This is post one of a three part series: Tips and Tricks for Finding and Renting The Perfect Home Long Distance, Top 8 Websites for Finding The Perfect Rental, and Getting the Most Out of Your New Lease: How to Negotiate with a Landlord
Wether you are moving across country or moving across town it can be a stressful and frustrating time. So I wanted to share some tips with you about how to find and rent a new home for your family without ever leaving your computer.
Now this may not be for everyone and I do recommend that if you have the opportunity you always want to see your new home before you sign on the dotted line. But as a Military family this isn’t always a possibility. So here are a few tips and tricks to help make your search a little easier.
- Start Searching – NOW!Regardless of how far you are moving I recommend that you start looking as soon as you know you are going to move. The longer you have to search the more time you have to familiarize your self with your new location and all of the characteristics that make it unique. Starting your search early can be the difference between finding the perfect house and being stuck with a house that is only okay.Zillow has some great tools for keeping track of new homes that are available for rent and it’s never too soon to start saving your favorite homes. Even if you know they will rent before you are going to be moving, I still recommend adding them to your favorites list. A house could sit on the rental market for months vacant if you are looking out of moving season, a great opportunity to score a great deal. (See my post Getting The Most Out of Your New Lease: How to Negotiate with Landlords here). In addition sometimes landlords will post a house way in advance to avoid lengthy vacancies.By starting your search early you have the ability to hold out for a property that you really want. And if you are anything like me, it has to be the perfect combination of price, windows, and potential. A combination that is not easy to find.
- Do Your ResearchYou wouldn’t go buy a car without knowing anything about the vehicle, so why would you rent a house without knowing anything about the home?The internet is full of resources for finding out information on rental properties. For a list of my Top 8 websites for finding a rental click here.If you are seriously considering a home I recommend knowing as much about the property as absolutely possible. The more you know the better chance you have to negotiate. Some great things to know are:
When did the house last sell and for how much?
What are the annual property taxes on the property?
When was the house last remodeled or had major repairs done? (A call to the local building permit office will answer this)
How long has the home been on the rental market?
Was it previously listed for sale and changed to a rental?
What appliances does the home come with?
What is their pet policy?
Are they willing to accept a longer lease term?
What is the quality of the neighborhood?
What is the crime rate?
Are there any sex offenders in the immediate area?
Is the property managed by a property management company or a private party?
How close and what quality are the surrounding schools?
What amenities are near the home? Public transit, parks, grocery stores etc.
All of this information can affect your experience with the home and the landlord. For more tips and tricks negotiating a better lease see my post here.
- Narrowing Down Your OptionsKeep a spreadsheet or similar tracking system to compare your favorite rentals. This will allow you to do a side by side comparison of each home without be persuaded by nice photographs. To download a PDF version of the rental spreadsheet I use when we move click here. To see a sample document that I have filled out click here.I only add the properties that I will actually follow up on to my spreadsheet. This helps me clear out all of the yeah those are nice but… houses and leaves only the houses I actually want to live in.
- Cleaning Up Your Digital FootprintBefore contacting any potential properties you may want to do a clean sweep of your digital profile. Keep in mind this is basically a job application. Potential landlords want to see that you will be a responsible tenant. Just like employers want to see you will be a responsible employee. Landlords are far less likely to rent to you if you seem like a problem.When you do your clean sweep be sure to include all social media accounts, incoming voicemail message and your email address. Things to be mindful of include:Inappropriate email addresses, i.e. Partygirl69@noplace.com.
Rude or inappropriate voicemail greetings. Your friends make think its funny, landlords may not.
Overly negative/rude/or dramatic social media posts and excessive photos of drinking/partying.
Nobody wants to rent to someone who will destroy the property with excessive partying or who will bad mouth them or their company.
- Contacting Your Favorite PropertiesWhen you finally have decided to contact a property make sure you have enough time to talk. If you can, call on your lunch break or during nap time when your surroundings are quiet and you can focus no the task at hand. Keep in mind they are interviewing you from the minute they say hello. Always always be curtious and never call multiple times in one day unless there is a legitimate reason. Avoid calling late at night or obscenely early in the morning. Just because they have a house for rent doesn’t mean they don’t lead normal lives too.When reaching out to a property always do it by phone and not by the contact me box on any of the rental websites. This will give you a chance to interview the landlord. It is just as important that they like you as you like them. Since you took the time to call they will automatically assume you are more serious about the home. Plus you are far more likely to receive a call back if you leave a voice mail then you are to fill out one of those forms. Hundreds of people are looking for rental properties in your area so anything you do to make yourself stand out positively will increase your chances.
I realize that this all seems like a lot of extra work. But if you are serious about finding a great rental that is perfect for you and your family then its all worth it. By following these simple steps you can find the diamond in the rough. A perfect combination of size, amenities, quality and price. I know we did!
For tips on getting the most out of your new lease see my post here. As always I am very interested in getting your feed back. Please feel free to contact me or leave a comment below.