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Renting a Home in the USA

While many Americans eventually buy a house or an apartment, renting a home in the USA is much more common for expats. Still, finding a place to live can be quite challenging. We have some info on the housing search, the rental agreement, and more on renting in the USA, to help you along the way.
Renting an apartment or a house is less common in the USA than buying property.

Types of Accommodation in the United States

Depending on where in the US you are about to move, there might be different types of rental accommodation available. For instance, houses might be close to impossible to find in New York City if you are on a budget. At the same time, they might be more common and way more affordable in rural Wisconsin. Real estate in the United States includes:

  • Apartments
  • Single family homes (stand-alone houses, often with a small yard)
  • Duplex homes
  • Mansions

In addition, there is the option of house-sharing, of course, that allows you to rent a room in a shared house or apartment. At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself what you can afford and how much you are willing to spend on a rental home.

The Housing Search

Finding a place to rent in the USA is generally not very difficult to do. Even in densely populated areas, there are always homes you can rent both for a short or a long period of time. Before you start the housing search, however, you need to decide how much you wish to spend, what kind of  housing you are looking for, and if you are going to use a real estate agent or conduct the search independently.

Using a Real Estate Agent

Real estate agents in the USA mostly handle homes which are for sale as opposed to rentals. However, that doesn’t mean that it is impossible to enlist the help of a real estate agent. Especially for expats who do not know their way around the local real estate market just yet, this might be a great option. You can try to find some local real estate agents in the yellow pages or check search engines such as

Make sure that you are very clear about what you are looking for and how much you are ready to spend on a rental property, so that your agent can pick a bunch of suitable listings for you. If you are only settling down in the USA for a short term, you should also let them know for how long you are going to rent your new home.

Do It Yourself

Most expats will end up conducting the housing search in the USA on their own. This might be stressful at first, but luckily there are a lot of ways to find a new place to live in the United States. The easiest way to search for property is probably via the internet. There are lots of search engines that allow you to browse rental listings in your new home-to-be. Make sure to take everything that’s said in the ads with a grain of salt. As there is always the threat of fraud, you should never sign a rental agreement without having seen the place first.

Once you have arrived, you can look through local newspapers and magazines for current listings. Also, keep your eyes open for “For Rent” signs and talk to your friends and co-workers. They might know someone who is renting out their property. Other expats are a great source as well, as they might look for someone to take over their lease. Once you have found a home you are interested in, there are a few more steps to take before you can sign the lease.

Asking the Right Questions

First of all, you should check the location of your new dream home and find out if the area is safe. How far do you have to drive to get to work? Are there enough shopping opportunities in the neighborhood? And, if you have children, are there any good schools in the vicinity? Your prospective landlord might be able to answer some of these questions, but you should still do your own research.

Moreover, try to find out how long the property has been for rent and why the last tenants decided to move out. If an apartment or a house has been on the market for a while, there is usually a good reason for it. Whatever this reason is, it might be a deal breaker for you. Another thing you should find out about in advance is if the homes in your neighborhood belong to a Home Owners Association. If this is the case, there might be different rules you have to stick to and maybe even additional fees you have to pay.


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