How to Make a Long Distance Apartment Search
Have you landed a new job opportunity on the other side of the country? Maybe you find yourself scrambling to find an apartment on a tight turnaround.
Finding an apartment isn't easy, and conducting a long distance apartment search has many more difficulties. Here are some things you need to know to cut down on the stress of making a long distance search.
Research the area and building thoroughly
Finding an apartment that might work is just the beginning. Apartment Guide makes the early part of seeking an apartment much simpler and more efficient. Finding the right price range, number of bedrooms/bathrooms, and proximity to certain neighborhoods is the easier first step.
Think about how much you don't know when moving to an apartment in a different part of town. Now that you're not even in the same general area, you don't even know the things you don't know.
Here are some of the next steps you'll need to take:
- Research the building, landlord, and management company: Google is your best friend for this part of the process. Check the Better Business Bureau, and anywhere you find reviews of apartment buildings (our listings have reviews for exactly that reason). Keep an eye out for the trends in reviews. One person's experience can be an anomaly, but if several people are reporting the same issue, it's something you need to seriously consider.
- Find travel times to important destinations: How long will it take to drive to your job, your kids' school, the nearest gas station, or the grocery store? Can you walk to any of these places instead of driving? While a long drive might not be a deal breaker on its own, it can have a negative effect on your quality of life.
- Find the right timing for your search: Some places have different schedules for renting, such as heavy tourist areas and college towns. If you're looking at the wrong time, you might not be able to find anything, or apartments won't be available until much closer to the move in date.
Visit in person or find someone local
It's always best if you can go out ahead of time to check out the apartment and the area around it in person. If you can't, this is where it's especially useful to know someone in the area. Reach out to your social networks. You might not know anyone who lives where you're looking, but perhaps you have a friend who does. They can fill in the gaps about what areas you should look at, and start to answer the questions you don't even know to ask. A local contact can check out the apartment and neighborhood for you and even send you photos and video.
If you’re relocating for a new job, ask your employer for help. It’s likely that they will have someone in HR or their relocation department who can provide helpful resources on finding a place to live. They can also put you in touch with local employees and other workers who have relocated from out of town.
Be ready to act
If you are able to make an in-person trip, it’s likely that your time will be extremely limited. You can’t afford to miss out on the right place should you happen upon it. Be prepared to sign a lease immediately. This means coming equipped with all the necessary documentation, including:
- Driver’s license, passport or state-issued ID
- A utility bill with your current address
- Social security card
- Checkbook (in case you need to put down a deposit)
- Bank statements (in paper or electronic form)
- A letter from your employer or recent pay stub
Take a virtual tour
With every passing day, emerging technologies offer new and more efficient ways of doing what previously seemed impossible. Searching for a place to live in a far away location is no exception. An increasing number of owners of apartments and rental properties are offering high definition photos, video walkthroughs, 360-degree imagery and in some cases VR apartment tours that you can take from your laptop or smartphone.
Search on ApartmentGuide.com and look for links to slideshow, video or tour in the top right corner of any property page. See the image below for reference.
Lean on the leasing agent
If you can't get yourself or someone you know out to look at the apartment, you're not out of luck. In addition to virtual tours, request to set up a video call with the leasing agent. They can walk you through the apartment to give you a better idea of the looks and layout. Never hesitate to ask them other questions, either. Their job is to help current and prospective renters, so take advantage of that.
Be cautious about anything suspicious
When you're moving to another city, you're in a difficult and busy situation. It's easy to miss something. Not everyone is unscrupulous, but you have to remember that you're vulnerable to being taken advantage of. Be cautious about anything you don't understand or that looks suspicious. Always ask those questions, and don't sign something that makes you uncomfortable.
Use this helpful apartment hunting checklist or consider creating your own.
Look for a sublet or short term lease
While shorter-term leases tend to be more expensive, that flexibility can be worth paying for. This gets you somewhere to live in the area for a short time. During that time, learn what you really need to know, and make a more informed decision a few months later. Subletting can give you the same opportunity for less money, at the cost of a little added complexity.
Need more help with your search?
Online Apartment Search Tips
Tips for Researching Neighborhoods Online
Take a Tour Online to Find the Right Neighborhood for You