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How to Find an Apartment Out of State

June 23, 2022

Believe it or not there are plenty of people who rent an apartment out of state, and sometimes without taking a tour in person. Some people need to relocate to another state because they’re trying the digital nomad lifestyle, moving cross-country for work, or accepting a new job.

Renting an apartment and moving to a place you’ve never seen comes with its risks. Make the journey as safe and seamless as possible by following these tips to ensure you end up in a home you love.

Searching for an Apartment in Another City

If you're looking for an apartment in another city, you'll need to become a world-class detective. You may not be able to visit the city in-person before making your move, you can still get a good feel for the city by conducting a thorough investigation. Here's a breakdown of the things to know when searching for an apartment in another city.

Heavily Research Your New City

Every city is unique and has different things to offer prospective residents. Start your research by examining your lifestyle. For example, if you're an avid cyclist you'll need to compare different city bike scenes and infrastructures. Add nightlife, recreation, and cost of living to your list.

Look to Social Media

Whether you're active on Facebook, Reddit, or another social platform, firsthand reviews from current city residents will be a powerful asset in your search. Look for Facebook pages, Instagram accounts, and subreddits from specific neighborhoods you’re interested in living in.

Look at the City’s Walk, Bike, and Transit Score

If you plan on getting around the city without a car, the city's walk, bike, and transit score can help you plan the best mode of transportation. Go back to your trusty social media sites to ask locals about the infrastructure and how reliable the transit really is.

Discover the Local Vibe

If you are moving to a city you’ve never been to, you’ll need to do a ton of research about the city before deciding on an apartment. Get to know the cost of living of the city, as well as the most popular neighborhoods.

Ask around your personal network to find out if they have friends in the area you can talk to. You can also ask questions on City-Data forums or local subreddit pages to get advice from the city’s locals.

Determine Your Budget

Regardless of any other plans you have, your budget will determine where you’ll live when you rent an apartment in a new city.

Let’s start with moving costs. They vary based on your destination, your belongings, and the distance to your new locale.

If you are making a long-distance move for a one-bedroom apartment, expect to pay anywhere from $900-$2,000 in moving costs.

You also need to know the average cost of apartments in your area. You’ll also be expected to pay application fees, first month's rent, and a security deposit that’s usually one month's rent. This means you should be prepared to pay at least two month’s rent upfront with signing a new lease. Other costs might include a pet deposit for a furry friend. Of course, you’ll also need to consider the costs for furnishing your apartment and getting established in the new city.And if you're new to budgeting, the 50/30/20 budgeting rule can help. You simply allocate 50% of your earrings toward necessities, 30% to wants, and 20% to savings.

Decide on Amenities

Apartment amenities are those extra features that make apartment-living more comfortable. They could range from a simple room with a view to the rarer (unexpected) amenities, such as an indoor golf simulator.If you're always on the go, you'll need amenities that support efficiency, such as a dishwasher. However, if you're a homebody who loves streaming Netflix, you might prefer free WiFi service throughout your building.

Here are some popular apartment amenities to keep an eye out for:

Fitness Centers

An on-site fitness center eliminates membership fees and commuting time to workout. It's also a great way to meet your neighbors!

Laundry Facilities

Laundry is a pain no matter how you do it. Or you can choose an apartment with laundry facilities or an in-unit set-up.

Central Air

Not all cities offer central air conditioning and heat. You can invest in the expense yourself or choose an apartment with eco-friendly solutions. Just make sure you consider your utility bills before you sign a lease.

Plan Your Commute

Google Maps can help map out your commute. If you know what your new schedule looks like, you can see how the traffic looks at specific times of day. You should also map out your commute time if you’re walking, biking, or taking public transportation. Or you can simplify the entire process by taking the Apartment List quiz! Just enter the address of your new workplace, how much time you'd like to spend on commuting, whether you prefer to drive, bike or use public transit, and we'll put together a list of apartments that fit your criteria!

Explore the City via Google Maps & Yelp

Google Maps is a great way to explore a city without ever having stepped foot in it. Just use Google's aerial street view to move through the city's streets. You’ll save time, money, and resources by doing it all online.

