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5 Tips For A Long-Distance Apartment Hunt

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Have you received a job offer for a position hundreds or thousands of miles from where you currently live? Are you relocating because you're getting married? Perhaps you just want a fresh start somewhere, and you need to find an apartment for rent in a faraway place.

Finding an apartment is rarely easy, especially if you're conducting a long distance search to find the perfect place. However, these tips will help you through the apartment hunting process, cutting down on the stress and worry of finding a place to live in an area that you're unfamiliar with.

Give yourself plenty of time.

Finding the right place takes time, and that's especially true when you're looking at apartments from afar. Start your search three or four months before you plan to move. This gives you time to become familiar with the neighborhoods and their pricing, determine your budget and wait for an apartment to become available. After all, when a vacancy becomes available, the landlord still needs time to clean up, paint and do all the necessary maintenance and repairs before a new tenant can move in. Starting well in advance ensures that you don't have to take the first thing that becomes available.

Network with people in your desired location.

Do you know someone who lives in the area you want to move to? Call that person up! Now isn't the time to be shy. Even if you don't know anyone, network with your friends and family. Share your plans on social media. You may find out that a friend of a friend (or a long lost cousin) has the scoop on an amazing apartment for an affordable price. You never know what may turn up if you enlist others to help.

Research the neighborhoods that you're interested in.

Before you commit to a lease, research the neighborhoods in the area that you're interested in first. Sometimes you'll find significant differences in prices, crime rates and accessibility just by hopping one or two streets over. For crime rates, call the police department in that area to inquire about the safest neighborhoods. They should be able to quickly provide you with crime statistics for each neighborhood. To get the average prices of rentals in each neighborhood, visit the websites of realtors in that area to view the current listings.

Travel to your desired location for a weekend.

If you've never been to that particular town or city, try to fly out or drive to the new location, if you can afford it. Don't do this at the beginning of your search, though—you'll be overwhelmed with all your options. Travel when you've narrowed your options down to a shortlist of communities and apartment buildings that interest you. It makes sense to see the property in person before you commit to a lease, and being there just for a day or two can really lower your anxiety levels. However, if traveling is not in your budget, there are other ways to "see" the places you're interested in.

Get creative when it comes to viewing the property.

So, traveling there isn't in your budget. Do you know someone who lives within a reasonable distance who can be your eyes? A friend or relative can view apartments on your behalf, taking pictures, recording videos and offering honest opinions on whether each place would be a good fit or not.

If you don't have someone who lives close by, ask the property owner if they'll provide you with a real-time video tour. Services such as Skype and FaceTime make this possible, and seeing the place in real time vs. a staged video can put your nerves at ease.

Finally, protect yourself—you'll probably have to live in your new place for at least a year or more. Try not to sign until you can get there to see the apartment in person. If the property owner can't hold it until then, at least ask for a clause to allow you to pull out if the place isn't as described in the listing.