If you’re in the market to rent an apartment but can’t physically tour or go in the apartment community because you are overseas, out of state, or are staying at home due to COVID-19, then you’ll need to follow some guidelines. These steps will help you research, find, and rent an apartment without physically going in.
STEP 1: Do Neighborhood Research
Start researching different neighborhoods you might want to live in. You can do this online, or if you live close by, you can simply drive around the neighborhood. In addition to regular searching, consider checking out Youtube to see if anyone has walking tours. Consider your own lifestyle.
- Where do you work? Many people prefer to live in close proximity to work and the most common elements of their daily life.
- Is it near public transportation?
- Are there grocery stores, restaurants, and things to do nearby?
- Is it close to a city center?
- Have you considered the general safety of the neighborhood? No neighborhood is crime-free but there are statistics that measure crime rates.
- Do you like to exercise? Make sure the area has open spaces, parks, and walking paths so you can continue your exercise routine.
- Do you have pets or children? The neighborhood should ideally have large parks and playgrounds that are child or pet-friendly or both.
STEP 2: Create a List of Apartments in the Neighborhood
Once you’ve picked your top neighborhood, it’s time to start preparing a list of apartments in the area(s). For example, if you want to find apartments in the Rittenhouse Neighborhood, begin doing a search for “Apartments in Rittenhouse Neighborhood”. Note down all the apartment complexes that look interesting and are in the neighborhood.
STEP 3: Go Through The List of Apartments
Now that you have your list of apartments including a notation about the ones that look interesting to you, you can add the features that are important to you in the top row of your worksheet. Consider these features:
- Square Footage?
- Types of Bedrooms?
- Cost? – base cost, extra, utilities
- Biggest Unique Perk?
- On-Site Parking?
- Distance to work?
- Good Sound Control?
Read the descriptions, look at the videos, check out any 3D tours they have. It may take some time but it’s important.
STEP 4: Utilize Google Street View
One of the easiest ways to see what the apartment complex looks like is to check it out on Google Maps Street View.
To see an apartment community in Google Street View, you simply open up google maps, enter the address of the apartment building you wish to see (then wait a few seconds), look in the lower right corner for a yellow person icon. Put your mouse on this icon (hold mouse down) and while holding your mouse down drag the person as close as possible to the pin where the apartment building is. Use your mouse or keyboard to navigate around the street. You can go up and down the street and even spin around.
STEP 5: Ask for a Live Video Tour
Call up the rental complexes you are interested in and ask if they offer a live video tour (via Facetime, Skype) or any other video tool to help you view the property so you can a better feel. You may have to schedule a time to do this, but it will be very helpful. This way you can see the model apartment, meet the rental agent virtually face to face, and ask any questions you may have.
STEP 6: Research Reputation of Property
Assuming it’s still your top choice, now that you’ve viewed the pictures, videos, and website listings, look up reviews of the apartment building to confirm your understanding. Now would also be a good time to ask friends or family who live in the area for their feedback. They may be able to share some more information about the neighborhood or building or may know someone else who does.
STEP 7: Ask the Right Questions to Make Sure you Understand Everything
Before you finalize and sign your apartment lease, it’s important to ask a few questions to make sure you fully understand everything. Some questions to ask include –
- How much is the security deposit?
- How will the deposit be returned after the lease expires?
- How much notice do I need to give before the end of the lease term if I am moving out?
- Will I be able to make any major changes to the apartment? If not, what can and can’t I do?
- Can I have pets?
- Can friends or family stay over?
- Can I have roommates?
- Who do I contact for regular repairs and emergency repairs? Who is responsible for different types of repairs?
- Can I apply remotely?
- Can I pay my deposit and application fees remotely?
Step 8: Sign the Lease
Once you’re happy with everything, it is now time to sign the lease. If you need help choosing between two apartments, narrow down to your winner first. Before signing everything, make sure the lease includes all the information you’ve already discussed with the landlord or real estate agent so that everything is in writing. This helps to eliminate any misunderstandings later. Be sure you have read and understood the entire lease.
Renting an apartment without physically seeing it may not be easy, but it’s possible in many apartment buildings. It may not be for everyone, but if you have to rent an apartment sight unseen, a step-by-step process can help you get there and avoid potentially costly mistakes.