How to initiate an apartment search
Here are some resources that readers have recommended for starting your apartment search, when you move to America.
A whole host of specialized websites provide lists of rental properties available in various locations nationwide. Just enter your target zip code and basic requirements like maximum rent and number of bedrooms or bathrooms, and the site will come up with matching inventory. Advanced search criteria are also available.
Most of these sites will show you search results without charging any fees. However, if you need additional services or detailed contact information, some of them may require paid subscription.
Do remember to use these sites only to identify properties and generate additional choices. But call the complex directly to determine unit availability and actual unit rent. Websites are often not updated on the latest availability and incentive programs being offered by the complex.
The following sites are good for searching apartment complexes or townhomes for rent.
The following sites are good for finding just a room on rent, or for finding a roommate with whom you can share lodging.
Online classified sites connect individual buyers and sellers (or tenants and landlords) directly. The seller advertises an available home and the buyer contacts the seller via email or phone. This method is hugely popular in the US, because it eschews the middlemen. But caution must be exercised in this type of apartment search, since vetting the veracity of buyer and seller claims becomes the individuals' responsibility.
www.craigslist.com (perhaps America's best-known site for classifieds)
www.sulekha.com (focused on the Indian community)
Print newspapers (or online versions of print newspapers) are the traditional media of choice for classifed ads. They remain an important place to check for homes on rent. Look out for sections titled 'Apartments for Rent', 'Homes for Rent' or equivalent.
Do note: online versions of newspapers often do NOT contain the same ads as print versions. So its best to check the print version separately, usually on the weekend.
A list of America's top newspapers by circulation is provided below, alongwith the metro areas they serve:
New York Times (New York metro area)
Los Angeles Times (Southern California)
Washington Post (Washington DC and Baltimore metro area)
Chicago Tribune (Chicago metro area)
Houston Chronicle (Houston and major cities in Texas)
San Francisco Chronicle (Northern California and Bay Area)
Arizona Republic (Phoenix metro and cities in Arizona)
Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta metro area)
New Jersey Star-Ledger (New Jersey state)
Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia metro area)
OWN REFERRAL EFFORTS
Use your own efforts to secure referrals on an apartment search. The three best ways to go about this are :
PROPERTY MANAGEMENT COMPANIES AND REAL ESTATE BROKERS
- Ask your office or a colleague at work. The human resources department at most offices will be able to guide you on good local apartment complexes in the area. Other colleagues will also be able to guide you.
- Look out for 'For Rent' signs on properties in the vicinity of your target area. Most of these signs will have a phone number that you can contact.
- Check bulletin boards in libraries, grocery stores, and community centers for “For Rent” notices.
Look in the yellow pages for companies under 'Property Management' (or equivalent), and separately under 'Real Estate Brokers', 'Realtors' or equivalent. Both these types of sources can help you find homes for rent, but will charge you a fee for it (often 15 days to a month's rent). Property Management companies are hired by owners to look after their apartment complexes or homes. Realtors are licensed, independent brokers whose job it is to connect buyers and sellers of real estate (whether for rent or sale).
In view of their relatively higher fees, I would recommend NOT going to a property management firm or realtor unless its a last resort. Chances are, you will successfully complete your apartment search by utilizing the other resources mentioned on this site.
Also avoid signing an 'exclusive' arrangement with any realtor. You are not obligated to sign an exclusivity arrangement but doing so will prevent you from going to any other broker or sometimes even to other non-broker sources, without penalty.
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