The explosion of the Internet has made apartment hunting easier than ever. Gone are the days where to you must look in the paper for rentals or drive around town. Apartment hunting websites make it convenient for renters to see if an apartment is right for them without having to leave the comforts of home. But, what is the best online apartment search? How can you avoid scams?
How to search for apartments online
Know what you want – There are thousands of apartments for rent at any given moment. If you don’t know what you want the search will be overwhelming for you.
- Will you be living alone? – This will be a factor when determining what you can afford. Will you want a studio apartment? One bedroom, or two-bedroom apartment home?
- What neighborhood would you like to live in? Pick a neighborhood that safe and convenient for you. See how long your commute to work would be in this neighborhood. Is it close to grocery stores and shopping? Is that important to you?
- What amenities are you looking for? – Do you need a washer and dryer in the unit? Are a garage and dishwasher a necessity? Do you like the luxury of living in a gated community with a pool and workout room? Figure out what is important to you, so your new place feels like home.
Know your budget – This is more than simply rent. You need to budget for all your monthly utility costs, utility deposits, and security deposit. A good rule of thumb is that rent should not exceed 30% of your monthly take-home pay.
Check out listings with pictures – if you see a listing with minimal pictures or no pictures at all move on. Minimal or non-existent pictures is a red flag.
Check out listings with clear terms – things like the rent amount, security deposit amount, what utilities (if any) are included, and unit and community amenities should all be listed in the advertisement.
Be on the lookout for scams
Scammers prey on apartment hunters, don’t be a victim. If an apartment seems too good to be true it probably is. You need to keep your guard up for these red flags.
Sending money sight unseen – If the ‘landlord’ wants you to send over money before you see the unit, that is a red flag. This apartment may not exist, and the person may take your money and run.
They require an extremely high security deposit and fees – Typically, the security is equivalent to one month’s rent. If the landlord wants four times that amount that should be setting off alarm bells for you.
The landlord wants to rent to you quickly – A good landlord is going to do a thorough background check on every prospective renter. If the landlord wants to get you moved in today sans the background check run the other way. This ‘landlord’ may give you the keys and you’ll never see them again.
The landlord tries to move you in without a lease – The lease is a safeguard for both you and the landlord. It is the signed contract both of you agree to follow, and it holds up in court. If the landlord tries to kick you out without reason, you have no recourse without a lease.
If the rent is way below market price it could be a fake listing. Look at how long the listing has been on the market. If it has been on the market for weeks at a very low rate it may be a fake. If you are required to wire money, it’s probably a scam.
Searching for an apartment online is an easy and convenient way to find your new home. But, it’s important to know the signs of a scam so you aren’t the next victim. Follow a few simple rules, and online apartment hunting will be a breeze.