Finding an apartment in an unfamiliar city

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Ian
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Finding an apartment in an unfamiliar city

Post by Ian » Tue May 24, 2016 2:27 pm

What things should be taken into account when moving across the country to a new city? There may also be some "first time renter" questions here, since I've never rented an apartment in the US before and Tanzania is a very different rental environment.

I figure there must be conventional wisdom on this, since people have to move for work all the time, but I've found less information than I expected. This is a hypothetical question for now, but I expect to be in this situation eventually and I'd like to be better prepared. Basically, I'm looking for information on how best to do apartment research and on keeping down costs of the move itself. Assume I don't have any friends or family living in the city, as I likely won't.

Research starts online, obviously, and I've found plenty of information about the relative worth of different sites. I'm less certain about how to do the footwork to verify properties in person. Do people just operate out of a hotel until they can sign a lease and move in? I'm more concerned about budgeting time than money and not sure how long I should plan for in this regard.

So in conclusion, this is a pretty open-ended question. Answers to my questions or suggestions for things I'm overlooking are all welcome.

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Ego
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Re: Finding an apartment in an unfamiliar city

Post by Ego » Tue May 24, 2016 3:20 pm

It is hard to get a feel for a place from afar through the internet. I would fly there, get an air-bnb, a couchsurf or shared accommodation for a few days or even a month, then begin work.

Think about the things that are important to you.... library, gym, groceries, job, public transit, bike lanes.... then walk the areas or drive them if suburbs. Utilities included? How much does the average person pay? What is the income to rent ratio required? Look at the crime maps on trulia. Look at the walkscore for the property. Is parking a problem? Is the property within a carshare service area? How long is the lease? Can you sublet? Off the top of my head.....

jacob
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Re: Finding an apartment in an unfamiliar city

Post by jacob » Tue May 24, 2016 3:54 pm

Things you might not know:
In the US it's pretty common to sign a lease for 12 months at a time or at least for the first year and then month to month after that. If you want to move before this, expect to be on the hook for the rent until the lease expires or at the very least lose your deposit. What people usually do, then, is to sublet (legally or illegally) to another renter. Crazy system but that's the way it works. Point being, you might want to sublet from someone who had to leave early (and not get overly attached) in the beginning. Also, subletting could lead to renting.

Things you can do from afar:
Check crime heat maps and screen for acceptable parameters. Ditto transit maps. Walkscores, etc. Even google streetview. The city-data forums are also good although you'll get a wide range of opinions, e.g. one person might think that the neighbourhood is going down the drain because they spotted a piece of grafitti while others might consider that an up and coming artsy development. Also, try to find a local person. What city are you looking at?

Things you can do from up close:
Each city has their own optimal way to find an apartment. This info might not be on the internet. Indeed what's on the web might be the suboptimal way. For example, in Chicago what's posted on craigslist is apartment finder companies which results in overpriced slum stuff. Better is to find a local RE agent. Even better is to walk around and call the numbers posted on signs in the windows.

Things you can do during viewing:
Bring a check book and be ready to put deposit down/sign on the spot. Things move fast.

tommytebco
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Re: Finding an apartment in an unfamiliar city

Post by tommytebco » Tue May 24, 2016 7:51 pm

I agree with Ego. I have rented short term (one month)apartments in Mexico twice now. I used Craigslist and the units were perfectly acceptable, but , once there, I always found better places available through hearsay or referral.

I would get a short term place and explore. With feet on the ground, you will always finda better situation. I didn't read every word in the thread, but here in America you must be aware of utilities, phone and other services requiring deposits. Get these items clarified before committing.

Ian
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Re: Finding an apartment in an unfamiliar city

Post by Ian » Tue May 24, 2016 8:10 pm

Thank you all for the feedback. Responses to a few things:
jacob wrote:Also, try to find a local person. What city are you looking at?
Albuquerque, though I'm not likely to be too restricted by location. I'm open to considering other areas in NM that meet my criteria, such as CoL and rent. If anyone here has personal knowledge of the city/state, I'd welcome it.
tommytebco wrote:I agree with Ego. I have rented short term (one month)apartments in Mexico twice now. I used Craigslist and the units were perfectly acceptable, but , once there, I always found better places available through hearsay or referral.

I would get a short term place and explore. With feet on the ground, you will always finda better situation.
It's this latter part that concerns me, since I'm not terribly sociable or prone to just exploring. I can adapt to the needs of the situation, but just by my usual MO I doubt I'd get the positive results that others do from having feet on the ground. Hence this thread to give it some thought.

I have not really looked into short term lodging yet. People here have mentioned Air BnB and Craiglist - anywhere else I should be checking?

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jennypenny
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Re: Finding an apartment in an unfamiliar city

Post by jennypenny » Tue May 24, 2016 8:34 pm

For Albuquerque, the HMO at Kirtland AFB might have housing information online for newcomers.

Ian
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Re: Finding an apartment in an unfamiliar city

Post by Ian » Wed May 25, 2016 8:53 am

That's definitely not something I'd considered, thanks. I've looked through their site some, but I'm not sure they have much for non-military people.

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BRUTE
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Re: Finding an apartment in an unfamiliar city

Post by BRUTE » Wed May 25, 2016 9:16 am

even if not terrible sociable, brute would recommend the on-the-ground approach. Ian could just get a short-term deal for say 2 weeks or a month, and just try living like he usually would. he'll quickly discover if a certain area has the types of stores, restaurants, transportation, level of safety, etc. that he prefers. these things are really just impossible to find out online, except from relying on the experience reports of people with similar preferences.

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Tyler9000
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Re: Finding an apartment in an unfamiliar city

Post by Tyler9000 » Wed May 25, 2016 11:18 am

When scouting a new city for a long-term place to live, I've always enjoyed temporarily staying at an extended stay hotel (Candlewood Suites, Homewood Suites, Extended Stay America, etc.). Ask for a weekly or monthly discount, and they're surprisingly affordable for what you get. They usually include a kitchen in the room, and often include free breakfast and happy hour daily.

futureminifatcat
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Re: Finding an apartment in an unfamiliar city

Post by futureminifatcat » Sat May 28, 2016 7:57 pm

Related to the lease contract itself:
  • * Look for an early termination clause and note the terms/conditions. If one doesn't exist, ask to add it (propose paying $X in return for ending your lease with X days/months' notice).

    * Check carefully for what is and isn't included in the rent (e.g., cable, garbage, electric, gas, etc.).

    * Check carefully for your responsibilities vs. landlord's regarding maintenance.

    * Insist on a move-in inspection (conducted jointly by you and the landlord) and get a copy of the report. Also, take many photos of the apartment (especially anything that is not in perfect condition) at move-in and keep them on file.

    * Repeat this process at move-out time.

RusBR
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Re: Finding an apartment in an unfamiliar city

Post by RusBR » Tue Dec 13, 2016 8:11 am

When you apply to rent in the US, landlords or leasing agents will check your credit history, which is a record of your repayment of debts such as loans, credit cards and bills. But, as you’re moving from another country,so you won’t have a credit history. What do you need to do in this case? First, tell your prospective landlord that you don’t have credit history. If you have a family member or friend in the US, you could also have them co-sign. That should be a person with high credit score, who can pay the rent in case if you aren’t able to do by yourself.

If the option with co-signer won’t work, you should give another variant a try. Offer to pay up front for your deposits or pay a larger security deposit. It will may demonstrate your reliability. 

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