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How to Rent an Apartment without Seeing it First

Moving into a new apartment, especially across the country or across the world, is exciting. But renting sight unseen can add a little bit of mystery — and not the good kind — to the equation. What if it’s not as dreamy as it seemed in the photos? What if the restaurant downstairs makes your abode smell like fried fish? If you can visit your new digs before signing the lease, that’s always, always ideal. But sometimes it’s just not possible. So if you find yourself in a position where you must hand over your deposit sight unseen, here are a few tips to make sure that gem is really a gem.

 

Get as much information as possible from the landlord/real estate agent
If you’re moving across the country and can’t get there in person, ask for a Skype/Facetime walkthrough of the space with full sound. Tour the bathroom, the closets, and the hallway and ask for a panoramic of the street view. What kind of sounds do you hear in the nearby area? Does it look like it’s in a good neighborhood? Or even better yet, ask the agent if you can get in touch with the current/past tenant to get a sense of their experience living there. They are more likely to give you a truthful picture of the area — is there a bar nearby that dumps their glass at 3am every night, after pumping techno music until 1am? You might want to know that, but the landlord might not know — or might not want to tell you.

Technology is amazing: Google Maps
Use street view to take a “walk” around the neighborhood. What kind of amenities are nearby? How about restaurants? What about traffic? Many of these things will be marked on the map with reviews from locals or visitors, and unfiltered reviews from the general public are always a great place to get the full spectrum of opinions on an area. Just keep in mind that some people are the most motivated to review when they’ve had a bad experience, so use your discerning eye, too. But if you have a few options for renting an apartment, information like this can be helpful as a deciding factor as you prepare for moving into your new rental.

Phone a friend
If you know anyone in the city you’ll be relocating to, ask them to be your scouting agent. Promise them that they’ll be rewarded handsomely with dinner and drinks upon your arrival and send them off to be your spy. Let the landlord or real estate agent know you’re sending a friend in your place to tour the apartment, and let your friend know if there are any specific questions you have, things you’re looking out for, and if you’d like them to take photos of anything in particular.

If you’re moving in with people you’ve never met, this step is even more important. Arrange for your friend to meet all of the important parties involved, including any pets who will be living on the premises with you. Does your future bedroom seem cozy? Get good light during the day? What does the window look towards? And how’s that shared kitchen situation?

 

Lastly? If this is your first time moving into a rental, be sure to check out our tips for first-time renters so that you’re fully prepared. Good luck with your move!