Moving to another state can be an exciting adventure, but it can also be a daunting experience — especially when finding a place to live. Apartment searching under the best circumstances is hard enough, and doing it across state lines only adds its own challenges.
Wondering how to find an apartment when moving out of state? Here are some dos and don’ts to keep in mind.
Do: Tour Apartments in Person or Virtually
Staged photos and floor plan sketches can be deceiving, so you don’t want to rely solely on listings and property websites. When searching for an apartment in a new state, it’s a good idea to take some sort of tour, even if it’s virtual.
If possible, take a trip to your new city and dedicate a few days to touring apartments. If that’s not in the cards, do a live virtual tour. Many complexes will have a “virtual tour” on their website, but that usually just means 360-degree images of the apartment. Ask for a video call where a real person shows you around the property.
Don’t: Wait Until the Last Minute to Start Looking
You don’t want to wait to start your apartment hunt, which becomes even more true when moving out of state. Often, people move between states for new jobs, so you may already be on a tight deadline depending on your start date. Plus, planning an out-of-state move usually takes more work, so you’ll need more time for your search.
As soon as you know you’re moving, you should create a list of must-haves and want-to-haves for your new home. Must-haves might include the number of bedrooms, proximity to your office, a pet-friendly lease, a private garage, in-unit laundry, and budget. Want-to-haves could be a nice pool, a big fitness center, specific flooring types, bathroom vanity size, etc.
Use your wishlist to narrow your search and find apartments that check your boxes. If you don’t start your search early and are in a time crunch, you may be forced to take the first apartment you find, even if it means sacrificing all your want-to-haves and some of your must-haves.
Do: Team up With an Apartment Locator
When searching for an apartment in a different state, you may need some outside help. If you simply don’t have the time to dedicate to a thorough apartment search, try partnering with an apartment locator.
Apartment locators are real estate agents specializing in finding and referring clients to rentals. They know the area well and are familiar with its properties, so they can help you find an apartment that meets your wants and needs. As a bonus, they are usually free to use and work off commission agreements with local apartment complexes.
Don’t: Skip Researching
Whether working with an apartment locator or flying solo, you will want to do plenty of research. Look into different neighborhoods to see if they’re near the activities you like, such as hiking trails, nightclubs, cozy coffee shops, or shopping centers. Then, find apartments in those neighborhoods that match your budget and preferences.
Once you’ve found a few apartment options, dig into online reviews. Look for red flags like mentions of bugs, mold, or maintenance issues. And don’t just look at one source. Check reviews across different websites to get a full picture.
Do: Explore Temporary Housing Options
If you’re looking for the best way to find an apartment out of state, a short-term rental could be the right solution. You will be going in sight unseen (unless you made an in-person visit before signing), so you want to give yourself the opportunity to decide if you’ve chosen the right area or apartment. You could sign for a few months to really give the apartment and neighborhood a chance, or you could go month-to-month for something more flexible.
Budget will play a bigger role here. Short-term leases are more expensive, but it can be worth it to avoid feeling trapped in a year-long lease. Furnished apartments can also provide an easy in-and-out, allowing you to get a taste of the location without worrying about moving an entire house full of furniture.
Don’t: Forget to Check the Commute
Moving for a new job? Don’t forget about your commute! You won’t be able to actually practice and experience your drive until you’re in the city, but you can still guesstimate your commute using online maps. Plug in the addresses for the apartments you’re looking at and your office, and look at the directions. The map should tell you the commute time.
Make sure you check the drive at the right times. The drive at 3 P.M. while most people are still at work will be very different from the peak rush hour drive around 9 A.M. or 6 P.M. Google Maps lets you choose a departure time and will show you the average length of the commute. Check the drive at different times to better understand your commute before committing to an apartment.
Tip: You can also use Google Maps during your apartment search to research nearby businesses and learn more about the neighborhood.
Do: Consider Moving in With a Roommate
Moving to a new city — let alone a new state — can be nerve-wracking, especially if you’re doing it alone. Finding a roommate can help you stay within budget and alleviate some of the loneliness of a solo move. You could find someone who is also looking to sign a new lease or a renter who needs to fill an open room in their apartment.
Moving into an established apartment could mean it’s already well-furnished, you get a built-in city expert, and your potential new roomie can give you a more accurate idea of what the apartment and area are like. Plus, subleasing could be perfect if you want something more short-term. You can find someone looking to fill a room until the end of their lease, which could be three to six months away, giving you plenty of time to decide if it’s a good match.
Don’t: Get Caught up in the Tiny Details
Moving out of state often means working on a set timeline, and you could be tasked with finding an apartment fast. While you shouldn’t give up on finding your dream apartment, you want to avoid getting hung up on the small things.
Maybe an apartment has light wood cabinets and you prefer dark. Or maybe the windows aren’t as big as you’d like. You don’t want to miss out on a great deal or lose an amazing apartment because you want to see if there’s another with the right color scheme or window size. Don’t wait to snag an apartment that covers your must-haves and most of your want-to-haves! Nothing is permanent, and you can always move again at the end of your lease.
Do: Get Advice From Locals
Nobody knows a city and its neighborhoods as well as the people who already live there. Before settling on an apartment, reach out to locals for advice. If you happen to already have friends in the city, start there. If you’re moving for a job, you can try talking to your new coworkers or someone in HR.
Social media is another great way to crowdsource advice and opinions. You can find countless Facebook groups dedicated to city newcomers. Scroll through these groups to see what others have said about certain areas or complexes to help narrow your search. You can also look here for housing and roommates.
Don’t: Fall for Scams
Moving to a new state puts you in a vulnerable position. You may be rushed on time and dealing with an area that you are completely unfamiliar with. You need to be extra cautious and avoid rental scams.
If anything seems suspicious or too good to be true, it’s best to trust your gut. Watch out for common red flags like refusing to do a tour, asking for a rental payment before you’ve signed a lease, requesting a money wire, and skipping a credit report or background check.
Take the time to research and vet a landlord or property manager, and dig deeper into listings. Be skeptical of error-filled listings, check the street view of any property you’re interested in, verify addresses, and reverse search images to confirm they’re not stock images or being used across bogus listings.
Do: Start Your Search With ApartmentSearch
Moving to another state can be an exciting prospect. ApartmentSearch can help you find home, sweet home in your new location. This apartment search engine lets you explore new places by price, amenities, and location. And if you’re looking to further streamline the moving process, consider furniture rental through CORT. Furniture rental cuts down on moving stress. Simply pick your package and your move-in date, and CORT will take care of the rest. Find – and furnish – your perfect new spot today!