Regardless of if you want to explore nightlife or your commute time, Google Maps can help you feel more comfortable exploring the city when you get there, rather than being completely overwhelmed.

If you consider yourself a foodie, Yelp is the way to go. The review platform provides an in-depth look at the city's restaurants and shops.

Yelp also allows you to search from the top spots in the city and review some of their most famed or obscure locations.

You can check out the reviews for the most popular nightlife scenes in the city. Moreover, you can find some of the most entertaining spots to visit.

Contact the Landlord

Get in touch with the landlords of your shortlist of apartments. Calling instead of emailing will probably be more efficient. Let the landlord know of your current situation, that you are trying to rent an apartment out of state, and how you can’t visit in person. Most will be accommodating, and have methods for lease signing for these situations.

Ask for Photos

Ask for detailed pictures of the apartment that capture the layout, appliances, and apartment details. If possible, ask the landlord for a real-time video tour of the unit through Facetime or Zoom.

Consider the Lease Options

After doing an extensive amount of research, hopefully you end up in a neighborhood and apartment you love. Or you can choose a shorter lease to avoid the stress of a long-term commitment before you get to your new city.

Short-term leases aren’t offered by many landlords, but they could be worth your search efforts. You can test out the neighborhood and get a feel for it. If you don’t love it, you can move on after a short period of time.

Short-term housing options can help you learn the lay of the land. For example, you might think that living right smack dab in the middle of things in a downtown area is your dream. But, upon moving there, you might decide you couldn’t have been further off base.

If it’s everything you’re looking for, you can commit to a longer lease. There are some downsides, so know the differences between long and short-term leases.

Read Online Reviews

When it comes to reviews, it's easy to get lost in star ratings on apartment listing sites and Google Reviews.

To avoid getting caught up in the marketing, it's important to know what to look out for among the sea of reviews. Here are the most important details to consider when you are checking out apartment reviews.

Repairs and Maintenance

If there's an issue in your apartment, it's important that it gets handled quickly and efficiently. It's not a good sign if you're reading tons of negative reviews about a complex's communication speed, efficiency, and effectiveness.

Complaints

While it's important to take negative reviews and complaints with a grain of salt, there's usually some merit to them. Whether complaints regarding noisy neighbors, pests, or broken down appliances make their way online, it's usually a result of a complex's inability to resolve an issue.

Staff

Many apartment complexes have staff members that handle things like cleaning, maintenance, and administrative tasks. Keep an eye out for reviews mentioning staff for some insight about who you'll be encountering from day to day.

As you start reading through the reviews, scroll back to old ones. You may discover the apartment recently underwent a management change or updates. These give clues to why reviews suddenly improve.

There’s safety in numbers! Check the number of reviews and be weary if you can only find a few.

Go on a Virtual Tour

The pandemic forced the rental industry to embrace the virtual tour. The technology helps connect landlords and apartment managers with prospective renters so they can show them an apartment unit. You won't find this option at every unit you visit, but many units will offer a virtual tour if you ask!

During a virtual tour, you can take a walk-through of an apartment you're interested in, ask questions, and try to envision your life in the unit.

Once you've had your virtual tour, you can decide whether you want to move forward in the apartment application process.

As great as virtual tours are, there are some important limitations to consider.

Although virtual tours are meant to be as accurate and in-depth as possible, there are just some things you can’t help but miss when you're not viewing a unit in person.

The light may not be as bright as it seems. A room may not be as large as you thought. But worse of all, an apartment might not be in as good of shape as the virtual tour would suggest.

For example, if you are concerned about bed bugs, you should visit an apartment in-person to put your mind at ease. You simply cannot see pests during a virtual tour.

Understanding these limitations can help you set more realistic expectations about your next apartment unit.

Prepare Your Paperwork

Your landlord will request documents from you if you decide to apply, so make sure to have everything in order.

If you are starting a new job, have the job offer in your application to prove you’ll have a stable income. Also, include pay stubs from your previous employer with your application.

