Written by Betty White of Moving Offices San Diego
Do you need to find an apartment out of state? These guidelines will help.
Life happens, and then we move.
Whether you’re moving for a more lucrative job offer, taking the leap for love, or simply need a change of pace, one thing lying in store for you is new apartment hunting. Apartment search can generally feel like trying to find a needle in a haystack. But, put 3,000 miles between you and that haystack, and the entire quest starts to seem virtually absurd, doesn’t it? It doesn’t have to be, though. With the tools and tips that follow, you should be able to find an apartment out of state with flying colors.
All you need are a few tips and some careful planning.
Enlist the help of a local agent
When shopping for a house, most buyers decide to go with a certified real estate professional. An agent with local knowledge can advise them on the best towns and neighborhoods based on their criteria. They know the intricacies of the market exceptionally well, have their pulse on new listings, and so they streamline the entire buying process.
On the other hand, when it comes to finding a rental, people typically just find something available on Craigslist or Zillow and take it. They may not even realize, at the time, that some agents can help with finding an apartment for rent as well – and perhaps one that’s an even better fit. As someone who knows the market inside out, your rental agent will advise you on the best approach to apartment hunting, as well as your next steps. They’ll do all the legwork, such as vetting the landlords or scheduling showings before you even set foot in this city.
Agent’s fees can be a bit expensive, though. But, depending on the geographics, you may or may not be liable for footing the bill for your agent’s services. If you aren’t, then enlisting a REALTOR for their help should be a no-brainer. If, on the other hand, a tenant is the one who pays the agent’s fee, check with your employer to see if the company will help. Many employers may handle these costs because it saves them the expense of putting their employees up with a temporary accommodation while their employees search for a place to live.
Draw up a list of wants and needs
Let’s face it – some things can make or break the entire apartment-hunting experience. For instance, the breathtaking layout or design of the place hardly matters if you have to sit through an hour and a half long commute every day on your way back from work just to get home and enjoy it. Therefore, before you start your apartment search in a faraway city, make sure that you have a comprehensive list of your “must-haves” and “nice-to-haves”. For example, if you are moving for work or school, it’s a good idea to try and find a home close by. And later, if you decide to take a long weekend to check out the city and shop around for apartments, you won’t waste precious time debating whether it has an in-unit laundry, smart home features, or a complex with a fitness center if that is something you really want.
By devising a list of must-haves as a first step makes the whole process easier!
Once you’ve created the list, start looking at listings – not too deeply, though. For now, you just want to poke around a bit to see what’s available and at what price. Also, you will want to see how your criteria will fit into your budget. Some amenities you are used to may cost more where you are moving.
Start to narrow down your search by location
Now that you know what you want in an apartment, it’s time to begin narrowing down your search by location. Have you chosen the city to live in yet? And, if you have, what about a neighborhood? Indeed, this choice involves a lot of considerations. Every city, and each one of its neighborhoods, has its unique flavor, and you may find that some places are a much better fit than others. Some of the most apparent factors include affordability and employment opportunities. Others, such as the climate and food scene, may seem secondary next to dollars-and-cents matters. But they can still significantly affect your quality of life and happiness.
Research the location
If you are working with a REALTOR to find an apartment out of state, then you can rely on him or her to provide a wealth of information about your chosen area. However, if you decide to go it alone, doing some due diligence is in order. It’s always best to check out the neighborhood in person and get a sense of it. But if you can’t, you can start your search on areas of interest in forums online or using websites such as Realtor.com. Here, you can ask people about the neighborhood that may be the best fit for you given your needs and budgetary constraints.
Find out as much as you can about your new city and its neighborhoods.
Once you’ve got a few areas you might consider a good fit, it’s time to take your search to Google Maps. Street View offers you a chance to get a better sense of your destination and the surrounding area through a virtual tour. On Google Maps, you can also find out about your public transportation options. Use a tool like Walk Score to determine how a specific area measures up in terms of convenience and walkability. CityProtect, AreaVibes, and NeighborhoodScout will help you dig up crime statistics as well as the cost-of-living index data. Then, put it all together, and you’ll have a good foundation of information. Still, remember that only you know what is most important to you.
Seek local help
If you have friends in the given city, don’t hesitate to give them a buzz and ask about their experiences. A local contact may even be willing to preview an apartment or house out for you. On that same note, if you are relocating for a new role, your employer’s HR department or your new colleagues may be able to provide helpful resources on finding a place to live.
Take a virtual tour
Virtual tours and 3D touring tech is rapidly taking over the apartment-hunting experience. Technology is offering a new and much more efficient way of doing what used to seem impossible. It is the next best thing to in-person tours. This is the up side of technology wherein listing websites and apartment communities are using high-definition photographs, 360-degree imagery, video walkthroughs, and even virtual apartment tours to help renters get a better sense of their potential homes.
But it is not infrequent that an apartment looks more than ideal online, but then you end up disappointed when you actually see it in person. That is the downside of what is presented online. So seeking the help of a professional REALTOR and/or a friend or family member who will actually preview the house or apartment for you will be your best bet in knowing if the pictures and videos you see online truly present the property in its current condition.
Pound the pavement
Renting an apartment unseen should be your last resort. So, sooner or later, you will need to step away from your laptop and size up your favorites in person. Take as much time you can spare (a long weekend, or even a whole week, if possible) to visit the new state and city and see the apartments. Now, planning an interstate move is complex in its own right. It takes a lot of planning, preparation, an experienced moving crew, and – the right timeline. And if you’re pulling out all the stops to plan a relocation without stress, the last thing you want is to end up without a place to live when you arrive in your new city.
Book the trip to see your apartment in person, and sign the lease!
If you have a REALTOR in your corner, you needn’t worry. He or she will do all of the legwork setting up viewings, so all that’s left for you to do is show up for the scheduled appointments. If you don’t, you’ll want to take time to do that yourself. Be extra careful not to line up your listings too early because it’s very likely they will be gone by the time you get there. You will need to inquire about how quickly units typically get rented in the area you are looking to move. While a typical window varies from city to city, experts agree on two weeks as a sweet spot.
Never sign the dotted line before learning all about your prospective landlord’s reputation. Websites like Review My Landlord and Rate My Landlord can help you access city data on the building and your landlord, as well as read all about other renters’ experiences.
If all else fails
If this does not work out, apartments that specialize in short-term leases are another option, as well as subletters that are not as strict about timelines. These may be a bit more difficult to find. However, it will allow you to take your time looking for a more permanent solution. Finally, once you’ve managed to find an apartment out of state that perfectly fits your needs and wants, set aside some time to spend in the city, bring out the necessary paperwork and documentation, and finally sign the lease.