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Dearest Gradcafe,

I have accepted an offer to study in Canada beginning in September, 2017.  I live in the US and as such have experienced the difficulties of trying to secure housing from 1,500+ miles away.  I found quite a nice place near to the campus which matches all of my criteria.  I wonder whether or not anyone has experience in a similar situation.  I will almost surely be unable to visit the place before moving to my new city permanently in the beginning of August.  I am confident I'll be able to send either my advisor or fellow graduate student to view the place in my absence to verify that the house matches the description and photos listed online.  I'm also hoping to arrange for a Skype meeting with the current tenant who's renting the room.  Has anyone rented a place from a distance?  Did you pay a deposit/rent from afar?  Obviously I'm aware of the legitimate advise that one should never rent a place or exchange money in anticipation of renting a place without first seeing the place in person.  Thank you for your advice in advance!

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I've done this when I had someone I trusted see the place in person and take pictures or a video. It worked out, but there are obvious risks. There was always a reputable management company that I could read up on online, not just a private person. First time I signed electronically and gave the deposit when I arrived (I was overseas). More recently I signed electronically and mailed the deposit check and first month's rent. 

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Go see it if you can. I ended up living in a pretty horrible place because I couldn't get a proper look at the place. My flatmates and I ended up hating everything and each other owing to our situation 

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7 minutes ago, JGradSchool said:

Go see it if you can. I ended up living in a pretty horrible place because I couldn't get a proper look at the place. My flatmates and I ended up hating everything and each other owing to our situation 

I appreciate the insight, but traveling to the city is financially infeasible for me.  

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I did when I moved to my first post-grad school job. It wasn't worth the cost to fly back and look at places. That said, I did have some of my department colleagues check the place out, and I was renting from someone they referred me to. Was still a bit of a leap in the dark, but I signed the lease/sent the first months rent and deposit, and it turned out to be quite nice.

I think the keys are making sure the landlord is reputable, making sure the lease is good, and getting someone to go see the place for you.

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1 minute ago, mathsnotmath said:

I appreciate the insight, but traveling to the city is financially infeasible for me.  

Yeah, then go with fuzzylogician's advice. Get as much first hand info as you can. I would also recommend on reading up on tenants rights and building standards. In most cases I would guess it's not necessary but better safe than sorry eh

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The other thing is to try to negotiate a short lease. 

I was able to negotiate a 6 mo lease on a new place that I wasn't sure about when I first moved to my grad school city. I figured with that short of a lease, I could either eat the cost of leaving early if it was horrible, or make due for a short period of time.

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21 minutes ago, JGradSchool said:

Yeah, then go with fuzzylogician's advice. Get as much first hand info as you can. I would also recommend on reading up on tenants rights and building standards. In most cases I would guess it's not necessary but better safe than sorry eh

Wish I could give extra +1's for the gratuitous "eh" :)

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I'm doing that very thing now. I was contacted on the department list-serv by the tenant/grad student after I had made a "looking" post. After I said I was interested in the house, he gave my information to his landlord, a former English professor. We communicated via email and phone about various things. I was unable to travel to the city to look at the house in person, as it was graduation week. I received pictures from the student-tenant of the whole inside of the house. Finally, we agreed to be landlord/tenant and signed a lease. I gave him the deposit and when I move in will provide him with a rental check. This was a pretty safe bet, but there were a few things I did to make sure the house in the pictures was a real place. First, I went to the department website and looked at the grad students to make sure the student I was talking to was an actual grad student, although he had access to the list-serv and I was reasonably assured he was. Next, I searched the address on Google and Zillow which both have pictures of the outside of the property. Finally, I went to the real property records of the county, which were online, and did a search of the property to make sure it was owned by the person I had been talking to on the phone and via email. I ended up with a nice house in a historic area within blocks of campus.

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On 7/7/2017 at 3:54 PM, mathsnotmath said:

Dearest Gradcafe,

I have accepted an offer to study in Canada beginning in September, 2017.  I live in the US and as such have experienced the difficulties of trying to secure housing from 1,500+ miles away.  I found quite a nice place near to the campus which matches all of my criteria.  I wonder whether or not anyone has experience in a similar situation.  I will almost surely be unable to visit the place before moving to my new city permanently in the beginning of August.  I am confident I'll be able to send either my advisor or fellow graduate student to view the place in my absence to verify that the house matches the description and photos listed online.  I'm also hoping to arrange for a Skype meeting with the current tenant who's renting the room.  Has anyone rented a place from a distance?  Did you pay a deposit/rent from afar?  Obviously I'm aware of the legitimate advise that one should never rent a place or exchange money in anticipation of renting a place without first seeing the place in person.  Thank you for your advice in advance!

Lol, I rented my first apartment 5000 miles away. I feel you. My first year I opted for a university-endorsed complex fairly off campus but with a campus shuttle, a bank, post office, and grocery store within walking distance. Another time I also did the renting from abroad and had about seven Skype interviews. They are great for getting a sense of the space, so ask for house tours! Sometimes pictures can make something look brighter or bigger. I remember a room in a house in a great location but the room was significantly smaller than I thought. 

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I did the same long-distance thing, and I'm hoping it won't backfire on me! I was looking on craigslist for rooms for rent in a house. I only considered ads for place with all female housemates, plentiful photos, and well-written descriptions. I set up Skype interviews with the potential housemates, and they gave me a video of the house. I'm feeling pretty confident about it, especially with google earth to scope out the neighborhood and Facebook to research my potential housemates.

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I rented from afar without visiting first, and it worked out fine for me. I rented from a known management company, not an individual, and asked the leasing office to give me a skype tour of the apartment, which they did. I did all of the paperwork and paid the deposit through the mail without issue. 

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I would definitely recommend being able to get your advisor or a fellow classmate who is already there to tour the apartment for you prior to signing any lease. I would also recommend finding out any information you can online about the complex, especially if you can find any tenant reviews. 

I was lucky enough to have a few days to visit the area I am moving to for grad school before I signed a lease. I researched a lot beforehand, and I found a management company that I thought was going to be perfect for me. I scoped out several of their properties ahead of time. When I got to the area I was looking in, I noticed the exterior of these apartments looked very rundown. I wound up not even touring any of their apartments. There was another apartment that looked great that I toured and enjoyed, but the manager was really rude, and I wouldn't have known that unless I toured the property. The apartment I finally settled on wasn't originally my first choice, but I wound up going with them, because the location was the best, and the staff were absolutely phenomenal. 

Hopefully you're able to find a place! Good luck 

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