Check out our comprehensive guide to the apartment application process. You might also be asked for rental references, so make sure to have those ready with proper contact information.

Beware of Rental Scams

No one wants to learn that they have spent thousands of dollars on an apartment unit that they will never rent.

Rental scams are unfortunately common, especially in large cities like New York. Moreover, they are easy to fall into if you don't know how to avoid rental scams during your apartment hunt.

Here are some of the most effective ways to avoid rental scams.

  • Never wire money to a prospective landlord or property manager. Using digital money wiring services such as Venmo or CashApp can be just as harmful as handing over cash. Use a check to leave a paper trail in case you are scammed.
  • Always be skeptical. Generally, being skeptical saves you from being a victim. If an offer sounds too good to be true, such as you don't receive a credit check or the listing lacks pertinent details, stay away from it. Even if it's not a scam, you don't need the headaches in your life.
  • Reverse search all images. Some of the most popular scams involve using images and details from real apartment postings and reposting them with different contact information and other details. The goal is to put you in contact with the scammer. A simple reverse image search can help you identify a photo's source and ensure that it is legit.

How to Move to Another State Without a Job

Now that we’ve talked about how to find an apartment out of state, you also need to consider your job situation.

Whether you’ve recently graduated and are looking for a new change, looking to be closer to family, or landing a dream job in a new city, you’ll need to find someplace to live. There’s no way around it–it’s tricky finding an apartment out of state without a job. But it’s sometimes a necessary step if you just graduated and need time to job hunt. Here are a few tips to help you get started.

Start Applying for Jobs

You’ll need a steady stream of income for your apartment, so applying for jobs in your new city as soon as possible is essential. Consider using a friend or family member’s local address while you search. An out-of-state candidate could be less desirable to employers because it might cost the company relocation expenses.

Consider looking online for remote jobs that will help you land an apartment and get you to know your new city. You can always look for something different once you sign a lease and are moved in.

Grow Your Network

Build your network in your state to find apartment deals. Spread the word that you’re looking for a job and apartment to gain insider information to lead you in the right direction.

Check out Facebook Groups, LinkedIn, and even Instagram locations to see if you know anyone through a friend of a friend in the area. Remember, there’s no shame in reaching out as a friendly gesture.

Consider Freelancing

While searching for a job in your new state, you don’t have to turn away from work. Any additional income you can get right now will only help you in the long run.

Moving to a new state costs a lot more than your monthly rent. You can’t forget about moving costs, deposits, temporary housing, etc. It all adds up quickly. Even if you’ve got a good cushion of savings, it’s always better to hang on to as much as you can through your move.

Check out freelancing sites like Fiverr and Upwork to help get your foot in the door.

Think about Temporary Housing

We’ve said it once, and we’ll say it again - moving to a new state can get expensive. If you’re in a pinch and need to move ASAP, you still have options.

While saving up for a long-term lease and the upfront costs that come with it, you might want to consider some short-term options. For example, renting an Airbnb for a month or going on a month-to-month basis in your new state can help you save until you can permanently move into a long- term lease.

Get a Cosigner

Lastly, if you’re moving to a new state without a job and are looking to rent an apartment, you may need to get a guarantor.

A lease guarantor is legally required to pay your rent if you can’t do it yourself. Guarantors are often parents or financially stable family members. Other reasons you might need a lease include limited or bad credit, no job, or low income. New graduates often have guarantors, especially in expensive cities like New York.

With today’s technology, finding an apartment remotely has never been easier. Just be sure to do your research, and be proactive in communicating with your potential landlord. You’ll be able to find a home you love without being able to physically see the apartment.

Ready to find an apartment in your new state? Start your apartment search with Apartment List today!

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AUTHOR
Justin is a Content Manager and contributing author at Apartment List, helping people navigate the world of renting. Justin previously spent his time earning his BBA in Marketing from Boise State University. Read More
AUTHOR
Davina Ward is a contributing author at Apartment List and freelance writer specializing in real estate and digital marketing. She received her B. Read More
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