How to find an apartment in Philly

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The area west of Passyunk Square is a hot neighborhood for renters, according to Jessica Ruck of Urban Igloo.
Credit: J. Fusco for GPTMC

Apartment shopping in Philly in late July or early August means competing with the flood of grad students vying for the choicest locations in the city. Rents rise and inventory gets snatched up quickly. But don’t despair. We spoke with Jessica Ruck of Urban Igloo, an apartment-finding service with an office at 20th and Walnut, to learn some tricks of the trade.

Prince or pauper

How much you can spend will dictate which areas you should be looking in. “A realistic budget range is important, and will inherently direct which neighborhood for the renter,” says Ruck.

Find your ‘hood
“Over the past 10 years Northern Liberties and Fishtown have been the fastest developed neighborhoods, adding a large amount of rental properties to the inventory,” Ruck says, which translates to more tenants, more businesses — and raised prices. If you’re priced out up that way, “Newbold and Passyunk Square West are the two hottest neighborhoods for redevelopment,” she says, “adding a fresh addition with moderate rent pricing to the inventory.”

Predict the future
“Before renters make their decision they should look months ahead to see if their family will be growing or will they have a new partner living with them,” Ruck says. “Or ask if they will be bringing a new pet into their home. Many times there are restrictions in a lease on allowing pets, or a maximum number of occupants.” And when you do have that lease in hand, read, don’t skim. The fine print in there might make you change your mind — or at least give you a jumping off point for negotiations.

Beware of the slumlord
Does your potential new landlord seem like a bit of a creep? We say listen to that gut of yours, and Ruck says ask to see the rental license. “In Philadelphia landlords are responsible for having a license if they have tenant occupants,” she says. “This license will ensure that the Landlord takes his responsibilities seriously.”

Share your space

If you’re looking to save a few bucks, finding roommates is a great option.  “Many people have found success with Craigslist,” Ruck says. “Other alternatives for a more personalized roommate search are alumni networks, Facebook, friends and colleagues, and other social networks on a referral basis.” Make sure that anyone living in the house signs the lease, so all the roomies are legally responsible for coughing up the rent money.


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