Renting Sight Unseen in California
March 4, 2010 9:06 PM Subscribe
Help me avoid getting screwed when finding a place to live in California, when I can’t see the place or meet the landlord in advance.
posted by Diplodocus to home & garden (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I need to rent a room or apartment in California for about 4 months during the spring/summer. I’d be in the area of Redwood City, Menlo Park and Palo Alto. Menlo Park would be most ideal, location-wise. I’m not looking for anything too fancy, just a studio apartment or a room in a house shared with others. I’m looking to spend $700-$1100/month (or less if it were possible) and this seems to be reasonable for the area.
Because I’m currently living very far away from California, I won’t be able to see the place in advance or meet the landlord. So to secure a place I’m going to probably have to send well over $1000 in rent/security deposits to some person I’ve never met in order to rent something that I’ve never seen in a city I’ve never been to. My question is: How can I avoid getting screwed or making a stupid choice?
Specifically, I’d love if some people familiar with the area could discuss:
-What parts should I avoid living in? (eg. What are the dangerous or high crime areas or what else would a local know to avoid?)
-What parts would locals prefer to live in?
-What are the pros and cons of renting from an individual versus renting from some company? What should I watch out for from either case?
-Is it reasonable or common to ask a landlord to provide some kind of reference from a former tenant? Would this have any value?
-Is there any strategy to avoiding really bad housemates? Landlords sometimes ask for references, but what can I do?
-How far in advance is ideal to search for a place in the area? Right now I’ve got about 2 months until I’d be moving – is this unreasonably far in advance to find a place?
-What other tips do you have to help me avoid getting screwed over or making a horrible choice?
I know that's a lot of questions thrown into one, but any little tidbit of help is appreciated.