Originally published January 13, 2016 on Medium
Moving sucks. Sure, it’s exciting… but the actual task of finding a place to live, packing your stuff, unpacking your stuff, and all the other tasks that come along with moving… these things are not that fun.
The housing search can be stressful (but damn it feels good when it’s done!). Many questions need to be answered. “Which neighborhood should I live in?”, “How is the crime in the area?”, “How close is this place to work/to a grocery store?”, “Is there a parking spot?”, “What utilities are included?”.
Throw another person into the mix — a roommate, or in my case, my girlfriend — and now not one, but two people need to come to agreement on where to live. Yikes!
While this can be a daunting task, it doesn’t need to be hard. In fact, with the right tools and processes in place, it can be quite enjoyable. Staying organized usually makes everything a little easier.
First, I need to give a shoutout to the StatusPage.io team for helping make my apartment search in Denver easy. They’ve been nothing but helpful and supportive throughout this endeavor — thank you team!
I spent five days in Denver on this great hunt… my girlfriend didn’t arrive until the last two days. This meant the pressure was on me to find some good options before she got there. Here’s how we approached this.
Before you start looking, you need to know what you’re looking for. One bedroom? 2 bedroom? Indoor pool? Helicopter pad? This part of the process really came down to communication between the two of us. We determined our budget, the features/offerings we wanted/needed, nice-to-haves, etc.
This phase also involved a little bit of research to learn about the rental market and see which requirements were reasonable— checking listings, talking to real estate agents, and speaking with locals. Once we gathered that information, it was time to start the hunt.
Craigslist & PadMapper
There’s no question that — especially in major cities — Craigslist is the best tool for finding an apartment to rent. Using mostly Craigslist and a little bit of PadMapper, we began our search for the perfect apartment.
What we did from here is the important part. There are a lot of options out there — thousands of units available at any given time. So how do you share that information with each other? Do you email it, save it in a spread sheet, text it, write it down?
We created a Trello board and dropped each apartment we found that matched our requirements into a list called “Options”.
If you’re not familiar with Trello — it is a great way to organize projects & tasks, and collaborate/communicate with others.
Since I was in Denver and she was still in Chicago (she arrived a few days after I did), we used this Trello board for communicating back and forth about each unit. As more “Options” were added, we applied labels to some of them to signify strong interest/disinterest and other information.
As we applied labels and commented back and forth on each card, I started booking viewings. This typically involved sending an email or making a phone call. Once I reached out to a landlord/agent about a specific unit, I would move the Trello card into “Contacted”. This way, we both knew that I attempted to contact the landlord/agent about the unit… and once a viewing was confirmed, I moved the card into the “Viewing Scheduled” list.
Once a viewing was confirmed, I scheduled the appointment in Google Calendar. In the description, I included the contact name/number as well as a link to the original listing and the address. I also invited my girlfriend to each calendar event.
Google Calendar helped me make sure I was heading to the right location, knew who I was talking to, and I had access to the listing so I could pull that up and ask questions while I was there. Many of these viewings were back to back — using Google Calendar really helped make sure I wasn’t missing meetings or showing up late.
It also helped my girlfriend by knowing exactly when I was viewing each unit (you have to move quickly on these things — if you find the perfect place, you don’t want to lose your chance of getting it!).
While I was viewing the unit, I would capture photos/videos and upload them to the Trello card shortly after so my girlfriend could see them. After viewing each unit, the card would get moved into “Dig It” (“I think this could work”) or “Not feeling it” (“this isn’t a place for us”).
My goal was to see several options, and once my girlfriend arrived in Denver, we would see our favorite units together and make a final decision. This worked really well… eventually, we had a few units in the “Dig It” list.
After we had our four finalists in the “Dig It” list, I created a Google Map showing the exact location of each unit and the proximity to different things (grocery stores, yoga studios, bars/restaurants, etc). Since my girlfriend wasn’t with me during the first round of viewings, this helped visualize certain things and gain an understanding of what exactly we’re looking at. It also helped me view things in a way that made sense geographically.
At this point, I scheduled second viewings so we could see the units together.
Saturday morning, we woke up and headed to our first appointment. I had already seen the unit and we had both felt strongly about it (me from already seeing it, and her from seeing photos/videos etc). Lucky for me, my girlfriend is a simple gal — we left that viewing on the same page, feeling excited about it… it felt right. I cancelled the remaining 3 appointments and we proceeded to sign a lease!
Is This All Necessary?
Absolutely not. In fact, going about all of this the same way we did here could quite possibly cause more stress, time, and work for many people. We all work differently though. As a previous project manager, I like to introduce a little organization, communication, and collaboration into these types of things. Besides, I can only store so much information in my brain and this approach actually helped me work smarter, not harder. I actually enjoyed the process.
With the tools and processes I outlined above, we stayed organized, in-sync, arrived to appointments on time, and most importantly… we accomplished our goal: finding an apartment to rent!
There are a ton of tools out there you can use to stay organized. Trello happens to be one of my favorites. If you’re tackling a housing search, or planning a party, or building a website… try using Trello to help bring a little organization into the chaos.