A Guide to Finding Housing

Hi friends! I’m still here!!

Remember several months ago where I wrote this whole thing about not letting fear control my life anymore? Well since then, my DH got accepted to a grad school program on the other end of the country, and now I may be eating those words. Fortunately, a few months before the acceptance letter came, we were notified that our landlords intended to put our home up for sale, so I had a few months to practice “house hunting” on much smaller scale before I ended up finding our new “home” across the country.

The first thing I did, was I checked the university’s housing site to scope out “on campus” and “off campus” housing options that were being offered by the school. On campus housing can be a convenient, economical option for single students, and some campuses offer family housing that allow spouses and/or children of their students to live there. On campus housing was not a good fit for us, but looking also helped me gauge about how much to expect to pay for rent in the area we moved to.

Since most of the off campus housing options in the same town were pricier than what I wanted to pay, I researched some of the nearby areas to see if we could get a better deal. Google maps helped us determine that we were staying within a reasonable commuting distance to the school, and we were able to find a “crime map” to give us some peace of mind about the safety of the neighborhoods we were looking at.

After narrowing down areas that we would be willing to live in, I utilized online rental search websites, such as Zillow, Trulia, Forrent, and Craigslist to locate specific listings in the nearby areas that we would be willing to live in. I used the information from these sites to make a list of properties we would be willing to consider and made notes about our individual favorites.

In order to narrow down our list, I called every property on that list to gauge availability for the time we would be arriving. Any listing with invalid phone numbers, property managers that were difficult to get a hold of or took a long time to get back to me, or no known availability around our desired move in date (within 30 days of the date) was taken off the list. This step narrowed down my list to three properties.

At this point, I would normally want to see the properties myself, but since I was too far away, I utilized connections (aka my awesome brother in law and his sweet wife) in the area to come see the three properties on my behalf. If I was without connections, I would have had to wait until DH’s trip to pick out an apartment, since having someone I trust see the properties in person further ensured that our neighborhood was safe, the apartment was up to par, and that I wasn’t victim to any kind of real estate scam.

Based off the feed back I got after the properties were viewed, we were able to pick a favorite and apply for the property. The application process took a few days and required income verification, references, and contacts to current/previous landlords.

Our new apartment is a lot smaller and more basic than the home we left behind, but I am so grateful for the peace of mind I felt after signing our lease, knowing that we at least had secured a place to live and that we were free to handle the more stressful parts of relocating, like packing all of our stuff and job hunting. Do you have any tips for finding housing that I missed? I’d love to read about it in the comments below!

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