Wherever I have my dogs, that's my home
February 14, 2011 5:48 PM   Subscribe

How do people find rent houses - actual houses, single-family dwellings - in the US?

We live in Dallas, in a house we own, and I start a new job in San Diego at the end of the month. I found a room for myself for a couple of months on Craigslist, as I'll be going out alone while my husband deals with finding a job and getting the house ready to sell. At the point he vacates the house here, I've got to have us a house to live in there, with room for three big dogs*.

Now, I've rented houses in DFW for many years, but generally found them via drive-bys and the newspaper back when that was a thing. For a number of reasons, I'd really rather rent for a year than buy a desperation house in SD, and the newspaper and every other venue I've found online so far has not really satisfied. I will have time to do drive-bys when I get out there, but I like to plan first and then drive.

The websites I've found so far have been heavily weighted towards apartments, and the ones I've found that do have houses don't let you specify enough - my results come up with a ton of townhouses and duplexes and apartments anyway. Is there a good website for this kind of thing? Does one engage some kind of real estate professional? Is there a trick?

(Assume I know all the givens - yes, it's harder to rent with animals larger than a cat. Yes, real estate in DFW is screamingly cheap compared to California. Indeed, we know that our "little" 1600sf house here will be a palace compared to the square footage we'll get out there. It is almost never 108 nor 12 degrees there; we will make the sacrifice. This is just about as close to a dream move that encompasses both our dreams, so we're okay with trade-offs.)

*Of course, there are obligatory photos.

(Also, are there enough of you for a meetup? Mefimail me or something!)
posted by Lyn Never to Home & Garden (22 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Here's a pretty good website that is free to use.
posted by TheBones at 5:54 PM on February 14, 2011

I currently rent a single-family home with a group of friends in Oakland. The house was listed on the site of a property management company; some of the properties they handle are apartments.

The property management company that handled the apartment I rented in Philadelphia also rented out some houses. (Most of them were semi-detached houses, because that's what the housing stock in the neighborhood was.)

In other words, the people I've dealt with haven't seemed to make a distinction between houses and apartments; they'll rent out both. Also, I don't know San Diego at all, but it's possible that the sort of places you're looking for don't exist in the neighborhoods you're looking at.
posted by madcaptenor at 5:54 PM on February 14, 2011

Do you know anyone out in SD in the area where you want to live? Maybe they could recommend a realtor who deals with rentals as well.
posted by carter at 5:55 PM on February 14, 2011

You might try padmapper.com and using words like "house' or "garage" as keywords. It will still come up with townhouses, but it's a little better.

Also, you can try contacting property management companies? The house we're renting now (in Oregon) is managed by a company that manages 1000+ local properties.
posted by WowLookStars at 5:56 PM on February 14, 2011

my results come up with a ton of townhouses and duplexes and apartments anyway

My experience in a composed massively of rowhomes may be giving me a bias, but at least here, townhouses and duplexes are absolutely houses. Houses are more likely to be owned by private landlords rather than management companies, and therefore not as well-marketed, and therefore more likely to be found in paper classifieds or posted signs as opposed to Craisglist.

If you want to find standalone houses and you specifically don't want townhouses/row homes or duplexes, the most important thing will probably to identify neighborhoods. I could tell you which neighborhoods of Philly, or Pittsburgh, would be very likely to find you a lot of row homes and very few freestanding buildings; I could also point you to those areas of the city that have more residences without shared walls. But, again, in the cities I've lived in, those aren't really considered a separate category of housing - the only major distinction I could count on in a posting is between apartment and house, not free-standing-house-vs-shares-a-surface-house.
posted by Tomorrowful at 6:01 PM on February 14, 2011

I found our pet friendly single family house rental on CL.

I know in my area (northeast) real estate brokers handle house rentals. Does your new job have any relocation assistance or contacts for real estate?
posted by cestmoi15 at 6:03 PM on February 14, 2011

Oh, and universities will have housing offices that can point you to local house rental agencies.
posted by carter at 6:04 PM on February 14, 2011

Response by poster: Tomorrowful, you make a good distinction: the difference is a yard. Three dogs is a lot of walking, even in the lovely San Diego weather. We'll pick up the poop, but there has to be enough space for three of them to do so without an argument. I am also a gardener, even if in pots the first year, so it would be a total boon if our place had at least enough space for a few well-defended pots. (There is also the barking. I don't want to piss shared-wall neighbors off.)

And on the neighborhood front, for those in the know: we have no problem with East County as we know that's probably our best option.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:07 PM on February 14, 2011

We've had meetups, but we never get more than 3 people or so.

