How do we find a house to rent when it's not a big city?
November 7, 2016 9:08 AM   Subscribe

We will be moving to the general Bennington, VT area sometime after February and we're no longer spoiled for places to house search.

I have never looked for a place to live anywhere other than NYC and SF. I was spoiled for choice when it came to websites to search. This time we're looking in a smaller town/rural area and we're hoping to rent a house not an apartment. I'm looking now to get an idea of what we may find and what kind of budget we're looking for. I'm coming up pretty short so far. Factors in play, I'm assuming, are:

- We have a dog
- It's Winter right now and housing stock is probably lower?
- Vermont rentals tend to be for tourists and so we're struggling to find rentals for year round residents

We would be renting until we're able to build a house so we probably couldn't sign a year long lease, is that likely to work against us? Are we looking for something we may not find?
We're still very unfamiliar with the area, so renting is going to really help us adjust but we're kind of clueless outside of a big city.

Any help is appreciated. Thank you!
posted by shesbenevolent to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Something that might help is to get a Realtor, who can show you any available-to-rent property on the MLS* and tend to be excellent negotiators for weird circumstances like you have with the lease and it being winter and stuff. Plus they'll know the area very well.

*In some states, they can also represent you on off-MLS properties, you'll have to ask. Generally they get some kind of cut of rent from the landlord, so you generally do not pay them directly.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:17 AM on November 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

If you are moving for a job in the area, ask any contacts you made a bunch of questions. For small town info you really want to talk to locals--a lot of the places for rent might not even be posted online but get rented via word of mouth. Get on that word of mouth train. If you have any chance to go there in person, it will also help.
posted by tchemgrrl at 9:24 AM on November 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

Also, you're planning to build a house so "we probably couldn't sign a year long lease" --- I think you're drastically underestimating the time needed for:
*finding/purchase of suitable land
*have an architect draw up plans
*get building/zoning permits
*actual construction

At best, I'd assume a two-year rental minimum.
posted by easily confused at 9:25 AM on November 7, 2016 [5 favorites]

- No job lined up yet, but we can definitely try through word of mouth. We actually stayed in an airbnb with extremely friendly hosts. I think they would be very open to advising.
- Assume we've already been through the planning stages for the build, we're clued up and we're confident on our time frame.

Already great suggestions. Butting out now. Thank you!
posted by shesbenevolent at 9:29 AM on November 7, 2016

I would suggest a few things, not being familiar with that particular area but with rentals and real estate in general. Reach out to a realtor or even just search on A lot of people who rent houses list them through realtors. Also, if it's a heavy tourist area, check airbnb or vrbo. Even though those are short term renal places, the owners might be inclined to do a longer term rental. Never hurts to ask.

As for timing on new construction, it varies. We "built" our first house in that the builder was doing a subdivision and we bought the model before it was done. So the foundation was poured and it was up and framed, permits pulled, etc. but we could pick all of our finishes and make some modifications internally but the footprint was basically locked. We went under contract 5/31 and closed 7/30. But that builder hustled and it was already under way. Now we have moved and the places we are all looking at are in large communities and the builder is going in phases and you can pick from about 10 different plans. . So you put the deposit down, they usually break ground in 4-6 months and then maybe another 6-12 months of construction. People are generally reporting about 18 months from contract to close. The window gets even more squishy if you are finding a lot, getting an architect, etc.
posted by polkadot at 9:33 AM on November 7, 2016

In my part of Vermont (Montpelier area), most of the rentals seem to be handled by real estate agencies or property management companies. Bennington also has a flesh and blood newspaper (the Bennington Banner) with a rental section of the classifieds. You might also call the newspaper and get a recommendation for who handles most of the local rentals. You also might want to make some calls to Bennington College or Southern Vermont College to see if they have any off-campus housing pointers.
posted by baseballpajamas at 9:36 AM on November 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

To hop on baseballpajamas answer above, I just tried a basic google search of "bennington property management -vacation," and saw at least 5-7 leads on property management groups. They may not do exactly what you're looking for, but it's a start...and I hope that one of them would point you in the right direction.
posted by kuanes at 9:46 AM on November 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

You're also quite close to Williamstown, MA, so consider the northern Berkshire area as well.
posted by JimN2TAW at 10:38 AM on November 7, 2016

In my part of upstate New York, word-of-mouth and Craigslist.
posted by metasarah at 11:34 AM on November 7, 2016

Hi from your local Bennington Mefite.

You are correct that looking for less than a year's lease and having a dog will limit your options. Craigslist in this area is fully of scams. I actually don't think that there are any more scams than other areas, but the number of legit postings are fewer. I talked to my office neighbor, who has a dog and is renting and she said that she found her apartment through John Hale who seems to have a lot of things in this area (and is very clear about dogs, etc). That's a place to start. There is also a local renovated mill building that has apartments, although I don't know how they are with dogs. You could also consider contacting local real estate people, but they don't tend to have a ton of rentals; just a few that pop up from time to time.
posted by Betelgeuse at 12:18 PM on November 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

We've looked in that area. Trulia, Zillow and Craigslist all provided lots of solid options. It's pretty easy to spot CL scams.
posted by nosila at 12:41 PM on November 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

p.s. congrats on your move to that area! It's an amazing place!!
posted by nosila at 12:41 PM on November 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

You might consider signing up for the local "Front Porch Forum". It's a town-by-town bulletin board system in Vermont. You need to provide a local address, but it's not unheard of (I think) for people to occasionally sign up with an invalid address. You can lurk awhile to see if there are any leads, and maybe post a query.
posted by baseballpajamas at 6:57 AM on November 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

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