It’s common when moving to a city you don’t yet live in to start an apartment search tentatively online. But how do you know if the ‘virtual’ apartment is a realistic version of what you would find in real life? You can gain reassurance in the fact that 92% of renters search for a new apartment online – it’s positively mainstream.
When you’re looking for an apartment before arrival, maybe you’re wondering if online viewing can constitute viewing in-person. Humans have become more globally mobile, resulting in more modernized and flexible rental processes. Properties online are now toured online by a global audience.
You may have come across listings online with video tours, detailed photography and floor plans. Much like a candidate applying for a job remotely, communications with landlords and rental applicants start online. This means it’s not necessarily an advantage to be there in person. Landlords target renters searching for an apartment online while out of the country. This can actually make a landlord’s life easier too. Without the hassle of scheduling viewings around current tenants, they have a wider pool of applicants and swifter access to electronic documentation. Tenant screenings and interviews can often be conducted online, as can the actual signing of a lease.
The most sensible place to start searching is a reputable online listing site, like Zillow or Hotpads. They offer map-based searchers, handy statistics on local areas and feature verified listings. Classifieds like Craigslist are still one most visited sites for apartment searches. Craigslist has 60 million users, but with over 80 million ads, you can come across fake listings.
Social media is a place to shout out if you’re looking for a room or an apartment. This can often cut out a middleman and offer some reassurance via a friend. Facebook groups are also widely used as alternatives to traditional listings sites.
There is still an element of the unknown to viewing and signing up to a lease on an apartment before arrival. There are some indicators of what makes a listing more credible. To reflect the experience of viewing in person, the online listings offering the fullest picture should include:
The most realistic rental viewing videos should offer a walk-through of the apartment, highlighting deal breakers, such as storage space, air-conditioning or a well-equipped kitchen.
If you were viewing in real life, you’d see everything including the surrounding area. A video tour should include outdoor areas and provide well-lit footage, preferably in daylight.
The images with an online listing are often an indicator of the quality of the property. Low quality, grainy images of un-staged interiors are red flags to watch out for. Instead, stick to considering web listings with professional photography and watermarked images, to avoid being misled by a fake ad.
If you’re now feeling more comfortable with assessing a property with online viewing, it’s wise to look out for some essential facts from afar, like:
You’ll also want the 411 on the location, a full picture of what your day-to-day life would be like. A map can give you a starting point to do your own homework on what kind of lifestyle the wider neighborhood offers. How well is the area serviced with public transport? How long would your commute be? Other information to gather can include local recreational amenities, local parks, or entertainment options – this comes down to personal preference. Web listings covering these details are worth prioritizing as they save time assessing properties worth shortlisting.
Setting up a Skype/Facetime call with your potential landlord can give you a better indication of a future tenant/landlord relationship. Sometimes fuller explanations to a query require a phone conversation. It’s important to feel at ease with a landlord, and that they respond in a timely and professional manner. Warning signs can be spotted in email correspondence. If you’re not receiving professional and polite written communications, this could bode badly for future maintenance requests or emergencies. Conversely, a landlord with an excellent reputation and a great rental apartment won’t be sitting around waiting for you to call – you’ll be in competition with other renters. Establishing a personal connection with a landlord online can help you secure your ideal apartment before you’ve arrived.
If you’re still uncomfortable about finding an apartment long-distance, there are some ways around it.
For peace of mind, get a second opinion from a contact or friend you have local to the area who can check the apartment with viewing in person. They can send back evidence with photos and video. Viewing in person yourself may require last-minute travel. So it’s important your ready to act with all the documentation and funds required to place an offer. However, once you’ve viewed the property, you can see for yourself if the area and the rental instinctively feel right for you.
Hiring an agent is a more targeted option, with someone working on your behalf to deliver your ideal apartment. An agent will be able to be your boots on the ground, checking apartments in person to verify what you’ve seen online
Or you may consider taking a short-term lease to give you more time and space to find an apartment long-term. A convenient alternative to a hotel, Blueground offers fully furnished high-quality apartments for short-term rental between 1-12 months. With the flexibility to move between apartments, pending availability. Or terminate a contract early. It’s a great way to get to know a neighborhood or city before committing to a new home. Their move-in ready rentals make it easy to settle in straight away and can be reserved online without visiting in person.