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Soon I'll be moving in the end of July/start of August to the United States to finish up my undergraduate degree (if the current scenario allows it, but I would prefer to be prepared).

I'll be moving there with three other friends, and we have three things no one is budging on:

  • A good price
  • Not renting something sight unseen
  • Renting something for the four of us to live together

We have some other friends in the same situation, their solution was to rent sight unseen and pay up to 900 dollars a month to be matched up with a stranger in some apartment, exactly the opposite of what we are willing to do.

I started getting in touch with landlords of properties we were interested in, but, as one might imagine, nobody is willing to "hold" a place for 3+ months, and I find it very unlikely to those properties (that are commonly rented by students, that also are coming at the same time as us, mind you) to still be available when we arrive at the United States. We could rent something right away and trust the pictures/videos of the landlords and be done with it, but it would make everyone deeply uncomfortable to do so.

Some time ago, I saw an ad for Lemonsquad, that is a service you pay a mechanic to inspect and make a report of a car you want to buy in another far away place and you have something else than the word of the seller for buying it sight unseen.

My question is: Is there anything like it in the United States for renting a house? Any kind of trusted and professional service I could hire for inspecting a house, providing pictures, videos of the place, maybe doing some remarks about the condition of the unit, and reporting it back to me?

  • How about getting an apartment instead of a house? Apartments can have different availability dates, you can check reviews for the management company online, and most likely they will be decently taken care of if well managed. You can also use social media to find possible roommates. Also, houses can be tricky to rent if you don't have employment history/credit score/credit history. – IanDan Apr 16 at 15:34
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    @IanDan Apartments shouldn't be accepted sight unseen either. Personally, when moving into a new remote home, I stay in temporary accommodation for the first couple month or two, then go apartment hunting from there. – gerrit Apr 16 at 15:36
  • @gerrit, agreed. However, sometimes, that's just not feasible. Specially when moving from a different country with little money. I would personally feel more comfortable renting an apartment than a house if I can't inspect it before hand. – IanDan Apr 16 at 17:08
  • @IanDan Millions and millions of labour migrants move halfway across the world without paying thousands upfront sight unseen for an apartment. In fact, they don't have thousands. Staying on campgrounds (preferably out of season) or in worker hostels for a couple of weeks at first does not need to be overly expensive, however, people used to a middle class lifestyle may find this quality of life not acceptable. – gerrit Apr 16 at 17:21
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You will have to find and hire someone to inspect the property and report back to you. I am aware of no national or state-level business that does this specific work. OTOH, I haven't searched for it...there may be some businesses, like Lemonsquad, that do the work.

There is, however, a very large real estate industry in the US, with real estate salespeople, brokers, and their firms positioned to assist (for a fee) buyers and sellers in dealing with the purchase and sale of properties.

A subset in the industry specializes in (or includes) "real estate management." Real estate management works for the property owner who lives far from the property, and/or doesn't want to deal with the day-to-day challenges that face property owners. Management finds and selects new tenants, collects rent, handles difficult tenants or removes them, and takes care of repairs and maintenance of the property.

To present their availability to prospective customers (property owners), these firms advertise, and you'll find them listed on the web and in newspapers. Get on the phone and talk to a few of them. Ask them if they'd conduct an inspection and report, and what they'd charge for doing so.

Do not hire any firms or individuals who have a relationship to the owner of the property/properties you're considering. Taking a job to evaluate the property, while simultaneously representing the owner in managing the property, would be a conflict of interest and render the report to you unreliable.

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  • Regarding the first two sentences, in New York, at least, it's standard practice to hire an engineer to inspect a property before purchasing it. I can only imagine that it's common in most of the rest of the country. Surely someone who does that would also perform such an inspection, or a less thorough version of it, for a prospective tenant of a rental property. – phoog Apr 16 at 15:28
  • @phoog Are you talking about an home inspector? If not, they cost around 500 bucks and they give you a full report of the home. This is done when you purchase a home and I would assume that they can also do inspections to rentals. – IanDan Apr 16 at 15:31
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    Home inspectors for prospective purchasers are indeed a fairly common business. But they are only concerned with the physical condition of the property with an eye on the long term: e.g., sewer line will need R&R soon, roof has <5 years' life left, etc), and not at all about its suitability as a residence for a short-term (less than several years) rental. Typically, the stuff looked at by purchase inspectors won't have a direct effect on renters. Thus, I see these as different foci, and think the OP is looking for something more specific to this situation. – DavidSupportsMonica Apr 16 at 15:50
  • @DavidSupportsMonica Why would the renting be short term? – gerrit Apr 16 at 16:11
  • The OP wrote of "finishing his undergraduate degree," not a forever relocation. – DavidSupportsMonica Apr 16 at 16:18
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A virtual assistant would be able to do exactly this for you, as well as help with other tasks on site and preparations before you make a decision.

There are plenty of them out there a simple google shows many

Anyhelper and butlerbobs.com are probably the bigger ones

Disclosure: I am the founder and owner of butlerbobs.com

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