Military Online Rentals - Renting Online
The term “slum lords” is typically used for poorly run management groups, which often have expensive rents and low quality housing. We like to think these companies don’t exist, but unfortunately they do exist and usually prey on military families. To help you avoid this nightmare, I have put together a few tips on how to find military rentals online.
In our last two moves, we were looking to rent and both times we did not do a house hunting trip. It wasn’t feasible and we didn’t have the time. Here is what I did, where I looked, and how I started my online home rental search.
Top 10 Tips for Renting Online
Tip #1 - Talk to the other military families
Join Facebook groups in your new location, talk to people on twitter, read reviews on MilitaryTownAdvisor.com. These groups can give great advice, but be careful because some of their advice might not fit your situation. Talk to other military families and find out about property management companies before you sign a contract. These low quality property management companies know military families need housing quickly and sometimes on extremely short notice. Unfortunately, military families don’t have the benefit of using a real estate agent who is a long time family friend and someone they know and trust. If I were in my home town, we would have bought a house through a real estate agent who went to my church or was in my mom’s bunco group. This however is not an option when you’re moving cross country and buying isn’t always the best choice either. This may leave you renting from a random property management company.
Tip #2 - Research the landlord & tenant laws of your new state and city
This will help you become familiar with the proper practices of a good property management group and, hopefully, help you weed out the poor management companies I discussed earlier.
Tip #3 –Research the location of your next duty station
Where is the Base? Where is this new town located? What is the layout of the land? Where will my spouse be working? I think it is important to use Google Maps, Streetview, and aerial view and answer some of these questions. I also like to use the Chamber of Commerce and Visitor websites to get free info.
Tip #4 – Figure out commute times
What is the commute like? In some towns, a 12 mile commute is 12 minutes, while in other towns, it's a 55 minute drive. It’s important to know the traffic patterns of where you’re thinking about living.
Tip #5 – Research the crime rates surrounding online rentals
Use a “crime rate map” to research areas surrounding the online rental. I’ve used these sites NeighborhoodScout and SpotCrime for our last move. This is something I didn’t know to look for the first time we moved. I am very thankful nothing bad happened in our first complex. I now know to research crime rates ahead of time.
Tip #6 - Research schools aligned to the rental
Some states have charter schools (which are normally free or extremely cheap privately run schools) which may be a great opportunity for your child. Many private and charter schools require you to enroll or apply before March 30th each year, some even earlier. Planning ahead never hurts. Know where the good school cut off lines are, it might be worth an extra $200 a month for the best elementary school in town. Learn how to find schools aligned to a specific address.
I don't have kids, but I was a school teacher and I have extremist views on education. Whether you have kids or not, it’s very important to research schools aligned to potential rentals.
Tip #7 – Set a Budget
Plan ahead and begin talking with your spouse about the new town, new BAH, and new prices for utilities. Moving is always expensive so start saving now and have a plan for when you move.
Find your new BAH here.
It’s been my experience in Florida and Arizona that our electric bills were extremely high during the summer. Our internet bill went from about $25 to $65 for a lesser quality internet. If you can contact people in the area you will be moving to, find out what cable and internet providers they use. Maybe you can even get a referral discount or coupon.
Tip #8 – Start your online housing search
Here is a list of housing websites you can use for general searches. Each town will have its own large area MLS site. It’s important to find it and use it.
Zillow.com - I think its super easy to use. I can send a link to a friend with the touch of a button.
AHRN.com - I also like this site, it is not as user friendly, but it does have approved management companies on there. If the rentals are too run down or not up to the military standards, they are not allowed to advertise on the site.
Militarybyowner.com - This site offers both buying and renting options from other military members.
Craigslist.com can help you find some true locally owned gems. However you need to remember people are scammed daily on this site.
Property managers should have a physical local address, phone number, and fax machine number. I like to see if they’re on the Best Business Bureau. It’s best to remember with property management companies, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is."
Tip #9 – Get current pictures
Oh those photos say so much.
Look for recent photos or ask the property management company if they will take current photos. If the photos are from 2009, who knows what the rental is going to look like today.
Look for little broken items such as cabinets with off doors, drawers that are missing, or knobs missing on a stove. On a side note, (this happened to us) if there is a large gap in the lower cabinets next to the kitchen sink it is NOT a “kitchen desk space.” It is where a dishwasher is supposed to go. Yes, kitchens can have computers, but not a foot from the sink. I truly believe a good property manager will have things clean and in proper order before listing a home.
Also, there shouldn’t be trash in the yard of the property online. Someone should have picked it up. Also the landscaping should be kept up before you move in.
Use Google maps 'Streetview' and aerial view to walk around the neighborhood. What does the rest of the area look like? Also how far is the nearest grocery store, pharmacy, emergency room?
Tip #10 - Research neighbors
Research local family composition, income, household comparisons, and age of population at Claritas.com.
Good luck! I hope these 10 Tips help you find a good online rental! Don't stress too much, everything will work out. :)
About the Author
Whitney, Navy Wife
Whitney is a graduate of Southern Illinois University, dog mom to two rambunctious dogs, and a Navy Wife. Currently living in the Pensacola, FL area and has been previously stationed with her husband in Tucson, AZ. A social craftaholic with a Pinterest problem. Tweet her @WAMartin11. Read her blog Eek! Moving Again!