Are you looking for new living arrangements or are you the friend or family member of someone planning to relocate to the Bay Area? With rents soaring and housing in short supply, finding an affordable house or apartment that fits your preferences can seem a formidable undertaking in a market in which landlords have a clear advantage. To help smooth the way for renters, we’ve assembled some valuable pointers from real estate insiders:
Take the individual approach: Especially within San Francisco, landlords often use open houses as a marketing tool to get access to as many prospective tenants as possible in a short time frame. Unfortunately for renters, these events are often swarming with masses of people competing for the same place. To set yourself apart, it’s usually best to avoid these cattle calls. Try to secure private viewings of apartments –whether by contacting property managers yourself via email or by using a reputable apartment-finding service that can contact them on your behalf. Of course, it also helps to be well-groomed, personable and polite when you’re invited in for a viewing.
Don’t wait for openings to be advertised: Get a jump start on available apartments by contacting property managers of buildings where you might like to live to ask them about upcoming vacancies instead of waiting until these same units are listed on the market. Not only will this give you time to plan your move, but it will also put you ahead of scores of other apartment seekers since it could potentially save the landlord time and money in advertising.
Come prepared: When landlords have plenty of room to exercise discretion in determining whom they should place their trust as a new tenant, you cannot be overly prepared. Keep in mind that plenty of renters now come to open houses and private viewings with credit reports, recent pay stubs, and references from a current or previous landlord in hand—along with a check for an initial deposit and their rental application. Landlords and/or property managers will take you more seriously as a potential tenant if you demonstrate that you’re respectful of their time.
Explore online search tools: While there is still a place for classified ad sites such as Craigslist in your home hunting arsenal, online services and apps devoted primarily to helping renters are highly useful since they offer a more customized way to conduct your search. Services such as Padmapper, Hotpads and Lovely provide map-based tools to enable you to search easily by neighborhood, along with filters for criteria such as number of bedrooms, price, leases or sublets, pet-friendly, etc. These services also offer email alerts to notify you when a new place hits the market. Looking for more insight as to which neighborhood, apartment or rental home might best suit you? Check out RentLingo, which offers reviews and helpful features such as a Charm and Noise Index.
Don’t forget about social networking sites: Your social media network is an invaluable resource to tap into when you’re house or apartment hunting. With billions of active users and exposure through viral sharing, Facebook is an excellent place to let people know what you’re looking for in terms of a rental. Also consider using Twitter and Instagram.
Watch out for scams: Unfortunately, fraud involving rental homes and apartments has become all too frequent with the prodigious use of the internet in the hunt for housing. Almost everyone knows someone who has been duped (or nearly duped) by a con artist preying on those desperately seeking a place to call home. Be guarded with anyone who offers you a rental that seems unusually low priced. And if you’re considering renting in an apartment complex, make sure that the person you’re dealing with actually works for the landlord by verifying their contact information online. Above all, never comply with requests that you wire money to an individual in order to receive the keys to your new home.
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