As the page on your computer screen refreshes, the apartment of your dreams comes into focus. A balcony juts out from the refined brickwork that makes up the exterior, and to the right a classy French-pane window leads inside the generously sized one-bedroom apartment splashed with soft white walls.
As the page on your computer screen refreshes, the apartment of your dreams comes into focus.
A balcony juts out from the refined brickwork that makes up the exterior, and to the right a classy French-pane window leads inside the generously sized one-bedroom apartment splashed with soft white walls.
Beneath the apartment’s photo and description rests an equally appealing price. That is when you are certain: It is too good to be true.
Immediately you shoot off an e-mail to the landlord, utilizing the same technology that led you to the unbelievable digs.
After a few hours you wonder whether someone will reply to your e-mail, but it is already 7:30 p.m., so you decide it is too late to call the landlord, comforting yourself with the thought that by tomorrow you will have a note in your inbox.
Tomorrow comes but the response does not. A bit frustrated, you pick up the phone and dial the number on the listing. Two rings later, a high-pitched voice fills the other side of the line, “How can I help you?”
With genuine fervor, you explain that you are interested in the apartment. Then comes the nightmare moment many who use the Internet to find housing experience far too often.
“That apartment was actually snatched up yesterday afternoon. I apologize,” utters the woman with the high-pitched voice.
Slamming the phone down, you sigh deeply. There goes your bid for the perfect pad.
But Jessica Van Raden says you only have one person to blame: yourself.
Van Raden, the associate portfolio manager for Guardian Management in Portland, has fielded many of the same e-mails that you fired off upon coming across your picturesque apartment.
“This is a touchy-feely sales field, and e-mail is generally the last thing you look at,” Van Raden said of her priorities when it comes to returning inquiries. “The reason is I feel like [shoppers] have probably looked at 25 different apartments, and have sent e-mails for each.”
According to Van Raden, her colleagues agree that they typically return phone messages nearly immediately, but often wait to respond to an e-mail. This is because an e-mail simply feels more impersonal.
“The biggest push in this industry is being face-to-face,” Van Raden said.
Van Raden said that using the Internet to search for housing is not wrong at all. She “strongly” believes it is best to use the Internet as a tool to narrow your search, but then you should list every place of interest and follow through with phone calls to the landlord or property management company for each.
Another piece of advice that Van Raden passes on to students is being vigilant of tax-credit or income-restricted housing. She said that this designation should be clearly and explicitly stated on any online listing.
“One of the biggest letdowns for students is when they are looking on the Web and come across tax-credit housing–because they don’t qualify,” Van Raden said.
Due to federal law, students are not eligible for tax-credit or income-restricted housing because students are considered transient and those units are reserved as more permanent solutions for either low-income individuals or families.
The catch is these units are generally much cheaper than comparable alternatives, which Van Raden believes is the reason students find them so appealing.
On a more general level, Van Raden said that two of the most common issues students have once they find housing are poor behavior on the part of guests and living with roommates.
“One of the biggest problems is partying and guests,” she said.
Van Raden said it is important for students to be aware that their guests’ behavior could compromise their housing agreements.
In terms of roommates, Van Raden cautions that students choose them wisely, but advises that students live alone, if possible.
“Roommates will fight and then one will leave,” Van Raden said.
When this happens, one individual is usually faced with the financial burden, a reality that Van Raden said she has witnessed numerous times during her stint in the property management field.
“Be very cautious when you make the decision to move in with a roommate, because it can become a nightmare,” Van Raden said.
Other tips worth noting
Check your credit report before applying for an apartment or house“I would suggest all prospective renters get copies of their credit reports at www.annualcreditreport.com and check them for errors. A 2004 PIRG survey estimates that 79 percent of all credit reports have errors,” mortgage-planning specialist Scott Swinford of Northern Indiana said in an e-mail.
Bring all the goods when you go to view a property“Prospective tenants should bring everything they need to sign the lease with them when they go to view a rental property. Often times, if there are several parties interested in a home, it is the person to first complete the rental application and submit the application fee that will get the property,” Douglas Pope, co-founder of HotPads.com, said in an e-mail.
If you choose to send an e-mail, watch for misspellings and use an appropriate address“If someone replies to a Craigslist posting with some outlandish or profane e-mail address or has an e-mail rife with misspellings, informing me of some difficult way to reach them, I am unlikely to call. You want to put forward an image that a landlord thinks represents a responsible, professional person,” Alice Hohl, a landlord in Columbus, Ohio, said in an e-mail.