smooth and easy. I cancelled my appointments on Tuesday and used the time to take in the city.

If you're going apartment hunting I'd highly recommend making a checklist ahead of time. Know the things that you want to look for and be ready to ask about them. Here's a sample of mine (Example/Template). I have mine saved as note on iPhone, and ticked off things as they came up or I could answer as we were walking the property.

You'll want to capture the basics to start, then move into the details. Be sure to take a bunch of pictures of the building, the unit(s) you tour, and the documents/floor plans. I like to take these right from the note so that I have an entire property profile in one place. After five properties a day I knew, I knew my head would be swimming.

Here's the breakdown of the areas of my property profile:

  • Basics: I include the basics like who I talked to, the type of building, my commute time, and where it's located
  • Moving In: Do I need to know anything special? Some cities or properties restrict the times you can move, where you can have trucks parked, etc.
  • Amenities: These are property-wide things that I'm looking for like do they provide dishwashers? Do they have a gym? Do I have cell reception? It's an easy checklist I can run down and check things off of.
  • Internet Service: This is a huge one for me - if there's not quality internet service in a building, I'm not moving there. And if ComCrap is the only provider, well... that's just not quality internet service. :-)
  • Credit Criteria: Are they looking for something special? Are they going to do a hard hit on my credit report?
  • Finances: How much is the application fee and administration fee? Does parking cost? What about the deposit? And do they have any specials for look-and-lease, free months, etc?
  • Area: This is research I do before hand... How far is the property from various important things in my life like public transit, grocery store, post office, coffee shop, etc.
  • What Else Should I Know About This Property: I literally ask every leasing agent this. They'll quickly figure out you're organized, and most are more than happy to answer your questions. If they aren't, move to the next property. This is their chance to tell me anything they think I might want to know.
  • Floor Plan 1: This is the nitty-gritty. I take photos of each unit I review, whether it be a model or just a unit they can show me. I want to remember it. I also include a photo of the floor plan here. Trust me, this will come in handy later.

I've been tweaking this list over time for a number of years, and find that it works really well. Your mileage may vary, but I hope it helps.

The trip was a success. Next step in the move is to get rid of stuff that won't be making the trip, and start saying those really hard goodbyes to family and friends.