Moving cross-country can be stressful, particularly when you don't know much about the city where you're moving. But more than moving cross-country, it's also difficult for people who are relocating to a new city in a different country. And whether you're looking to relocate internationally or locally, looking for a new dwelling space is a long and laborious process, and oftentimes is a hit or a miss - especially if you're not physically there to look at potential properties you'd like to call your next home. But don't fret, we've gathered a few simple tips that can help ensure that your search is successful.
Panicking won't help. Easier said than done, but take a deep breath and realize that tens of thousands of people move to new locations every year. If you have a plan and you're patient and stick to it, there's no reason you, too, can't make a successful move. For internationals, planning six months ahead of your move is best, looking for properties ahead of everyone else. Granted there might not be much available apartments out there at the moment, but putting your foot one step in the door is always better; brokers and agents will have enough time to ask around future openings in neighborhoods you're interested to move into. Use networking to your advantage. Tell your friends, your relatives and your co-workers that you're searching for a place; tell everyone. Asking around costs nothing and may yield immense benefits. In addition, use email, phone and social media to expand your networking reach. Most often than not, brokers and agents have websites that are linked to their Facebook pages, so it's easier to locate friends who have used a firm's services before. Ask them who they would recommend to help you in your search for a new living space. Time your search appropriately. Different cities have different lead times for finding an apartment. For example, if you're moving to Boston, apartments aren't on the market until three months or less before the move-in date. That trait is not unique only to Boston, as many college towns put apartments on the market three or even five or six months before the move-in date. Go online and look at the listings in the area where you're moving and figure out how far in advance you need to begin your search. Connecting with agents as soon as you know you're moving isn't the worst idea, since most often than not, brokerage firms have a handful of exclusive listings with different apartment buildings in the city they service. Research neighborhoods first. Before you start seriously honing in on an apartment, study the neighborhoods in the city where you're moving and get a sense of which ones are right for you. The key categories: the personality of the neighborhood, the price of the neighborhood and the time it will take you to commute to work. Do some research online: Read the local papers and look through brokers' and real estate agents' websites. They'll give you a taste for what each neighborhood is like, as well as approximate pricing. If you're worried about crime, most city police departments will provide crime statistics for each neighborhood. Also use an online mapping website to check the commute times.
Conducting the actual search
Fly out to hunt (if you're able to). Nothing beats being there and seeing the apartments, meeting the potential roommates and walking through neighborhoods. But one weekend is a short period of time, so if you're planning to fly out, make sure you're prepared well before you arrive. This means doing research, having neighborhoods in mind, setting up showings and having your paperwork ready. Find a short-term sublet. If you can't fly out to look around, or you're unsure of where you want to live even after your visit, try taking a one- to three-month sublet to get your feet on the ground. Then, you can use that as a home base for a proper apartment search once you arrive. Many brokerage firms have temporary housing available for rent to individuals on a "house hunt". Don't be afraid to ask them for recommendations online, but also make sure that you're dealing with professionals so as to ensure your safety and convenience. Do it remotely. Flying out is expensive, and you'll need a place to stay while you hunt. If you don't have a generous sponsor that'll pay for your trip, and don't know anybody to crash with and you don't have spare cash to spring for a hotel room, doing the search remotely is a viable option. You can get virtual tours of places, talk to potential roommates over the phone and communicate with your future landlord online. You need to be doubly careful if you're not planning to search in person, but it's certainly doable.
A few words of caution
Research the management company. A good management company is a great boon, and a bad management company can cause serious problems. Most management companies are listed with the Better Business Bureau as well as on consumer review sites such as Yelp, and most major cities have listings of known slumlords. Use these tools to do at least a cursory online search to make sure you're not committing to an obviously bad situation. Also, type the address of the building into a search engine to see if it has been subject of any troubling news articles. Review everything before you sign. This is just a good idea in general, but you'll be particularly vulnerable if you're from out of town, so it pays to make sure you understand what you're getting into before you sign on the dotted line. Make sure that you've shown your broker the contract before you finalize anything. Make sure all the paperwork is signed by your landlord / seller, and that all of the walkthroughs were done properly - you wouldn't want to get surprised with renovations and repairs the first week you settle in on your new place. If something seems fishy, it probably is. This is especially true if you're doing your search remotely. If a listing seems too good to be true, be suspicious. Find someone who's willing to vet the place personally, such as a friend or relative who lives in the area and would be willing to check out the apartment. Better to be patient than find yourself in a bad situation. Ask your agent for information regarding the landlord, management company or previous tenants. Any insight into the property would be helpful, especially if you're not personally around to do the poking yourself.
We guarantee that if you follow these tips, you'll be on the path to finding the right place. It will take some time and work, but there's no reason a long-distance apartment hunt can't turn into a successful apartment search. And that's speaking from personal experience.