Renting an Apartment Without Seeing It First

One of our biggest pieces of advice for people who are looking for a new place to live is to always, always, always make sure to visit the place in person before making a decision. Signing a lease without checking out an apartment is asking for trouble! You could be stuck in a miserable one year lease for a place you hate, all because you found yourself renting sight unseen.

What does this all mean?

Let’s tackle some preliminary vocabulary first. When are “renting sight unseen,” it means you have entered a lease or rental agreement without actually physically visiting the home beforehand and are now promising to pay rent for an entire year (or however long your lease is). As you can see, this is not something we advise.

The problems you can encounter go beyond showing up to a place that just doesn’t look like the pictures you saw online. Without checking out an apartment in person, you may discover that the neighborhood isn’t as safe as you expected or that there’s a bar downstairs that blast techno music until 4 AM every night of the week or that your neighbors cook strange foods that stink up the hallways, making your living room smell like pork forever, all the time.

Online research only reveals so much about a place and while photos may be worth a thousand words, they still leave some gaping holes in the story. Visiting a home fills in the blanks, helping you decide if what you uncovered was actually too good to be true.

Exceptions to the Rule

Unfortunately, there may be times when you find yourself in a situation where you are forced to pick a place to live without checking it out. Maybe you’re moving across the country for a new job and only have a few weeks to find a home.

The good news is that if you are in a circumstance when you have to rent apartment sight unseen, there are a few ways to make your apartment search as thorough as possible. While completing these tasks may seem time-intensive, they may pay off in the long run, even if it means you have to spend some time in  a hotel or on a friend’s couch until you’ve found a place to live.

Research is the Key

Since you can’t physically be in the apartment, it’s crucial that you have as much information as possible so you can get a feel for the place. Ask the landlord for photos with timestamps and request a Skype walkthrough. Everyone now has a smartphone – can the landlord or broker FaceTime you and give you a video tour?

Hop onto Google maps, check out Street View and explore the area. Are there restaurants and parks nearby? Is the neighborhood clean? Figure out exactly how close the Chinese takeout is. This is important for late night snacking, but also estimating whether your apartment will smell like Sesame chicken year-round.

Ask Your Friends to Lend a Hand

Do you have friends living in the area to which you are moving? Enlist them to be your eyes and ears, and of course, reward them handsomely. Bribe them with dinner and drinks, then ask them to check out potential apartments for you, taking copious notes and snapping pictures! If you’re moving in with roommates you’ve never met, be sure to at least talk to them on the phone. In the age of social media, you can check out their Facebook pages to get a feel for what they’re like and if you’d be a good match

As you can tell, renting an apartment without seeing it first is sometimes a risk that you have to take but with some diligent research and open mind, it could be just fine!

—  blog provided by our pals over at
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