How to Hunt for an Apartment in Denver

March 12, 2019

Denver may not be San Francisco or New York or even Chicago, but it is still one of the most expensive rental markets in the country (17th in fact, according to data from last year). Anyone who lives here won’t be surprised to hear that the city gained 100,000 residents between 2010 and 2017—but luckily, that rate of extreme population growth is starting to slow.

In a burgeoning metropolis, finding the right rental unit can prove to be challenging. But a little bit of strategy, some research, and a generous dose of patience will go a long way. Here are some tips to help you get into the best spot possible without losing your sanity and hopefully not all of your hard-earned cash.

Know What You Want and What You Can Afford

The first thing you need to do is math. Prevailing wisdom is that you should spend around 30 percent of your gross (pre-tax) income on rent. Even though that number is harder to get to in a market like Denver’s, it’s a useful benchmark. One common mistake you don’t want to make is committing to a rent that will have you living paycheck-to-paycheck and/or blowing your budget each month.

In addition to settling on a firm price range, you should also have a checklist of must-haves and hope-to-haves. Keep the total list to between five and 10 items to make it manageable (apartment-hunting is exhausting and if you’re seeing several units at once, they’ll quickly blur together). For example, if you have a bigger dog, you might prefer somewhere with a backyard. Or perhaps location and proximity to a bus or light rail line will be at the top of the list.

While your wish list is very important, so is the need to be open minded when hunting for your next apartment. You might find the perfect place near a park, so that backyard for your dog might not be as essential. Renting is not purchasing a home, so you can be a bit more flexible with your wants and needs if you know you might move again in a year or two. Be patient and wait for the place where you get more than you compromise.

Use Apps, Websites, and Your Friends

There are many resources for browsing available rental units in the metro area that include options for renting from individual owners or large rental companies. In addition to the ones we’ve told you about before, like Craigslist and PadMapper, others receiving positive reviews are HotPads, Facebook Marketplace, Zumper, and the rental sections of Zillow and Trulia.

You most likely already know people who live in Denver. Do you like their apartments? Ask if they know of any vacancies in their building or see if they can put you in touch with the leasing manager. Also consider asking your social network for reviews of apartment complexes or leasing companies. You can then form a short list of places to check out and a list of places to avoid. Sometimes, certain leasing companies will only advertise on their own websites such as some of the larger apartment companies in Denver including Brownstone Apartments, Blue Creek Management, Cornerstone, Four Star Realty, and Boutique Apartments.

If you’re hoping to get a roommate, there are sites for that, too. Ideally, you would find someone through your social network rather than going the route of a total stranger. But if you are open to any option, check out Roomi, Roomie Match, and Roomster. Just be sure to ask for references before moving in with someone.

Location, Location, Location

Though Denver is not as large as some other cities, there are still different neighborhoods within the city with different demographics and amenities. Do you drive to work or take public transit? Is it important to have a grocery store or a local watering hole for those ever-necessary happy hours? Each area is going to serve different types of people for different reasons and the price range in each neighborhood can also vary greatly.

While you are doing your due diligence searching for an apartment, make sure to actually visit the different neighborhoods and get a feel for the community. If you are a foodie, Downtown and Uptown rentals may be just up your alley, though a bit pricey. Whereas Capitol Hill may be just the spot for a young professional who works hard during the day and likes to experience the nightlife on a budget. Each area has a core group of community members who love where they live and you can find your perfect fit just by spending some time in different neighborhoods.

Be Selective

After you hone what you want and start researching what’s out there, it’s time to start setting up showings. Be choosy, there are a lot of bad eggs out there. By weeding out places that seem problematic for one reason or another—we’ve warned you against questionable situations in the past—you can potentially save a lot of time.

Once you’ve found your perfect place, you might need to negotiate or be a bit flexible to close the deal. If you have a little bit of wiggle room with your move-in date, this could ensure you snag the perfect unit for your needs. Or you could use your good credit score and positive rental history to try to negotiate a lower rent or lower security deposit. When it’s time to sign your lease, make sure you read the fine print and ask any questions up front. Then gather the moving boxes, your buddies, and some pizza and beer and move in to your new Denver digs!