In most cases, it is bad idea to rent a home or lease an apartment without doing a thorough tour, first. However, you can’t always help it, especially if you are renting a place far away, and you are not able to afford an extra trip to tour apartments.
When circumstances force you to take a lease out on a place sight unseen, there are several steps you will want to take to feel more comfortable. Always keep in mind that once you sign a lease, there are very few ways to get out of it, even if you decide you do not actually like your rental after you have relocated.
While it may be intimidating to rent a place without checking it out first, it is still possible to find the perfect home or apartment without taking a tour, first. Below, find out the dos and don’ts of moving into an apartment or home without taking a tour before move-in day.
Do Your Research
Any apartment search requires doing a lot of research, but you will need to be even more thorough when you are not able to take a tour. Start by checking out the building, itself. Looking at reviews online, as well as rental policies from the management company’s website will help give you a feel for the place. It is also a good idea to take a look at the building using street-view maps. If the area looks safe and easy to navigate from the street, you will feel more comfortable signing a lease there.
After checking out all of the details of the complex, itself, it never hurts to look at reviews of the management company. Most apartments and even many homes are managed by large rental agencies that have multiple properties.
When a rental is managed by an individual landlord, rather than a company, you can give yourself more peace of mind by screening the landlord. If a management company or landlord has a bad reputation, you may want to move onto another place to research, as there are always other options.
Scope Out the Neighborhood
Getting the feel for a neighborhood from afar can be difficult, but it is possible to form a basic opinion by looking online. When moving to a large city, research amenities and community features found within the neighborhood to which you want to move. If you are moving to a smaller town, it may be necessary to look at the city’s website or other local guide resources for the information you need. Look for the following information on each neighborhood:
- Public transportation options
- Bike lanes and multi-use trail systems
- Freeway access
- Local restaurants and grocery stores
- Other community amenities, such as parks and entertainment options
- Crime statistics from the local police department
While you are checking out the neighborhood, be sure to calculate your travel times to various locations around the community, as well. If you already have a job lined up, check the distance from the rental unit to your workplace. Entering the destination in a navigation app is a great way to see how traffic will affect the trip, as well.
Set Realistic Expectations
When moving to a new city or state, it is important to get a feel for how long rental listings stay active. Do landlords list properties a few days before units are available?
Or are rentals listed for months in advance? In large cities, you may find that rentals are listed shortly before the units are available, but in college towns, it is common to find properties listed months in advance.
In any case, it is important to know how quickly apartments and homes get rented out so that you can plan accordingly. In an area with a fast turnaround, you will need to be prepared to act more quickly, but areas that list units far in advance will allow you to take your time.
If you are having trouble finding a place available when you need it, consider taking a rental with a short-term lease, instead, which will give you more time to search. You do not have to take the first 12-month lease you can find just because you are desperate to find a place quickly. Options for short-term living solutions include:
- Subleasing an apartment from another renter.
- Signing a month-to-month rental agreement.
- Getting a place with a six-month lease.
- Moving into a furnished apartment, such as corporate housing.
- Temporarily living in an extended-stay hotel.
Enlist the Help of Others
There are several ways to get a better feel for an apartment or home without actually visiting it yourself. One of the best solutions is to hire a real estate agent or broker who can tour the place on your behalf. It is a good idea to hire an agent who has experience in the particular neighborhood that you want to live in, as these agents will know what to watch out for in specific rentals.
Not everyone can afford to hire an agent, but you can still sign a lease with more confidence if you ask a friend to tour an apartment on your behalf. After you have contacted the landlord, it is a good idea to let him or her know that you are sending a friend in your place. Your friend can take pictures and ask about any specific concerns that you have, all of which will give you more peace of mind.
If you do not know anyone in the neighborhood where you are moving, there is still another option. Once you are serious about a place, you can get a better feel for it by asking the landlord if there are any additional pictures, or if he or she can offer a video walkthrough. Some management agencies may already offer 360-degree images or virtual tours.
Be Prepared to Sign the Lease
After you have completed as much research as possible and have made your decision, you will want to move quickly. Renting an apartment sight unseen often means that you have more limited time than other prospective tenants. When you are ready to act, make sure you have all of your documents in order, such as your:
- Photo ID and Social Security card, which will verify your identity.
- Checkbook, which you will need to pay any deposits.
- Bank statements, which you need to verify your income.
- Employment records, which back up your ability to pay rent.
If you are not able to sign a lease in person for any reason, be extra cautious of sending deposits and personal information online. Make sure any payments you make are secure, and that your future landlord will handle your personal information responsibly.
Related Article: Factors to Consider When Viewing a Rental Unit