when to start looking for apartments

Your Essential Apartment Hunting Timeline

Our timeline is all about when to start looking for apartments and what planning needs to take place to move. We’ll guide you from your first apartment tour all the way through that final week before your packed stuff makes its way to your new home.

When to start looking for apartments

The very first thing to decide when establishing an apartment moving timeline is when you need/want to move. Working backward from your end date makes this whole process much easier. The trick is to make the decision to move far enough in advance to give yourself enough time to plan and prepare without feeling rushed.

Apartment moving timeline

Since it’s a good idea to book movers or rent your moving truck four to eight weeks in advance, you should ideally set your moving date about three months ahead. Once that’s finalized, you can get an appropriate timeline in order.

woman on computer

60 days before move-in

Since this is the furthest point out from the big day, there isn’t a lot to do. You want to give yourself enough time to get the process going through, so focus on tasks related to budgeting and searching.

  • Draw up a budget for what you can afford monthly. This includes rent and utilities.
  • Research moving costs and decide whether you’ll hire movers or move on your own. Set aside money to handle these costs now so you don’t accidentally spend it while preparing to move.
  • Begin your apartment search, focusing on communities in your budget. When you find listings that look interesting, tag them and schedule a viewing.

It’s good to keep your search as organized as possible. This will help streamline the rest of the to-do’s that pop up when you start looking at apartments.

In-depth budgeting

If you’re new to the apartment search, creating a realistic budget can feel challenging. The best way to do this isn’t to start with what you think you can pay in rent, but rather with your current expenses. Create a chart that starts with your monthly income.

Subtract your monthly expenses. This includes things like your cell phone bill, any subscription services, how much you typically spend going out, groceries, etc. To get an accurate number, you can look at a few past credit card statements and do some totaling.

After that, subtract an additional buffer to play it safe. This amount is whatever you feel is appropriate. What’s left is, in theory, everything you have available for your apartment costs. It’s not all for rent, though, since you need to factor in utilities, internet and renter’s insurance. They’re dependent on the size of your apartment and where you live, but will most likely total between $200 and $400 per month. After that, use what’s left for rent and any apartment-related fees.


30 days before move-in

A lot starts happening at the one-month mark on your apartment moving timeline. You should be knee-deep in your apartment hunt, hopefully finding that perfect place. Other details related to your move should begin coming together, as well, whether it’s securing movers or purchasing moving supplies.

  • Finish touring all the apartments on your list
  • Put in a rental application on your favorite place. Make sure to bring your checkbook to all tours in case there’s an application fee. Also, bring a photo-ID, previous paycheck stub, bank statement and any references from previous property managers.
  • Once approved, usually within one to five business days, confirm the move-in date and schedule a time to finish any outstanding paperwork
  • Schedule movers or secure a moving truck rental. If you need a special parking permit for moving day, apply for that now, too.
  • Begin the packing process

Slow and steady packing

Packing is probably the worst part of moving. To avoid too much stress and frustration, start early and take it slow. Just like you have an apartment moving timeline, create one for packing. Lauren Phillips at Real Simple suggests starting to pack as soon as possible by tackling, “off-season items and the items you won’t miss.” This lets you get a jumpstart on packing without feeling like you’re putting things you need in boxes too soon.

Preparing to move is also a great time to declutter your home. Clean out closets, cabinets and drawers, donating what you can. Why move it if you’re never going to use it or wear it?

Once all this is done, try to pack a little more each week, keeping your everyday items for the very last.

packing moving boxes

15 days before move-in

Getting to the last two weeks before a move means it’s time to hit the high gear. Now is the time to confirm everything and avoid last-minute stress. Also, keep packing. If you continue to do a little at a time, you won’t end up pulling an all-nighter before the movers come.

  • Complete apartment paperwork and make any initial payments. Confirm move-in day and how you’ll get your keys.
  • Ask your property manager about doing a final walkthrough of the apartment together to note any pre-existing damage
  • Confirm and finalize your moving details, whether that’s putting in a call to your movers, checking details on your van rental or ensuring friends are still available on moving day
  • Transfer or schedule utility set-up in your new apartment. Notify current utility providers of your last day of service.
  • Schedule internet set-up as close to your moving day as possible
  • Purchase any additional moving supplies you’ll need to finish packing. Don’t forget about packing paper and tape along with all those boxes.

dog in box

The last week

You’ve made it. Moving day is within your reach. The anticipation can make it hard to concentrate, but hunker down to get last-minute details managed.

  • Change your address everywhere, but also put in a mail forwarding request to be safe
  • Notify friends of your new address and moving date
  • Share your moving details with one friend or family member so you’re easy to find on moving day
  • Set aside a suitcase full of two to three days worth of clothing, your essential items and all your paperwork pertaining to the move. Hand-deliver that to your new apartment.
  • Pack a box of valuables and clearly label it as a hand-carry box, as well. Keep it with you throughout the day.
  • If you have a pet, make arrangements for them to spend the day elsewhere. The stress of moving affects them, too, so keeping them away can ease their transition into their new home.

Moving day is here

Done right, your big move should go seamlessly, thanks to your apartment moving timeline. While there’s always the risk of the unpredictable, by the end of the day, you should find yourself lounging in your new apartment.

The biggest decisions facing you should be where to order takeout from and which box to unpack first. Before you get too involved, take some time to meet your neighbors and even go for a walk around your new neighborhood. You’ve come a long way since figuring out how and when to start looking for apartments. Enjoy your new place.


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