Before I say anything else: welcome! Philadelphia is a city I am pretty much obsessed with in every way possible (except this one). If the journey of moving to a new city seems overwhelming to you, you are not alone. Since I’ve started blogging, the question I see most frequently always has to do with moving to the city, and it is: where. do. I. start? And the answer, hopefully, is here!
Moving to Philly is a big (and somewhat confusing) thing. If you don’t have someone with a current understanding of the city (that means the advice from your grandparents that would never even step foot in certain areas is not really valid anymore), it can be tough. Armed with the knowledge of several apartment hunts, two official moves, and plenty of stories from friends, I’ve gathered a very informal list of my tips and tricks on making the move to Philadelphia. Please keep in mind: the advice on my blog is, as always, my opinion, and completely subjective. These are the guidelines I give friends/women who reach out to me and things that have worked for me (as a renter). For those of you who are ready to buy, I salute you, but I unfortunately do not have much grownup advice to offer in this post.
First thing’s first: timing is pretty important in Philadelphia. Unless you’re looking at a high-rise building that operates a little differently than your typical brownstone or apartment building, your entire process is going to last likely a maximum of three months. Unfortunately, being proactive and looking earlier than this is a waste of your very valuable time (a good use of this time would be decluttering your apartment or cleaning out your closet pre-move). I would say even two months is ambitious, so be prepared to be still looking the month you need to move. Yes, this is scary, but I have never had a friend who has not been able to find a place before the time was up, so luck is on your side.
To find your new pad, Craigstlist is a good way to start. You do have to dig through all of the fake ads, so I would make sure you put a minimum (to screen out the ‘too good to be trues’) and a maximum price range. Select that you’d like to see photos on, and beware of the keyword search. (There is a very smartly named “Rittenhouse Hill” apartment complex outside of the city – used to get me every time). Stay away from words like “charming” and “adorable,” – they mean old and small. Send emails for the private rentals, but also take down any phone numbers.
When you’ve exhausted your CL search and have a little bit of a better idea of the neighborhoods you’re looking for (check back later this week for some neighborhood tips!), it’s time to take a little trip. Grab your cell phone and go walk around those neighborhoods. Snap photos of any and all rental signs you see, and take note of the addresses you like best. Some of these rental signs are not for actual properties, they’re just advertisements, but they’ll put you on the right track by getting you an up-to-date list of realtors and landlords in the neighborhood you’re falling in love with.
Once you have your list, make some calls during the ol’ 9-5 work week. I can’t stress the importance of this. I learned this the hard way: no one responds to email. If a potential landlord doesn’t answer or return your call, call again. It’s a competitive rental world out there, and if you’re not getting your name into the mix, someone else is. Even if the apartment you were grooving on is too expensive, explain to the landlord exactly what you’re looking for: budget, move-in date, and any special requests, like pets. Because they know you’re interested, they may call you when their next listing opens up (this is how I found my current place!). Schedule apartment visits whenever you can squeeze them in. Some owners can show their place in the evenings, but don’t feel bad about taking a half day off work and stacking five visits in one afternoon.
When you are visiting an apartment, take a friend or family member with you. They can sometimes see things you don’t (because you’re blinded by finally finding a place somewhat livable). Pay close attention to counter space, how many outlets are available, and storage. I also always check the shower and sinks, because, water pressure. Take note of the staircase leading up to the apartment and the doorway. Make sure you can get all of your furniture through while you’re there. If the current tenant is there, make notes of the things they may leave behind (which you can ask about later), like air conditioning units, and the not-so-nice things their posessions may tell you a lot about the apartment, like mouse traps.
Whether you’re feeling like this may be a winner or not, bring your check book with you on each apartment visit. Remember when we talked about timing? If your apartment tour happens to be shared, and you like what you see, chances are your tour companions will as well. You can do a little on the spot negotiating, but pull out your check book and put that security deposit down. When you get home, get the rental application started, because if you lose it, that apartment will always be the one that got away. (cue: Katy Perry and an excuse to look at Diego Luna)
Once you’ve got your place, I hope for your sake it’s spacious. But if not, I have plenty of inspiration for small city living spaces here on the blog. Do you have any tips & tricks that helped you on your apartment search? I’d love to start a discussion here and help other ladies take on the City of Brotherly Love. xx