There are many ways to find housing in the U.S., depending on where you are moving, and what you are looking for.
-- Real estate agencies (Century 21, ReMax, Sotheby’s, Prudential, Coldwell Banker etc.), are linked by the Multiple Listing System (MLS), and will give you access to all the same addresses. It is important to have a good relationship with your real estate agent (or broker), and choose a bilingual agent when available that can better assist you in your search. Real estate agents receive about 15% of the annual rent. Their fees are generally paid by the owner, but different conditions may require the tenant to pay, especially in metropolitan areas.
-- Advertisements are found in the real estate section of local newspapers. Special real estate magazines, often available for free on the street can also be an alternative. Ads that do not mention a specific real estate agency will generally mean that you will be dealing directly with the owner.
-- Internet websites can serve as a place to exchange information, or consult general listings. For example, Craig’s List (www.craigslist.org ) has a website for every major American city (and international city), where people can post ads, and consult them for free. This is often used to find roommates, which is increasingly popular for young people, especially in larger cities.
Choosing a Place to Live
-- Choosing where you live is often determined by schools. The American school system is quite diverse, and the quality of the schools is related to local taxes, so oftentimes weathy communities have better schools than poorer ones. However, commuting distance, leisure activities, shopping centers, local taxes and a host of other factors should also be considered before choosing a location. Most state laws require that apartments or houses be painted and clean when rented. Kitchens are generally well equipped with all appliances (refrigerator, oven, stove, washer and dryer, and dish washer). In some apartment buildings, the washer and dryers are in the lobby, and accessible to all tenants. Maintaining most of these appliances is the resonsibility of the landlord.
-- Most apartments require a security deposit (refundable subject to conditions) and a month's rent due before your move-in date. Some complexes charge for additions like parking space, additional cable subscriptions, pool views and pets. Although most of the rental or lease terms will have been discussed before, be sure to read all the fine print in the lease agreement. Take note of specific regulations on parking, recycling, garbage collection, security, use of facilities, alterations, maintenance, pet policies and move-out procedures. Inspect the property carefully, if there's any damage, you not only want to ask that it be fixed, but don't want to be blamed for it later. Make sure such problem areas are addressed in a lease, either by your agreeing to live with it, or the landlord agreeing to fix it by a certain date. Also, get in writing how soon after you move out you will receive your security deposit, as some landlords take longer than others. It is usually safer to have your real estate agent look at it, or if you are really not sure, hire a real estate lawyer.
-- If you are interested in buying, you will have to be more careful. It is recommended that you hire a real estate agency to handle all the necessary documents. A real estate lawyer is indispensible when buying property, as there is lengthy and complicated paperwork. Once you know what you want to purchase, you must make an offer (through your real estate agent), which can be rejected or accepted. If the seller counters your offer, you may need to negotiate until you both agree to the terms of the sale. Make your offer contingent on a home inspection. Hire someone to do a thorough inspection. An inspection will tell you about the condition of the home, and can help you avoid buying a home that needs major repairs. The inspector will tell you if there is anything wrong with the property that can potentially cause problem in the future (cracks on a roof, leaks, infrastructure damage). Upon the completion of the inspection, you can ask the landlords to fix the damaged parts or sell you the property as is, as long as they discount the amount you will have to pay in repairs from the price of the home.