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How to Search For an Apartment Long-Distance

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Apartment hunting can be quite a hassle--throw several hundred miles between you and the potential rental properties and the aggravation multiplies. When searching for an apartment isn't as simple as getting in your car and taking a drive to check out a few places, you must be twice as careful, prepared, thorough, and dedicated in your search. If you will be looking for an out-of-town rental in the near future, read on for some useful tips to make your search a success.

Network

Even if you don't know anyone living in the city, someone else you know might. Put the word out--tell your friends, family, co-workers, and post it on social media. You never know who will be able to help you in your search for the perfect place. Perhaps you are seeking a rental in New York and your boss's boyfriend's sister is looking for a roommate in her fabulous Manhattan loft. Asking around is easy and free, and could wind up introducing you to your dream digs.

Time your search

Not every city puts their apartments on the market at the same time. New York apartments don't become available until a month or less before the move-in date. On the other hand, college towns often begin showing their apartments three to six months in advance. Find out the standard procedures for the city you are planning to relocate to be sure you schedule your search accordingly.

Research the neighborhoods

Every city has a variety of distinct neighborhoods with something unique to offer--before you begin your search, it's important to determine which area you wish to rent an apartment. Firstly, you will want to ensure the region you choose is in close proximity to your place of employment or school so that you will have a manageable commute. You will also want to find an area with housing that is in your price range and has low crime rates. Other factors you may want to consider are nearby amenities, such as shopping, recreation and transportation centers.

Search apartments online

There are numerous websites with available apartments listed, which will show you rent prices, available amenities in the building, square-footage of the unit and other details. Many also show photos of the property, but may not show any images of the specific unit. When viewing potential apartments online, it's important to secure more information before agreeing to move in. You should certainly speak with the property manager on the phone, ask a number of pertinent questions (discussed in further detail below) and ask to see photos of the individual unit you would be renting. Be wary of websites such as Craigslist--the anonymity makes you quite susceptible to scams.

Ask a lot of questions

When searching for apartments online, you will want to call the property manager to talk about any unit that you are interested in so you can gather more information. Ask how old the building is, what kind of appliances the unit contains, how well they function, if the floors are wood or carpeted, what kind of amenities the building has, etc. Of course, you will also want to ask detailed questions about the lease--how long is the lease? When is the rent due? What are the late fees? How much is the security deposit and what are the conditions for its return? What is the pet policy? Who is in charge of maintenance for the property? The more you know about the apartment, the better.

You may also want to ask the manager to send you photos of the specific unit you will be renting. While you should certainly take a trip to the city and view any apartment in person before signing a lease, knowing as much as you can about the unit in advance will help you narrow your options down. This way, you can spend your visit viewing only the apartments that have really peaked your interest.

Get an agent or broker

When searching from afar, enlisting the aid of an agent or broker can be quite helpful. Real estate agents are not only available for buyers--they can assist you with the renting process as well. Since you may not have access to the properties because of your location, an agent can help you weed out undesirable apartments and find rentals that fit your list of wants.

Take a trip

Before renting an apartment, you should take at least one trip to the city to view the unit. You should be prepared with a list of apartments you plan to see, scheduled appointments, all of your paperwork handy, and a list questions to ask the landlord or property manager. This is also a good opportunity to scope out the neighborhood and ensure that it is an area you would be happy living.

Research the complex and/or apartment management company

In order to protect yourself from falling victim to a rental scam, make sure you do a background check on the management company. Check the company's record on the Better Business Bureau website, and refer to consumer review tools such as Yelp. Many cities also have published lists of known slumlords in their area. You should also check property records to verify the true owner of the rental--a common scam in the industry occurs when an illegitimate landlord falsely claims to own the property and then disappears with your deposit.

Be wary

Above all, when searching for apartments locally or long-distance, it is imperative to be scrupulous. Using websites like Craigslist can be effective in finding apartment listings, but much more research is required of you before agreeing to sign the lease. Searching for an apartment in a distant city requires ten times the scrutiny and caution. You want to make sure that the apartment advertised is exactly what you are getting, that the neighborhood is satisfactory and safe, and that the landlord is actually qualified to rent you the property. Thorough research and attention to detail is essential to ensure that you can snag a quality apartment while you are still living hundreds of miles away.

Nicole La Capria  Posted by Nicole La Capria on June 19, 2013

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