Lindsay Smith
moving to a new city

If you’re set to make a cross-country move— or any move to a new city you’re unfamiliar with– finding an apartment can be a little difficult. Not only is it hard to choose an apartment itself before looking at it in person, but it can also be tough to even know which neighborhoods will fit your needs until you’ve lived in the city for awhile. And the last thing you want is to move into a new apartment or to a neighborhood that, at best, isn’t really what you’re looking for.

Step one: Don’t get discouraged. Finding a great apartment when moving to a new city can be done! Read on for some tips and guidelines for finding an apartment in a new city:

Start by researching neighborhoods and city highlights

The first step is to do your best to determine which neighborhoods will be most ideal for your needs. Whether you need a neighborhood that’s an easy commute from your job, one that’s affordable, or you’re simply looking for an area that suits your lifestyle, you can discover a lot about neighborhoods by  researching online. 

You may want to connect with some friends, family members or even acquaintances who live  in or near the area and ask for their advice. They’ll likely be happy to give you a rundown of a few good options.


Ask your employers

If you’re struggling to find neighborhoods or apartments that work for you, and you’re moving for a job, you may want to talk to your employers for a little assistance. You never know, the head of the HR department may have grown up in the city you’re moving to and have a lot of good advice!

They’ll at least be able to help you figure out some neighborhoods that will be easily accessible from the office, and it’s possible they’ll be able to connect you with a realtor or local apartment-finding service that you’ll find helpful.

Decide what you want

After getting a better understanding of the neighborhoods best suited to your lifestyle, you have to prioritize your apartment wish​ list. First decide what type of apartment you’re looking for (studio, one-bedroom, etc.).

Then, write down some of the amenities you need and make a separate list of any features you want. These can be any number of factors, such as included utilities, a parking space, in-building laundry, a doorman, a workout room, and so on. Knowing what you want will make narrowing down the hundreds of online listings that much easier.

Go online

Speaking of online listings, most of your apartment search will have to be done on the Internet. You can use to look for available apartments that meet some of your requirements (you’ll be able to search by area, type of apartment, price and amenities).

You can also use online apartment hunting sites to peruse listings and get a better idea of what prices are like in each neighborhood you’re interested in.

Pay attention to how landlords communicate

Once you begin connecting with landlords, pay attention to the way they communicate with you. If they respond right away and are eager to share whatever information you need, that’s a very good sign.

Landlords who don’t respond right away, don’t answer your questions or otherwise don’t communicate as well should be a red flag. The apartment may not be exactly what they’re advertising, or you may find them just as hard to reach in the future if you ever need help with a maintenance issue or anything else.

Consider a staycation

​ Solely looking at places online can seem overwhelming  and risky, so you may want to think about setting aside a few days for a short trip to your new city. Plan on a time, then get in touch with some of the landlords you’ve been talking to and ask to set up in-person viewings.

Go prepared to apply for an apartment on-site, so bring your ID and three recent pay​ stubs, along with enough money to pay for things like deposits, application fees and first month’s rent.

Ask friends for help

If a short trip isn’t in the cards for you, you can still learn more about the apartments you’re considering. One of the best ways is to ask your friends or family members who live in or near the city to go check out a place for you. FaceTime is a magical tool!

You’ll be able to trust their opinions, and they can  take as many pictures as you want them to while doing a walk through.

Find something with a short initial leasing period

Most apartment leases are at least one year long. If you end up hating the choice you’ve made, that year could feel like forever. Consider searching for apartments with a short, six month lease. This could come in handy if you don’t like the place or if the neighborhood just isn’t for you.

Don’t sign before seeing

Whether you ask your friends for help or simply request as many pictures as possible from the landlord or building manager,  you should never sign a lease before seeing the place yourself. Ask your landlord if it’s OK for you to wait to sign on the dotted line until you’ve seen the place with your own eyes.

If that’s not possible, see if they’ll negotiate a clause in the lease that says you’re allowed to back out within a specific amount of time if the apartment isn’t what they’ve advertised. It’s a great way to protect yourself and feel secure in your decision. Just make sure you have a back-up plan if that apartment ends up falling through!

Have you successfully relocated to a new, out-of-state apartment? We’d love to hear about it. Share your story below!

Photo by Anthony DELANOIX on Unsplash



About The Author

Lindsay Smith is a Chicago-based freelance writer who uses her deadline-oriented writing skills for clients like Apartment Guide,, Womensforum Media Group and Brafton.