The trouble with finding a rental in a totally new place is that you don’t know where the good (or bad) locations are, what a decent rental price is, or even what kind of standards there are. (Like, am I just having bad luck, or are 80% of the houses there over half a century old??)
Add that on top of not being able to really look at these houses, and I’m feeling really vulnerable. My mom’s telling me one story where a woman signed a lease only for the real homeowner to come back from vacation a month later, and all the rental sites are warning me “beware of scams!” How, exactly, am I supposed to combat this?
It’s possible to get a decent idea of a potential rental, actually… even if you don’t know the exact address.
Don’t Waste Your Time Without Photos
First, I won’t even consider a rental if the ad doesn’t have photos up. These can already be really revealing about the layout of a house and the quality it’s in. (Just try not to let the dirt or clutter of a remaining resident get to you. You can control that aspect.)
Use Google Maps to Find the Address
Almost all rentals will at least give you a general idea of where they are: some nearby landmarks, or a cross street. Look at the photo of the front of the house and go into Google Maps’ Street View.
Use the cross streets provided to narrow down your search area. The photo of the front of the house may reveal some details: corner lot, no houses behind it, across from a stream, etc. These can help you search targeted areas.
Once you find the property on the map, Google will give you at least an approximate address. It doesn’t need to be exact, we can use a nearby one to find the exact address.
Search Your Local Property Appraiser Site
Well, now we’ve stalked our may-be-future-landlords a bit. I’d say we are on the right track! Next up: Google ____ (county) Property Appraiser. You can search the database by address.
If you happened to not be able to get an exact address from Google, just search one end of the range they gave you and then pick one of the addresses. Now zoom out of your Google map, figure out which house it is from the top-down view, and scroll down in your property appraiser site. If you’re lucky, there’s a clickable map. Click the house you need!
Sometimes I’d end up way in the wrong place and have to scroll around both maps until I could match them up, and slowly just search for the house manually. That sucked. And was the result of each a faulty property search or multiple streets with the same address.
This site will give you lots of awesome information, even if it’s a little hard to read at first:
- Appraised Value
- Square Footage
- Sorta, kinda about the layout and features, but not much internal, just things like carports, garages, pools
And, really importantly, who the house belongs to! Why am I talking to John Fuller when the owner of this house is Sarah McCaw?? Who is John Fuller? Good question. You may want to find out. Because I’m not signing a lease with anyone but Sarah McCaw.