It’s hard to forget how hard it is to find an apartment.
Apartment hunting in major cities has become the ultimate exercise in patience and persistence — challenging you against others, the market, and a whole host of other factors (agents, landlords, security deposits).
When it came time to look for a new apartment for myself, I knew it wasn’t something I wanted to take on alone. So I enlisted the help of my Zirtual Assistant (ZA), Jillian.
My friends told me I was looking for the impossible: a 3-bedroom short-term rental in Chicago for the summer. It’s the peak of the market, they said. No landlord wants to do a short-term lease and then have to find a new tenant in winter, they said.
They didn’t know I’d have an extra set of hands helping me. And when I opened my new doors to them, they were shocked.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how my ZA found me the apartment I was looking for. We documented the process along the way, so the examples are real.
1. Gather Preferences
The first step is to shape out what you’re looking for. Your ZA is going to be the eyes in the process. What is she looking for? What’s the ‘perfect’ place? Whether you’re able to find it or not, knowing the ideal in this case (or anything close to it) will help your ZA find options.
2. Prioritize Needs & Wants
You know what you’re looking for, but your assistant might not.
Luckily for me, Jillian knew Chicago. She had gone to school just outside of it. She knew what was realistic and what wasn’t. So she built me a spreadsheet and had me list of my needs, wants, and preferences. Here’s the email she sent me to set this up:
3. Make A Map
This is your way of communicating location. Your ZA may have some knowledge of your city, but even that only goes so far. Where do you want to live? Well, Google Maps lets you build a custom map, with custom shapes and notes. Use this tool.
Here’s my map as an example.
You can see I’ve blocked off neighborhoods and also used this map to rank preferences on place. I told my ZA to be liberal with the shapes, anything nearby can be taken into consideration.
- Expert hint: Have your ZA pull out the area codes from your map. Some places allow a search by zip code and this will be easier than having to switch back and forth from the map to locations. Makes for fast cross-referencing.
4. Collaborate on a spreadsheet together
Your assistant will manage this — and use it for his reference. You’ll be able to in any listings you might find as you search to it. Just drop a link in and your ZA will do the rest.
5. Seek and Find
Use your ZA as another set of eyes looking for places.
Tools like Padmapper, Trulia, Craigslist, and anything local to your city should be combed through each day. Ask for your ZA to set aside 15 minutes and put any links into the spreadsheet that fit your criteria.
6. Set up Appointments
Once I found a listing I liked that Jillian found, I put a ‘Y’ into our spreadsheet. That give her the signal to contact and set up an appointment for me. She’d put notes in the calendar invite for me and I’d show up when needed.
7. Application Assistance
Once you find the right apartment, you can have your ZA help with filling out your application. Jillian had my details (and had them waiting in case speed was needed). Luckily, I was able to talk to my new landlord myself and set this up.
8. Repeat Until The Dream Comes True!
Finding an apartment is hard, we know this. Your ZA is an indispensable tool in this, but it doesn’t mean your dream apartment is just going to appear. This just helps make sure that when it does appear, you won’t have to delay seeing it. You have an extra set of eyes, ears, and hands at your disposal!