Lets get started with some terminologies that I am going to use in my post below:
- Apartments – Coming from India, you most likely know what an apartment means. They are residential complex in a multistory or 2/3 floor duplex/row houses. The difference in US being that all the houses in an apartment complex are owned by a Real Estate firm/agency. There are no individual landlords/owners and in most cases these are professionally run leasing companies.
- Condominiums (or just Condo) – They are individually owned residential units. They can be a residential complex of any kind like multi-story flat, row houses, townhouses etc.
- Townhouse – This is a type of residential units which are usually 2/3 story residential units which look quite similar to row houses in India. They can be either individually or leasing firm owned.
- Single Family House – This is again a type of residential unit that has open space on all four sides and is not attached to any other structure. Think of them being similar to a single bunglow with open space all round in India.
Type of rental house (Townhouse, Apartment/Flat, Single Family House) – Depending upon your family size and needs you may choose any of the available house types. Keep in mind that people usually tend to rent houses bigger than they actually need. Be mindful of that and stay away from such advice. If you have kids and want a play area within your house itself, single family house is your safest option. Or if you are a young couple or single and want to enjoy downtown life, you could rent an apartment/flat.
Also note that houses are not referred to as 1BHK, 2BHK while referring to their floor plan. Instead, the terminology used here is ‘1Bed 1Bath’, ‘2Bed 1Bath’ etc.
Budget: Sometimes you do not care as much about the type of house than you do for your budget (and rightly so). The general rule of thumb in US is that one should be able to afford upto 25% of his take home salary. But you can always rent a home for much less than that in most cases. For eg, depending upon the area, a ‘1Bed 1Bath’ apartment/condo can cost from $700 per month in a suburb to $1800 per month in a downtown (or even more in somecases). This is just a rough estimate. Do your research for your area and you should be able to figure a rough estimate easily.
Search Options: Craigslist(CL) is still one of the most popular way of search house rental listing options. However suprising it may be to find out that Craigslist still uses a 1990s website design, around 70-80% of all the listings can be found here. Go to www.craigslist.com and choose your area and look for houses under Apartment/Housing. You can also look for ads under Sublets, housing swaps etc.
Apart from CL, www.rent.com is also getting popular these days. In most cases, the listing on these websites are updated on a daily basis by rental agencies and the rates are current for that day (Note that the rents can change daily depending on no. of factors like demand, supply, weekday, etc). Call up the real estate agencies and they will be happy to setup an appointment to checkout the apartments.
If you are looking for roommates (and that too Desi preferrably) or looking for a short term lease, Sulekha US Edition, is also an option. Apart from all these options, do not forget to check rental listing forums within your company. They are also a good and reliable source of house rental Ads.
Amenities: Your house hunt will be deeply influenced by accessibility to amenities like Grocery stores, Transit/bus stops etc. The proximities to basic amenities is measured by ‘Walk Score’ and ‘Transit Score’. You can look up these for any community on the website www.walkscore.com. The walkscore is usually measured out of 100 and anything over 50 is usually a good score. But if you have a car, walkscore might not matter as much.
Schools: Every area/community in US is assigned a public school and all children living in that area can only go that assigned public school. Public schools are government owned but much better standard as compared to govt. run schools in India. The private schools in US are quite costly and can cost easily from 1K-2K per month.
Since the quality of public schools might vary, you might want to choose your house in an area which is assigned a good public school. To find the public school in any area, you can look up www.greatschools.org/school-district-boundaries-map/. Each school is rated out of 10 and usually 8 or above are good schools.
Before signing lease: Once you have decided upon your rental house, keep these things in mind before signing on the lease. The lease terms are very strict here in US and leasing firms or landlords enforce and deal with it in quite professional manner. So if possible, read the lease document through. Specifically, look for lease breaking agreement, move out charges, Sub-lease options, security deposits. Also, note down any breakages, scratches, carpet stains etc on the lease before you move-in. I have heard number of cases where people are surprised by move-out charges because they did not call out these while moving in.
Happy searching !!!