Relocating overseas when you have a young family is both exciting and terrifying. Your children will get to experience a new country, state or neighborhood and you get to put your stamp on a new apartment. Older kids don’t have to miss out on what is happening back home! With modern messaging apps such as Whatsapp and social media, they can keep in touch with all of their old friends. They really can have the best of both worlds.
Now all you have to do is find a lovely place for you to live. Here is your complete guide to finding an apartment when you move overseas with your family.
Questions to ask yourself about your new apartment
When you are looking to rent an apartment for your family in any new city, you need to ask yourself some questions.
What location do you want to live in? To some extent, this will be determined by the amount of money that you have to spend on monthly rent so it is important that you work out a budget first. Normally you will have to pay for a deposit, insurance, and utilities on top of the rent so don't overstretch yourself. The location needs to be pleasant, family friendly and safe. You will need good access to public transportation and stores as well as medical facilities. Are there good schools nearby?
Then decide on the number of bedrooms that you need for your family. This will be determined by the number of children you have, if they are willing to share and whether you have frequent guests. Your family will want to visit you at some stage and a spare room will be very useful if you can afford one.
Do you have a preference for which floor you live on? This is a very personal choice. Some people do not like living at a height whilst others have no problem with it. What type of lease are you looking for? If you need a month to month lease, only look at places that will allow month to month tenancy.
Finding apartments to shortlist
Once you are sure about your requirements you can search online for an apartment that will fulfill your needs. This saves you a lot of legwork because this site provides a lot of information about the apartment including its facilities, location map, layout plan, and dimensions. Using this information, you can compile a list of five or so apartments that you would like to view.
Keep an open mind at this stage. You may have to make compromises in order in select one.
Your first viewing
During you first viewing you can get a ‘feel’ for the apartment and decide if you can picture your family living there. There are also structural issues that you should be looking for:
- Is the apartment clean and does it look as if it has been well-maintained?
- Are there any signs that the apartment is infested with insects or vermin? This would be a good time to ask about vermin-control contacts that apply to the whole apartment block.
- Are there any signs that any of the pipes are leaking? This will be obvious from water stains on the floor, walls, or ceilings.
- Are the bathroom and kitchen fixtures secure and well-fitted?
- Are there any cracks in the walls, floors, or ceilings that could indicate a structural issue?
- How is the apartment supplied with hot water? Has this been recently serviced and inspected for safety?
- Is the air conditioning/heating unit in a good condition? Ask them to turn it on if it has been turned off.
- Is the lighting suitable for your needs and are there sufficient electrical outlets?
- Is the ventilation working correctly? If there are odors in the flat this could indicate that something is going wrong.
Overall, you need to decide if the apartment provides good value for the monthly rent that is being requested. The quality of rental units varies greatly and this is why it is important to view several before you make a decision.
Don't forget about the shared, or common, areas as they are also very important. Are the corridors, stairs, elevators, and hallways clean, and well-maintained? The exterior of the building tells you a lot about how well-maintained the property is. Look for cracks and signs of wear and tear that have not been repaired. If there is a yard or shared garden, ask who has the responsibility for maintaining it.
Discussions with the landlord
The initial viewing may be conducted by a property management agent or by the landlord themselves. Either way, it gives you a good opportunity to see if you are happy with the way in which they react to queries about the property. If they are very defensive or dismissive when you point out problems with the department your tenant-landlord relationship could be problematic.
If you like both the apartment and the landlord, it is worth having a discussion about problems that you have identified and how they could be rectified before you move in. There are legally required minimum standards for rented property in all countries and you can find out which ones apply to you on government and other websites. If you can, get an agreement in writing that the work will be done before you move in. If this is not possible, get an agreement in writing that they will be done by a specified date after you have moved in. Take photographs of the faults and have a written agreement of exactly what will be done to rectify them.
Check out the neighborhood
Once you have completed the viewing, take a walk around the area. Then come back again in the evening! It is important that you see what it is like at different times of the day. Pop into a few local stores and strike up a conversation with the person who is serving you.
Think through the practicalities of living there. Check that you can get to work easily and that the kids can get to school. Think about which park you will take them to and which cafes and restaurants you will want to eat out at. Where will you shop for groceries and which gym will you use?
Setting up the tenancy
Once you have made your decision, you need to set up a formal rental agreement but you may need to complete a written rental application before the legal documents can be prepared.
A rental application is similar to applying for a loan. It is used to check out your financial circumstances. At this stage, you may be charged a fee for credit, reference, and legal checks. This is due to the government or private agencies that supply this information charging fees to the landlord.
The fee may not be refundable if you are refused the tenancy so make sure that all your affairs are in order before you apply. Find out how long will it take the landlord to get a copy of your credit report.
It can take some time for the credit report and references to be completed so you may have to use temporary accommodation such as a hotel the formalities are completed.
A typical apartment rental application could ask for:
- Details of your current and previous addresses
- Details of your previous and current employment
- Details of the people who will be acting as your referees
- Your salary/income details
- Your social security/tax number
- Your bank account details
You will probably be asked to sign an authorization for the landlord to conduct a credit report which will reveal if you have any unresolved financial problems.
It is understandable that the landlord wants to establish that you have a proven history of paying your rent and all your other bills on time. If there are likely to be any issues with your credit check you should find this out before hand by accessing the information yourself. If there are any issues on the report, such as an allegation of an unpaid credit card bill that you have actually paid, you can present the evidence to prove this.
Signing the lease/tenancy agreement
Once all the background checks have been carried out, you and the landlord can sign the formal legal document that sets up the tenancy. It will set out the terms of the agreement and list the rights and responsibilities of each of you.
Typically, it will specify the term (length) of the agreement and the amount of rent and on what day it should be paid. It will clearly state if you are allowed to have pets or sublet the apartment. It will also set out what you need to do in terms of maintaining the apartment and what the landlord will do.
Read this very carefully and get a legal expert to check it over for you. Now you can have the keys to your new apartment and start your new life!