Posted Jul 11, 2013

Apartment Hunting Tactic: Searching for a Rental in a New City

Finding a new home is tough wherever you are, but it becomes even more of a challenge when you are relocating to a new city and have to conduct your search remotely. While daunting, a successful remote search is possible if you focus your research, set realistic expectations and stay organized throughout the process.

If your budget is fixed, it’s best to start the process by narrowing your search based on what is available within your price range. Lovely’s search experience instantly gives you a complete picture of what’s available and where in your new city. This will help you not only focus your search in areas around the city that you can afford and where listings are readily available, but will also help you learn what types of listings (studios, 1 bed, 2 bed, etc.) are realistic for your budget. To illustrate an example, let’s say you’re moving to San Francisco. With no filters set, your initial search results will display all listings currently available in San Francisco across price points and listing types.

no filters

Start focusing your search by setting your search filters to your maximum budget to see what is available around the city. To continue our example, say you need to stay under $2,000/month in San Francisco and want to view pictures of available listings, your filters would look like this:

filters final

From your search results you can see the areas around the city with the most number of listings that fit your criteria. As you can see, the below results indicate your time is best spent looking in the Northeast, Central East, Northwest and Central West regions of San Francisco. Lovely’s search experience is dynamic, so zooming in on clusters or moving the map will automatically refresh the results, helping you learn more about the cost of renting in your new city as you search.

new filtered search

Once you have an idea of what areas in the city will fit your budget you’ll want to get an understanding of the neighborhoods in those areas and what each of them has to offer so you can gauge which areas best fit your needs. For example, if you don’t own a car you’ll need a neighborhood located near public transportation. StreetAdvisor is a great resource for neighborhood information, offering commentary written by locals on the resident makeup of neighborhoods, accessibility to conveniences and details about all the nuances of the neighborhood, like noise level, family-friendliness, cleanliness and more. You can also use Yelp and Google Maps for more specific neighborhood information searches, such as looking up where coffee shops, Italian restaurants, bus lines or laundromats are located in the neighborhood.

By now, you’ll have narrowed down several neighborhoods in the city that fit both your budget and your living style. Progress! At this point, it’s time to get serious about identifying and contacting properties.

Setting alerts for each of your desired neighborhoods will ensure you’re notified as soon as a listing that meets your needs becomes available.

alerts view

Once you’ve identified a listing you’d like to pursue you can contact the property with a single-click from any listing page via Lovely or Lovely for iPhone. Make sure to complete your Lovely Renter Card before you send messages so landlords can view your renter credentials upfront as a way to immediately establish a personal connection and stand out from the competition.


Since you’re not local (yet) and may not be able to immediately arrange a viewing, it’s best to tailor your message upon first contact emphasizing your interest in the listing and flexibility in working through details of the process. We strongly advise you plan a visit to see the apartment in person, but if you are absolutely unable to arrange it, enlist the help of a friend who is local to check out the place to avoid any risk of scam. In order to protect yourself from scam, never wire money or pay for anything you, or a trustworthy friend, has not seen in person. For more information on how to conduct a secure rental search, check out our post on the topic here.

You’ll want to be prepared to send the landlord proof of income, usually in the form of a job offer letter or pay stubs, along with previous landlord references. If all goes well, it’s time to apply! Again, do not pay an application fee unless you or a friend you can trust has viewed the property in person and do not pay a security deposit until you’ve signed the lease. Once you’ve submitted an application, it’s a good time to refer to Lovely’s Playlist for Renters and listen to a few tunes while you wait to hear back from the landlord.

If you plan to ship your belongings to your new city, FedEx, UPS and the USPS all offer delivery confirmation and tracking services so you can make sure your stuff arrives when you do.

We have full confidence that by keeping your expectations realistic, focusing your search and staying organized you’ll be packing your bags in no time!



Elizabeth is the Communications & Marketing Lead at Lovely where she helps spread the word about Lovely's mission far and wide. She loves corgis, Beyonce and helping renters enjoy the best possible experience in their homes.

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