Most people who search for a new place to live use the internet as their first port of call. Although online listings are a useful way of finding properties, looking at an apartment online is not the same as seeing it in the flesh.
If you are planning on renting an apartment without viewing it first, you must be aware of several key factors.
To ensure nothing goes unnoticed, it is best to create a personal checklist. Know exactly what you are looking for in an online listing and it becomes easier to find what you want. Your checklist must be tailored to your own circumstances, but some factors commonly apply to everyone.
Check out the following tips and checklist items so you can be prepared to find a new home more easily.
Tips for Safe Online Apartment Searching
It is always best to view an apartment in person before you sign a contract, though this is not always possible.
If you cannot visit a property before you sign the lease, it is a good idea to work with a realtor. He or she can visit the apartment on your behalf. The realtor may be able to walk you through the apartment virtually in some cases.
When looking at apartments online, you must ensure you are searching safely. Be aware of potential major issues you may encounter.
Check out the following issues before you sign a lease:
• Who is in charge of renting the apartment? Every online rental listing clearly informs you as to who is renting the property. It is typically the unit’s owner, an agent or a broker. If you are not told who you are dealing with or if the contact keeps changing from one person to another, it is usually s sign of potential trouble. Additionally, some owners ask you to rent an apartment without signing a contract or agreement. This is not only ill-advised, it is illegal as well.
• Be aware of scams. Unfortunately, renting an apartment via the internet comes with the risk of being caught up in a scam. If a listing seems too good to be true, it often is. If you contact somebody about an apartment listing and you receive a reply that does not pertain to the apartment you saw, it may be a trap. If something does not feel right, do not take the risk.
• Do not transfer money. One of the most common scams is asking renters to transfer funds for a property that does not exist. If someone says you must make a deposit to reserve your viewing, he or she is probably attempting a scam. Some occasions exist in which you are required to transfer money before you sign a lease or see an apartment. If this is the case, verify you are renting through a trusted and reputable third-party website. Ensure the site offers a money-back guarantee for any rent payment or deposit you put up front in case you want to retract your deposit.
• Check out the building’s background. It is always helpful to do some online research about the history of an apartment building before you move into a new property. This is especially true if you consider renting an apartment you have not viewed in person. You may be able to access public real estate information for free. Find out when the building was constructed so you can be aware of any age-related issues that could occur. Additionally, check out the building’s infrastructure and whether it has withstood any previous fires or other disasters. Check whether the apartment building has gone through any serious renovation work as well.
• Put everything in writing and get it signed. If you simply shake hands with an owner and move in straight away without signing any form of agreement, you are not covered by any legal protection. This means you do not have any right to get repairs done in your home, and it means you may be removed from the property without warning.
What to Look for in Online Apartment Listings
Some apartment listings are not complete. This makes it challenging to know whether an apartment fits your requirements. It is best to contact the seller to ask for the missing details, although sometimes you get answers to your questions by looking at the photos of the apartment in the listing.
Common details most people want to look out for include the following:
• What amenities does the apartment building have? Amenities include features like a pool, a gym, laundry service and a security system.
• What appliances come with the apartment? These include items like a kettle, a washing machine and a garbage disposal unit.
• Does each room of the apartment have cable or internet? If having the internet or cable in each room is important to you, you want to know where hookups are and how many are available throughout the apartment.
• Does the apartment come with an outdoor space? This is typically something like a garden, a courtyard or a balcony.
• What type of flooring does the apartment have? You may prefer a particular flooring type, such as carpets, tiles or panels.
• What are the dimensions of each room? Knowing your new apartment has enough space for your furniture is crucial. Make sure you know the precise measurements for each room before you sign on the dotted line.
• How good is the apartment’s natural lighting? For many people, it is important to have a good amount of natural lighting in their apartment’s rooms. Find out about the cooling and heating costs associated with the apartment’s windows as well.
• Is there enough storage space? Storage space differs widely from one apartment to the next, so make sure the apartment you want to move into has enough space for all your items.
• Does the apartment come with a parking area? If you own a car, you want to know whether your apartment comes with a private parking space, off-street parking or no parking facilities.
Important Reminders for Negotiating Apartment Rentals Online
In addition to the factors listed above, you are sure to have other questions regarding your rental agreement.
When negotiating a rental agreement over the internet, ask yourself questions like:
• Does the apartment allow pets? If pets are permitted, you must know exactly what the apartment building’s pet policy is before you apply. Are there limitations to the number of pets and the types of pets you can have? Are there any additional fees to pay?
• Does the rental price include utilities? Usually, renters pay for utilities separately but sometimes utilities are covered in monthly rent payments. Enquire about bills for items like electricity, gas, water and trash collection.
• What is the average annual increase in rent? Your apartment may come with a variable or established rent increase, depending on where you live. Before signing a rent agreement, try to find information about the apartment’s rent prices for at least the last three years.
• Is there a proper security system in place? You want to know how safe your apartment is, although this is more important in some neighborhoods than others. Find out about the apartment building’s interior and exterior security cameras and whether the entrance to the building is locked. In addition, ask when the locks to your apartment were last changed.
Once you have thought about the above tips, you can find an apartment with peace of mind.
Then all you have to do is sign the lease and begin the moving process.
It is worth spending time on your apartment search to ensure you locate an apartment that is right for you.