Virtual Rent Hunting: What to Know Before You Search for Your Next Rental

by Carson BuckDecember 14, 2016

Online Rental Listings Help You Search Smarter

If you’re like most people seeking a new place to rent, the Internet will likely be the first place you’ll look. Searching online for a rental lets you broaden your search to include more potential listings, and to narrow down your results to find only the places that fit your needs.

But there are a few things you should know before you go looking for your next home online, and some items to cross off your list before you rent any place, whether you’ve found it on the Internet or by other means.

how to find a rental online

Find the Best Sources

First things first: you have to know where to look, especially if you’re searching for a home in a competitive rental market. In cities where desirable rentals go quickly, it’s best to use more than one source. Classifieds sites like Craigslist and your local newspaper’s website may be out of date by the time you attempt to make contact, and they may not include all the information you’ll need to make a smart decision. Because of this, you’d do well to include a trusted source like Homes.com’s rental listings.

Get to Know the Neighborhood

If you’re familiar with the city where you’re looking, then you may already have a pretty good sense of most neighborhoods. But if you’re browsing from a distance, then it makes sense to check up on areas where potential rentals are located. Look at crime maps. Read reviews on the local schools. Seek out information in forums, and if you have anyone in your network that might be able to give you the local’s perspective on a particular neighborhood, ask them for input.

Know the Local Market

If you’re coming from a city where available rentals sit on the market for extended periods, then you may be in for a shock when moving to a city where they go quickly. If your house hunt is part of a long-distance move, do your homework so you know what to expect when you arrive and can make arrangements for interim accommodations while you’re looking.

Can You Sublet Spare Rooms?

These days, lots of homeowners and renters are cutting costs by renting spare rooms out to users of AirBNB and other sharing economy lodging sites. You might also be considering taking on a full-time roommate to help make ends meet. But before you bank on rental income as a source of revenue, you’d better be certain that subletting won’t violate your lease, or you and your lodgers could end up looking for a new place to stay.

how to find a rental online

What Does Rent Cover?

Some landlords include things like garbage and utilities in the monthly rent payment. Others expect you to pay for those things yourself. And some apartment complexes include access to shared spaces such as gyms, swimming pools, and common social areas, while others consider those to be paid extras. Make sure you know what your rent includes, so you can budget accordingly for extra expenses.

Is Parking Included With Your Rental?

If you’re renting a single-family home, then you probably won’t have to worry about parking. However, many apartment complexes charge extra for parking, and some (especially in denser urban areas) don’t offer parking at all. That might not be a worry if you bike everywhere or prefer to take light rail, but if your lifestyle is dependent on convenient access to a car, it can be a major inconvenience.

how to find a rental online

How Much Will It Cost to Move In? Or Move Out?

Unless this is the first time you’ve searched for a home to rent, you probably know that moving in tends to be a bit more expensive than one month’s rent. Some landlords and property management companies charge two month’s rent up front, plus a security and cleaning deposit. And if you have less-than-ideal credit, you could be in for a bigger security deposit, as well. The bottom line: before you commit to renting a new home, know how much money you’ll need to close the deal.

Check Your Landlord’s Reviews

If you’ve never had the misfortune of renting from an unscrupulous landlord, take a moment to appreciate your good fortune. Now, here’s a tip from the rest of us: check up on your landlord before you sign anything. If a property management company manages your new home, check their rating with the BBB and read their online reviews. If you’re renting from a private individual, run a criminal background check, talk to other tenants, and make sure the property isn’t due for foreclosure.

Read the Contract, Then Read It Again

Of all the pieces of advice in this article, this one might be the most important: read your contract. Twice. Make absolutely sure you know exactly what your lease entails. Being clear on the terms of your lease will help you avoid getting in trouble, and you’ll be able to hold your landlord accountable for any missteps that might occur on their end.

how to find a rental online

Happy Hunting!

Yeah – we know. Finding a new home to rent can be stressful, but look at it this way: soon, you’ll have a brand new place to call home. We hope these tips help you find the perfect place, and we’d be happy to show you some of our great rental listings. Best of luck!


Homes.com is the place to dream and discover your ideal home! Are you starting to get the itch to look for your first or next home, but don’t know where to start? You’ve come to the right place! Browse our real estate and lifestyle blog for home buying tips, mortgage guides, DIY ideas, interior design, lifestyle topics, general home inspiration, or just some homes fun. We are sure you can scratch that itch and find all the information and tools you need to help in your home search. Want to start looking at available real estate right now? Head to our home page and check out homes for sale or rent listings all over the country. Happy house hunting!

About The Author
Carson Buck
Carson is a real estate agent based out of the Phoenix area. In this day and age of online research, Carson loves interpreting data and market research in order to make sure his clients have the best possible chance of finding and successfully buying the home they love. He is passionate about seeing that the buying process is as smooth as possible, and claims that there is no better feeling than handing over the keys to a new home.

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