Looking for apartments from long distance
July 21, 2014 2:44 PM   Subscribe

I got a new job! Yay! Now I have to find a place to live. What's the best way to do this? I have certain criteria in mind for what kind of place I'd like, so is there someone I can pay to go and check things out for me? Like, a realtor or someone? I've got a pretty quick turn-around between now and my start date, and a ton of other things to do, so if I can avoid a trip across the country to apartment hunt, that would be very helpful. Bonus points if you have any experience in the Milwaukee area. Thanks!
posted by Fister Roboto to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I've done this for 3 separate cross-country moves, but not to Milwaukee, so I don't have location-specific advice. In general, make sure your initial lease is as short as possible. It's worth paying a few hundred extra for 2-3 months to buy yourself an easy out if the place doesn't live up to expectations or the neighborhood is terrible or the hall smells bad, etc. You can't really trust anyone's opinion but your own when it comes to that stuff and you'll likely discover a new area you'd be happier living once you start to get your bearings as a local.
posted by feloniousmonk at 3:25 PM on July 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

I agree with feloniousmonk that paying extra for a short lease is helpful in these situations, should the place not meet your expectations. A lot of professionally managed properties have a six month lease option. You should also ask about lease breaking fees.

If you have friends and/or family in the area, they could help you rule out problematic properties and neighborhoods, and maybe even help you "view" available rentals (send them out to a property, have them take pictures, maybe some video of the place, etc).

Apartment rating websites (such as apartmentratings.com) are also helpful as long as you take the 5 star reviews with a grain of salt and read between the lines. My rule of thumb when using these sites is to pay attention to anything that's repeated by more than one commenter.

Also, if you have the money for it (or your relocation package will pay for it) consider staying in a decent extended stay hotel/motel for a couple of weeks while you look at apartments.
posted by jazzbaby at 4:09 PM on July 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Typically when relocating you go to the area with a list of places you want to see, after checking them out on the internet, and you run through them with a checklist. Then you decide on something you could live with, try and get a 6 month lease, and then you don't unpack everything until you're sure you want to stay.

There's no real money in showing you rentals for a realtor, so very few have an incentive to do it.

I like Forrent.com as a way to find apartments in complexes. You can usually negotiate month-to-month or short term leases. Apartmentratings.com will give you some ideas of what issues might be in the place that looks good on-line.

We're living in a place we found on the internet in 2004. We moved when we bought a house, and then I fantasized about moving back, so we sold the house and did just that.

Just some thoughts.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:10 PM on July 21, 2014

A lot of places have corporate apartments that rent month-to-month. It might cost a little more, but I'd find that preferable to living six months in a place with major issues.
posted by drjimmy11 at 4:20 PM on July 21, 2014

My first long-distance move, the apartment turned out to have faulty air conditioning (in the southwest!). A relation just did the same thing, even with an agent her new boss recommended and paid for, and ended up with a place with massive plumbing problems. I now come down firmly on the side of an extended stay/corporate rental and looking once you get there, unless you cannot possibly afford it.
posted by Sequence at 4:29 PM on July 21, 2014

I did the worst thing ever a couple years ago: got a job out of state, was super excited, stayed in a fleabag hotel for a week while apartment hunting, and then signed a year lease before I even started my new job. I HATED the job/city so much that I quit immediately and had to pay a nice chunk of change to break the lease. The next move, I found a sublet on Craigslist for two months. The sublet was a dump, in a horrible part of a new city, but it gave me lots of time to look for an apartment elsewhere while I figured out what was close to work, places I liked to go, etc. I'd vote for a couple-month sublet if you can find one. Learn from my mistakes!!!
posted by jabes at 4:39 PM on July 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Learn from our mistakes! Sublet the ritziest, most expensive apartment you can for three months(corporate suites etc). It will still be cheaper and less stressful than trying to find a respectable place while living out of a hotel.
posted by Yowser at 5:00 PM on July 21, 2014

Also, don't rely on your new bosses and coworkers. They've probably lived in your new city long enough that they have no clue where to go and where to avoid when it comes to apartments.

PPS do a google search for slums. You might not have slums or ghettos where you're from, but trust me on this, some cities have genuine, boba fife, slums, and your coworkers won't think to warn you about them- they block them out of their mind completely!
posted by Yowser at 5:02 PM on July 21, 2014

Find a sublet on craigslist. I'm in the same boat as you, and I found a sublet in 1 day. What helped was the person subletting did a skype tour of the place, since I had no time to head to the new city to look at places.

But, I lived in this city a while ago, so I already knew neighborhood quality/prices.
posted by shinyshiny at 6:14 PM on July 21, 2014

Alternately, you might have luck searching on airbnb for a rental for a month, then do your searching once you get there. Monthly pricing is much, much cheaper than by the day.
posted by mochapickle at 7:33 AM on July 22, 2014

I've lived in Milwaukee nearly all my life. Feel free to memail me about specific neighborhoods. We might also work out something if you want me to look at a place for you. The rental market is pretty wide open here so you should have no problem getting something. I agree that subletting or short-term leases might be a good option while you get used to the city.
posted by desjardins at 9:08 AM on July 22, 2014

I am also in Milwaukee and willing to give advice. If you'd be interested in places in my neighborhood (Bay View), I'd be willing to go look at them. But yes, some realtors do this and I agree with the idea of perhaps renting short term for a while so you can get an idea of where you want to live. However- I knew that I wanted to live in Bay View and would have rented a place there from long distance if that was necessary.
posted by sulaine at 12:30 PM on July 22, 2014

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