Earlier this year, I found myself in a bit of a pickle. I was selling my current home, but our new home wouldn’t be ready for another four months. So I needed somewhere for my family of five to live in the interim. We’d been planning this for a several months, and we thought we’d have no problem getting a rental -- we thought we’d just rent an apartment for that time period. It would be fun, we imagined, to have access to a pool and a gym and who knows what else! If it was small and the kids had to share rooms, no big deal, it’s only for four months, right?
But then coronavirus arrived and suddenly we were ALL home ALLLLL THE TIME. After about a week of this, the idea of being crammed into a small apartment with no yard and no amenities we could safely use sounded *a lot* less appealing.
So our search changed. And we quickly realized there were several things to consider that we did not quite appreciate back when we were an apartment-focused, happy-go-lucky family.
Here’s what we learned from the process.
Check multiple rental sites. Rentals are not always listed on all sites, and in fact, MANY are listed only on one site. So be sure you’re checking them all and viewing them regularly. For our area (Denver) and the type of rental I was looking for, Zillow and Trulia were the best sites for rental homes, but you should do a Google search for rental homes and see what comes up for your area. Then test them out to see which ones offer the most homes that fit your criteria. Use those.
Consider vacation homes. An alternative to an actual “rental house” might be a vacation home. This is what we ultimately chose. Try VRBO or Airbnb. Don’t be alarmed at the listed price. Right now, a lot of those vacation homes are sitting vacant, and might remain so for quite some time. Nervous vacation-goers and business travelers are all cancelling their reservations in favor of staying safe at home. But the owners of those vacation homes still have to pay the mortgage, so they may TOTALLY be willing to consider a lower price point if you’re committing to a few months’ stay. It might be just enough to get them through this rough patch where *nobody* is booking. Decide what your best offer is, contact the owner, and just ask if they’ll consider renting to you for $X amount. See what they say. The worst that can happen is they’ll turn you down, in which case you’re no worse off than you were before.
Be prepared for rejection. Depending on your area, rentals can lease up quick. If you see one you’re interested in, send an inquiry about it right away. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t immediately hear back, some management companies and owners respond *much* faster than others. Also, rental homes are often looking for at least a one-year lease, so if you need a shorter lease term, be prepared to pay (possibly a lot) more than the listed price. And that’s if they’ll even consider renting to you – unfortunately, we found that most owners won’t. (On the flip side, many vacation homes won’t allow more than a one-month rental term, which leaves us short-term renters in a lurch.)
Make it part of your routine. Once you’ve figured out your favorite sites, make a habit of checking them each day for new listings. If they have an option to receive alerts, sign up for that.
Track it. I inquired about so many rentals, they quickly started getting jumbled in my head. After all, I still had school schedules, work schedules, packing and the coronavirus pandemic to keep track of. Maintain a running list of the properties you’ve contacted so you know which is which when you do get a response.
Once you’ve narrowed it down to the properties you like best, schedule the tours, make a decision as quickly as you can, sign the contract and MOVE ON. You’ve got lots more things to focus on!