I haven't rented a house (as opposed to an apartment), but craigslist generally seems to be the medium of choice out here. Prior to the advent/dominance of craigslist, the main sources were the daily newspaper (the really heavy rental classified section was always on Saturday) and the weekly free paper (the San Diego Reader, which doesn't have an online rental component that I can find). There are little newsstands scattered about with rental listings, but those are dominated by big apartment complexes.

My wife and I have looked for more cottage-type places, and generally had good luck looking on craigslist - things that we found just driving around had ads there anyway. People seem to usually be pretty good about putting photos up with their ads.

Note: depending on what part of town you end up in, it could quite well get up over a hundred, reliably, every summer. I amused my college classmates in Virginia with my tales of "heat days" where we were let of school early because it was too hot when I was growing up in El Cajon/La Mesa. With three dogs, you may end up renting out in east county or thereabouts - more single family housing with yards, and dogs might be more acceptable for renting.
posted by LionIndex at 6:10 PM on February 14, 2011

I've found most of the houses I've rented (in Tennessee) on craigslist or by driving around in areas I'm interested in and looking for signs.
posted by ghharr at 6:11 PM on February 14, 2011

If I were looking for a single-family house with a yard where dogs were acceptable, I would use a realtor. But it depends whether you'd rather spend time or money, so the question is really which is in shorter supply for you right now? A realtor will do the legwork for you--and rule out all the stuff you don't want from the listings--before you get out there, but you'll pay them to do it.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:15 PM on February 14, 2011

I have rented single-family houses in three different states and very different sized cities. CL is a good resource; you just have to be willing to sift the wheat out from all the chaff. I have also had good luck googling "city x property management" to find property management companies and look at their listings. Weirdly, it is often hit-or-miss whether they have their stuff on CL (at least around here in NC).
posted by jeoc at 6:41 PM on February 14, 2011

In northern california we use craigslist, but everyone uses craigslist for everything here.

Strangely enough, I actually found the house that I'm renting (and probably going to buy) on facebook. An acquaintance had recently bought another place and was looking to rent the old one, as she'd had some difficulty finding a buyer for it. She threw out a message along the lines of "Who wants to rent my house!?" on facebook, and I took her up on it. Now that we've been here a couple of months, we're seriously thinking we'll just buy it from her.

There are fewer houses listed on craigslist for rent (as opposed to condos and townhomes) because there are fewer houses for rent in general. People seem a lot more likely to buy a condo as a rental property than a detached home on its own lot. You're dealing with that factor when you're looking for a house for rent.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 6:44 PM on February 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

We posted on craigslist with our exact requirements, and had lots of folks emailing us about their properties. The one we chose has a big fenced in yard and lots of space for super cheap in this area. I'd try craigslist, and try different search terms. I can't remember what we used but different people think about these in different ways, so multiple search terms help to find those hidden ads.
posted by emkelley at 7:05 PM on February 14, 2011

I have rented by using craigslist and searching "house" - which weeds out most of the apartments and duplexes.

I also have used padmapper as someone suggested.

I also have used a property management company/real estate agent to find a house.
posted by KogeLiz at 7:06 PM on February 14, 2011

also, I should mention - I never paid the property management companies/real estate agencies. One placed a couple of ads so I called and asked for more information and ended up renting one. The other had an ad saying they had some places available for rent.
These were both when I lived in Florida.
posted by KogeLiz at 7:08 PM on February 14, 2011

CL searches will omit words you don't want, provided there is at least one word you do want. Use the minus (-) sign. My search for a house is specifically:

house -apartment -apt -apts -townhouse -townhome

That knocks out 90% of apartments.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 11:24 PM on February 14, 2011

We used a realtor here in Fort Worth to help us find a rental house. It was a good enough experience that we'll most likely call him in a couple of years when we're ready to buy.
posted by telophase at 10:29 AM on February 15, 2011

You might search for sabbatical rentals given that there are many universities nearby.
posted by drmarcj at 12:58 PM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've rented various places in san diego for the last 12 years. If you have any questions about locations, dog friendliness or about the various neighborhoods, send me a pm, I'm glad to help.
posted by ShootTheMoon at 2:20 PM on February 15, 2011

I'm renting a house I found through Craigslist. But rental websites tend to have strong local/regional biases (CL is heavily used in SF, not surprisingly, less so in some other places).
posted by wildcrdj at 2:34 PM on February 15, 2011

When I last rented a house (~5 years ago), we found it by searching the (Texas) MLS. There was a category for rental properties.
posted by getawaysticks at 8:39 AM on February 16, 2011

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