Moving across the country, or even just a few states over, can mean a lot of excitement — a fresh new start! — but also a bit of a logistical nightmare when it comes time to find an apartment. How can you tell if the photos are misleading, and that seemingly-gorgeous building isn’t in fact right across the street from the sewage treatment plant? If you’re planning to take the leap sight-unseen, there are a few tips and tricks to help you search for an apartment out of state.
Google Street View is your friend
You’ve probably seen the Google cars driving around with mounted cameras, right? Chances are there’s a street view available of your potential residences. Once you get yourself virtually in front of the building, do a 360-degree spin to see what’s next door and across the street. This will provide a good baseline understanding of the general area, and clue you into anything that merits further research — like safety, availability of public transit, or availability of amenities like grocery stores or coffee shops.
Find out about your potential landlord
Most major management companies or large apartment building landlords will be listed through the Better Business Bureau or can be found on sites like RateMyLandlord.com. When you’re trying to find an apartment in a city you haven’t lived in, you don’t have the benefit of fifty friends who probably know someone who has lived there, so it’s best to hunt down the inside scoop online. Just remember there will inevitably be a few disgruntled tenants; look for consistent trends rather than anomalies.
Be clear about your needs and desires
Are you opposed to living on the bottom floor, or do you need to have lots of windows and light? What about permission to paint, or a bathtub instead of a walk-in shower? If there are particular elements that feel really important to have in your new apartment, make a list before you start apartment hunting in another state.
Moving for work? Ask for help from HR
The HR folks at your new company will have the best information for you on how to find an apartment out of state, and you might even receive assistance with the search if you receive a relocation package — so don’t forget to ask. They may have a real estate broker that they frequently use or someone who may be willing to go view your potential apartment for you if you can’t visit for yourself. They understand it is risky to rent an apartment without seeing it first, and they ultimately want you to have a good transition.
Be ready to jump on the right one
Since many landlords or management companies require a recent pay stub, references, bank statements, and a deposit, have all of those things ready to go. Make sure you understand how to make a bank transfer, or be ready to send a check via certified mail with your deposit. Renting an apartment out of state can make being the first in line tricky, and some of the best apartments go quickly so you don’t want to miss out!
But be willing to be patient
If nothing’s panning out in your apartment search in another state, here’s another approach: find a short-term lease or sublet so you have somewhere to land, and then do a more thorough apartment search once you’ve arrived. You’ll want to be sure you have your new apartment checklist ready when you find just the right spot so you can get settled in quickly and easily.
So you found an amazing apartment, but it’s a little smaller than you’re used to? Have a look at our small apartment Ikea furniture hacks for some solid ideas on how to optimize your space.