Accommodation in the USA
Types of accommodation in the USA
Accommodation in the USA has its own unique terminology, and is usually divided into the following classifications:
- Apartments (self-contained units in larger buildings; referred to as 'flats' in some parts of the world such as the UK)
- Single family homes (stand-alone houses, usually on a small plot of land)
- Duplex homes (when two or more living quarters are housed in the same building)
- Condominiums (separate, often similar-styled homes, located close together. These are sometimes called townhouses)
- Mansions (large, extravagant, expensive houses)
All these forms of housing are widespread throughout the USA, with apartments being the most popular to rent for expats, and single family homes being the most commonly purchased.
Note that house-sharing – renting an individual room in a larger house, shared by others – is an option for expats to consider, as it is budget-friendly, and a great way to make new friends.
Renting property in the USA
Finding a place to rent in the USA is a relatively easy process. Expats should begin by doing some research into the city which they are relocating to, in order to get some perspectives on neighbourhoods that best align with their individual priorities. From there, there are a number of possible avenues from which to start searching for rentals:
- There are a plethora of internet sites that carry both short- and long-term rental listings. Remember it is free to browse these sites without needing to register or share personal information. It is best to navigate away from web portals that demand information or payment in order to search listings.
- Local newspapers and magazines – known as 'home and apartment finders' – are widely distributed in most American cities. These often specialise in providing rental listings.
- Many people find it useful to drive around neighbourhoods they like in search of 'For Rent' signs.
- Real estate agents can also assist new arrivals in finding a rental property. However, in the USA, it is certainly fair to say that realtors specialise in helping people buy homes, and not rent them.
Once expats have found a property that they'd like to rent, they will have to tender a lease application. This usually takes the form of a generic document known as a State Rental Agreement. It is important to note that, in most cases, potential tenants will need to prove that they are a serious candidate for renting the property.
As foreigners, expats will need to demonstrate that they have at least enough funds to cover the first month's rent upfront and the equivalent of another month's rent to cover a security deposit. Credit and background checks are also commonly carried out. Those with references from previous landlords should be sure to include them with their application as well.
Lease agreements in the USA are generally signed on a six-month or one-year basis. Whether or not the tenant will be liable for gas, electricity, water, refuse, phone and Internet bills will depend on the specific rental agreement signed.