It used to be prospective renters turned to the newspaper or relied on word-of-mouth when it came time to look for an apartment or rental house. And when moving to a new community, some renters would travel there early to find a place, well before the intended moving date.
Now the Internet allows potential renters to see units through posted photos, and explore the neighborhood through maps, satellite imagery and newspaper stories posted online.
One of the best online apartment posting forums is Craigslist. Prospective renters use the site to monitor updated postings of apartments, and can quickly scan the listings based on price, size of space, location and amenities.
But renters should also be aware of the following when pursuing a new apartment via Craigslist:
* If interested, respond quickly to the poster. Quality locations will move quickly, and another applicant might beat you to the property.
* Review the neighborhood both online and in person. Ask the police department about the number of incidences in the neighborhood. Are there sidewalks handy for neighborhood strolling? Is the apartment in a flight path for the airport?
* Check the property out. Ask for a tour, and bring a friend or family member along with you to add a second set of eyes on the tour.
* If you have time, drive back to the property at different times of the day to see what the environment is like when the landlord isn’t around.
* Review the lease agreement carefully before signing. Make certain it spells out any conversational agreements you’ve had with the landlord. Also make certain you include documentation of any damage to the property prior to moving in, and have the landlord sign acknowledgement of the documentation.
* Check to see that the Craigslist ad is removed from the site as soon as you enter into a rental agreement with the landlord. If not, ask the landlord to remove the ad.