Moving cross-country often means renting sight unseen and you don’t get to set a foot into your apartment before the moving-in day. Here are a few tips to help you find the right place to live when you can’t check it out yourself.
This may be obvious, but DO YOUR RESEARCH. There are times in life when it’s fine to make a purchase on a whim–apartment hunting is not that time! There are dozens of websites dedicated to rating and reviewing apartments, so don’t just look at one and call it done. Check three or four review sites for each prospective apartment. It’s a hassle now, but it pays off in the long run.
Read reviews (the right way).
Reviews are crucial when you don’t get to check out a place for yourself. Don’t just look at the number of stars a place has, actually read each review, and check how long ago each one was written. I almost overlooked a great place because it had a low Google rating, but when I looked at the reviews, I saw that all of the negative reviews were almost five years old—all the recent reviews were phenomenal. Also, keep in mind that the only people who tend to review anything are those who had either a wonderful or a terrible experience, so don’t let a few one-star reviews scare you. As long as there are as many (or more!) five-star reviews, it’s probably alright. That being said, if every low rating is complaining about the same issue, then there’s going to be some truth to it.
Plan your commute.
Google maps is great for this. Not only can you see exactly where the apartment is located, but you can also see how long a trip to any given destination is, by car, public transit, or by foot. Do you hate city driving? Make sure there’s a route to work that avoids those roads. Planning to use public transit? That “perfect” apartment you found might not be so perfect when you realize that the closest bus stop is a ten-minute walk away.
Call with questions.
Most apartments have a phone number on their website that you can call to talk with someone in management. Write up a list of questions you have about the apartment and then give them a call. Is the person on the other end trying to answer you helpfully and honestly, or are they more interested in making a sale than giving you information? Chances are, these are the same people who you’ll interact with once you move in, so use this as an opportunity to get a feel for the people in charge.
Don’t forget your social media network.
Finally, and this may prove to be your best resource, reach out through all your social media networks. You should do this at the beginning of your search to get leads and at the end to double check if anyone knows about the place you are about to rent sight unseen.
Please share your best long distance apartment hunting tips in the comments.