For the past few weeks a friend of mine has been looking for a place to live in Atlanta, Georgia. The problem is, she lives in New Orleans, Louisiana and doesn't have the time to spend a few days looking for a place to live in person so she's been looking for apartments online and talking to landlords over the phone. It hasn't been easy. If you're in the same boat, here are a few things I've learned that I wish I'd known before we started hunting.
Compare Rent Prices
My friend and I sat down one night and started looking at apartments in Atlanta on an online rental site. Most of the apartments we looked at were cheaper than what we are used to paying in New Orleans so we just assumed they were great deals. Unfortunately, that is the wrong way to go about things.
Don't compare the cost of your rent now to rentals in your new city. Instead, check out several different ads in different neighborhoods and get a feel for the cost of rent in that area. Use the average cost of the available apartments you find to determine what is and isn't a good deal.
Talk to Landlords Beforehand
The night before my friend's first trip to Atlanta she printed several rental ads and planned to view as many as possible during her two day visit, assuming she would find something she liked. When she started viewing apartments, she ended up not liking most of them and her trip was wasted.
When you spot a rental you think you'd like, call the landlord and talk to him in person. Explain your situation and see what he can tell you over the phone. Then ask if he'll email you more photos. The more you know about each place, the better you'll be able to weed out places you don't like.
See Everything in Person
Never agree to sign a lease or send anyone money without seeing the place in person first. While most ads we saw online were completely legitimate, some were outright scams. Usually when we responded to the ad someone responded back asking us to send a money order to "hold the apartment" or to sign a lease without actually seeing the place first.
Any legitimate landlord will want you to view the apartment in person and meet with him to talk terms before you sign the lease.
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