Here are the basics for your Philly apartment hunt.

Aside from knowing that Philly has a delightful and surprising culinary scene (more on that later), before moving to Philly, it's a good idea to get the scoop on what to expect when you begin the apartment search. Here are some tips to get you started:

The stats
The vacancy rate on Philly apartments is one of the ten lowest in the country at around 3 percent, meaning competition for an apartment will be stiff, especially in the most desirable Center City. The average rent in 2013 is about $1,115 per month. If you're moving in December or January, you're likely to find fewer options but more flexibility in pricing, as it can be difficult for landlords to fill vacancies during the winter months. Of course, moving with a few feet of snow on the ground has its own hardships. 

If you're looking remotely, start online.  If you're already based in Philly, take a walk around the neighborhood or check out some rental open houses to get an idea of what to expect in each area. Rental agents are common in Philadelphia, and most of the time the landlord will pay their commission, so it's a free service to you. As the market is tight, if you find a great deal, it's good to be prepared with your own credit check, a security deposit and the final month of rent in case you want to snag the place right away.

The neighborhoods
Center City is Philadelphia's largest downtown area as well as one of its most sought-after –  neighborhoods in Center City are extremely walkable, biker-friendly and have decent public transit. Here's some information on a few of the most popular:

  • Rittenhouse and Fitler Square: Rittenhouse is one of the ritziest and priciest neighborhoods – affordable apartments are often small, but there's a great selection of restaurants and bars nearby. Fitler Square is just southwest of Rittenhouse and is a great neighborhood for small and young families.
  • Graduate Hospital: In southwest City Center, G-Ho is an up-and-coming neighborhood with cheaper rent than Rittenhouse and Fitler Square that's great for people who are on a tighter budget yet still want to be close to it all.
  • Queen Village and Bella Vista: These areas are funky and artsy with bright rowhomes and plenty of attitude. They're extremely walkable though slightly pricier.
  • Fairmount/Art Museum: To find a place in this trendy area with pretty townhomes, you'll likely have to use JMH Realty or Loonstyn Properties.

Another popular neighborhood is University City, which is home to University of Pennsylvania and Drexel and located just west of the Schuylkill. Other cheaper options include Spruce Hill and South Philly – the traditionally Italian neighborhood.

Insider tips
Philly folk are proud of their food, so it's good to get the lingo straight before you get there:

  • Water ice: Often pronounced "wooder-ice," this is the preferred name of Italian ice here.
  • Hoagies: There are no subs, grinders or heroes – they're hoagies, period.
  • Cheesesteaks: You order them "wit" or "witout" onions – but don't say the onion part.

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