Hunting for an apartment in New Orleans was harder than we thought. We’ve lived in aggressive apartment cities like New York, and we found NOLA in December 2012 to be on par with our NYC search experience.
More renters than affordable apartments = frantic rush for a place to live.
Be prepared to make a decision the day you see the apartment. If you wait, you may lose out. Do your research in advance so you’ll be able to make up your mind on the spot.
Every story is different, but this is how we found our New Orleans apartment:
• Searched Apartments.com, Rentals.com, Craigslist and http://realestate.nola.com/for-rent/. Got an idea what was out there and started emailing everyone.
• Got overwhelmed because we didn’t know the city and didn’t know what was close to work.
• A new coworker said he used real estate agent Heather Welch with
Keller Williams Realty Professionals: 985-710-1456 or firstname.lastname@example.org. We called her Saturday afternoon and she called us back an hour later.
• She put together a list of potential apartments based on what we wanted.
• We reviewed the pictures & listings and narrowed down the apartments.
• We plugged the addresses into NOPD’s Crime Map app and removed any listings with violent crimes (assault, rape, shootings, murder, etc.). We decided we were OK with DUIs and shoplifting. We also bookmarked the app so we could look up addresses on our phones while we were out looking at apartments.
• We plugged the addresses into FEMA’s flood maps to see the risk of flood. This 2009 PDF from NOLA.com is the best map we found to take with us on our smartphone.
• We got in the car and drove to the apartments, taking the long way to each. We narrowed down the list even more that way. We looked at the type of cars, the types of people, the mix of commercial/residential and found a neighborhood we’d be comfortable living in.
• We took pictures of every room in every apartment we visited to help us keep tabs of things and remember the apartment after we left. Pay particular attention to bathroom and kitchen pictures. We frequently referred to pictures to see if the stove was gas or electric or if the kitchen had a dishwasher.
• We found an apartment that was the perfect fit for us after two hunting trips to NOLA.
• We filled out the application, paid for the credit check ($25) and made an offer.
• Monthly rent is negotiable for some apartments. The key is to not offend the owner by offering too little. For example, if the monthly rent is $1,500 and it has been on the market for a month, you could offer $1,400 or $1,450. However, if someone offers $1,500, the owner could choose them over you. The longer the apartment has been on the market, the more willing the owner is to negotiate.
• We got the apartment and signed the lease. Woohoo!
• The lease included a two-page checklist where we documented the state of the condo when we moved in. Use your phone or a digital camera to take pictures of EVERYTHING. It’s better to have extras later on so the owner will know the wall came with a big hole in it and you didn’t punch it.
• Get a set of photos developed for the landlord and keep a set for yourself.
• Mail the checklist and the photos back to the landlord within 2 weeks of your move-in date.
• Make sure you have contact info for the property manager because something will come up as you move in.
• Enjoy your new home in New Orleans!
Other things you should know during your search for an New Orleans apartment:
• Most rental listings say pets aren’t allowed. Many landlords are flexible if you ask them.
• Make sure you find out where the residents park. Some places we looked at had four tenants sharing one driveway. Ah!
• Look for watermarks on houses and in yards. We heard from several people that streets flood when it rains and you’ll have to move your car if it is on the street. Look for signs of flooding and ask residents about their experience.
• Mardi Gras parades will change your life in New Orleans. Some people want to live on a route, and others don’t. Find out if your apartment is on a parade route.
• Latter & Blum is the big boy on the block with New Orleans rentals. We worked with Janet Summers out of the rental office on Maple Street. We used a real estate agent who led us to Latter & Blum. You could go straight to Latter & Blum, but you’ll only see its properties.
• The owners/landlords pay the real estate fees. It’s free for the renter to use a real estate agent.
Header image is of a house in the Irish Channel, a neighborhood in New Orleans. Photo by Carlie Kollath Wells.