AtoZ 2021 – A is for Apartment Hunting

A is for Apartment Hunting

So you might think moving from one metro area to another metro area in the continental United States should be simple, right?  WRONG!

Even though I had a spotless rental history for over a decade in St. Paul, Minnesota, trying to find a new apartment in St. Petersburg, Florida was no easy task.  

I have three pieces of advice for anyone thinking about starting over in a new place:

  • Do some reconnaissance and research
  • Be flexible and open to changing your plans
  • Take advantage of services to ease your transition

When it comes to recon, I can’t stress enough how important it is to visit not just the tourist and downtown areas of your new would-be home, but also check out the neighborhoods where you might live.  You might want to move to Las Vegas, but you probably won’t be living on the Strip!

We were lucky enough to be able to visit in person a few months before the move, but even if you can’t, using an app like Google Maps Street View can let you virtually wander around wherever you want.  Are the streets tree-lined, or is it a concrete jungle?  Are the big roads divided by a median, and are there pedestrian crossings?  You should also check out the locations of places you don’t usually use on vacation, like grocery stores, fire stations, and hospitals.

But if you are able to visit in person, my other favorite thing to do was to go into local townie bars and just talk to people about where they live, where they wouldn’t want to live, and what areas might be new or up-and-coming.  You’ll be surprised at the things you can’t learn on the internet!

You also have to be flexible if or when your plans change.  At first, my partner and I thought we’d be moving down here together, so we were looking at larger apartments for our two-salary standard of living.

We didn’t apply anywhere, but we toured at least a half-dozen places on our last visit and got a crash course in what features were usual for a Florida apartment complex. Valet trash service was new to me, and monthly pest control services aren’t a thing in Minnesota, but they’re essential (and often included) here!  

We figured out what amenities we definitely needed, what options we really wanted, and what was just plain out of our price range on that trip.  Sadly, it was clear from the jump that there would be no living right on the beach for us, not yet anyway.

But when it turned out I would be moving to Florida on my own instead, I had to start looking into apartment listings in my new one-income price range.  At that point, my favorite central St. Petersburg neighborhoods may as well have been beachfront property!

I had to find a place I could bring my cats (my ‘kids’), and I wanted to be near transit options (I’ll get to that discussion later in this series), but instead I kept coming up with tiny studios or low-rated apartments in shady parts of St. Petersburg, and I was starting to lose hope.

Then I found a nice little apartment on Craigslist and I called them, discussed all the details, and got the application by email.  I was excited as I sent them the application and the $75 application fee, and waited to hear back.  And waited.  And waited.

I was lucky.  This apartment manager wasn’t an awful scammer, and they didn’t steal my information and use it for nefarious purposes.  But they did take my $75 with no intention of approving my rental application, because I was from out of state.  

Which brings me to my last point — take advantage of services designed to make this process easier.  

With another Google search, I found an apartment finder service dedicated to the Tampa Bay area, and they kindly explained to me that very few folks here would rent to me because I didn’t already have a letter documenting a job offer down here, and I didn’t have any rental history here either.  

Apparently, since I was looking for a November 1 starting lease date, many of my potential landlords cynically expected me to sign a year lease, but only stay through the winter, and then leave and break the lease come summer to return to my home in Minnesota!

Learning that was a common problem here in Florida was so frustrating, because of course I intended to stay forever (or at least years)!  But luckily, the service I worked with had established relationships with many apartment complexes here in the St. Pete area, and they found three options for me in the right time frame, in my budget, and pet friendly. It was also a free service to me, since the company was paid a finder’s fee by the apartment I chose.

The view from my balcony, complete with palm trees.

Even though it was much further north on the Pinellas County peninsula than I had originally wanted to be, I chose the best-rated of the three choices, applied, and was approved. And even though I couldn’t physically inspect the property before signing the lease, I don’t regret taking the leap and making the move.

I saw my apartment for the first time as I picked up the keys from the manager after three days of driving, but it was in great condition, I actually love the location, they have great amenities, and I’m positive that working with the apartment finding service made all the difference.

I know it can be a lot of work, but I promise you, if you want to pick up and move to a new place, it’s worth doing! Have you ever moved somewhere further than across town? How’d it go? Let me know in the comments!

All right, that’s one post done for AtoZ, and twenty-five more to go! Thanks for reading, see you at the beach!

Thank you for visiting St. Paul 2 St. Pete and the kickoff to my new blog, the April AtoZ Challenge 2021!  If you’re new to my adventure of moving from St. Paul, MN to St. Pete, FL, it might help to read my introductory post here, but these stories are all standalone.

Image credits:
+ A Badge from AtoZ 2021
+ Business People Elements Moving Express by 千图网 from pngtree.com
+ Business People and Empolyee (sic) by VectorJuice from freepik.com
+ Modern Bungalows by upklyak from freepik.com
+ Call Center Concept by pikisuperstar from freepik.com

+ Building Exterior with Open Windows People by pch.vector from freepik.com
+ Seaside Beach Dividing Line by 699pic from pngtree.com

5 Comments

  1. Moving is never easy. I’ve never been to St. Pete but I have coworkers who live there and live it. St.Paul is lovely. We spent a week there in July of 2017. We always wanted to go back. Maybe one day?? Looking forward to B.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for stopping! There’s a chance a U.S. to Europe move is a few years in my future, if I ever get sick of the sun and surf. I’m sure that’ll be an even bigger adventure! 🙂

      Like

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