Finding a Sublet (and Sealing the Deal)

Sublet bedroomMoving to a new city? Woohoo! Adventure! Change! Terror! Yes, moving to a new city can stir up a lot of feelings. It can feel overwhelming, especially because you may not know much about the place. What are the neighborhoods like? Where is your favorite coffee shop? What’s the public transportation like? These are all things you might want to figure out before signing a lease somewhere. This is especially true if you’re taking the plunge and moving somewhere new without a job waiting for you. It’s definitely a good idea to know where you’re gonna be going every day before you decide on your permanent starting point.

So, instead of signing a year-long lease right from the get-go, it’s a good idea to find a sublet or a month-to-month situation. Depending on the city and the time of year, you could find yourself with either lots of, or not so many options. Subletting can be a scary prospect; you’re giving a stranger your money – often at least one month’s rent plus a security deposit – and you’re trusting that you will be able to live in their home without any issues (not to mention that you’ll get your security deposit back when it’s time). If you find yourself facing a nice selection of places, here are some things to keep in mind:

What to look for and ask about

– Is there space for your stuff? If it looks like there may not be, ask the potential subletter what’s staying and what’s being cleared out.

– Is it clean? While a subletter may tell you that they’re going to have the place cleaned before you move in, if it’s looking kinda gross when you’re there to check it out, who knows what “clean” means to them? That may not matter to you. But if it does…assume the worst.

– Ask about the neighborhood and the neighbors. Ask about noise. Ask about roommates and schedules and habits.

– If there are roommates, ask to meet them. You’re going to be living with these people. They are going to have access to your things. You should definitely meet them.

If you like it…

– It’s time to get the subletter to choose you. Show your personality. People want to feel comfortable with the person who will be living amongst and taking care of their things, possibly sleeping in their bed. Be friendly, ask them about their lives, and be open about yourself. Share what you’re interested in and what your line of work is. If you’re able to make the person laugh, that’s always a good thing.

– If you like the place, odds are other people already like it and the person who comes to see it after you will like it too. Now is not the time to be shy or awkward. The subletter might say something like, “Well, let me know what you think. I’m showing it to a couple of other people, and I want to make my decision as soon as possible.” Someone else could show up and give them a check right then and there. Make your interest known and be enthusiastic and firm about your interest, even if you do feel like you want to think about it for a bit. Ask about next steps.

Once it’s arranged…

Naomi sublet– You are the chosen one, hooray! Make sure that you and the person you are subletting from both sign an agreement of some sort. You want it in writing that you are giving them money, that a part of that is to be returned to you, what the expectations are of you both, and, of course, the dates of the sublet. Be sure to check it over, that you are in agreement with everything, and that you get a copy of it. If something looks weird or is left out, ask about it and insist that it be fixed or added to the agreement before you give them the money. This is critical.

– Get the phone numbers of the landlord, an on-site manager (if there is one), and any roommates.

– Coordinate a time for your subletter to show you around, making sure you know about where the garbage goes, where the laundry room is, and any quirks that you should be aware of in the apartment.

– Arrange when you’ll get the key and when you can move in!

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Author My First Apartment

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Naomi Finkelstein is an educator and an artist of many sorts who has lived in Madrid, New York, Chicago, and now the Bay Area. She's had as many as four roomies and as few as none. A yoga and vegetable enthusiast in a totally non-annoying way, she loves people, places, things and ideas.

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