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Expats moving to the US will find a range of high-quality accommodation options available to them. While housing is expensive in the larger cities, expats on a budget can mitigate this effect by living on the outskirts rather than in the city centre.
Ultimately, the choices are endless, and whether new arrivals are looking to rent an apartment or are eager to purchase a piece of prime real estate, they're likely to find a home well suited to their individual needs and budget.
Types of accommodation in the USA
Accommodation in the US 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 (standalone houses, usually on a small plot of land)
Duplexes (two or more living quarters housed in the same building)
Condominiums (a community of similar-styled homes with shared amenities)
Mansions (large, extravagant, expensive houses)
All these forms of housing are widespread throughout the US, with apartments being the most popular to rent for expats, and single-family homes being the most commonly purchased.
Another option is house-sharing – renting an individual room in a larger house shared with others. This is a good option for single expats to consider, as it's budget friendly and a great way to make new friends.
Finding accommodation in the USA
Finding a place to rent in the US is a relatively straightforward process. Expats should begin by doing some research of the city that they are relocating to in order to get some perspectives on neighbourhoods that best align with their priorities.
There are a plethora of internet sites that carry both short- and long-term rental listings. It's free to browse these sites. There is also no need to register or share personal information. Any web portals that demand information or payment in order to search listings should be approached with caution or avoided entirely.
Another source is local newspapers and magazines, known as 'home finders'. These are widely distributed in most American cities. These often specialise in providing rental listings. In addition, 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 US, realtors typically specialise in helping people buy homes rather than rent them.
Renting accommodation in the USA
Making an application
Once expats have found a property to their liking, they will have to tender a lease application. It's important to note that, in most cases, potential tenants will need to prove that they are serious candidates for renting the property.
As foreigners, expats will need to demonstrate that they can afford the cost of rent. 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.
When signing a lease, expats will be expected to pay first month's rent upfront and the equivalent of at least another month's rent to cover a security deposit. The deposit will be returned at the end of the tenancy once the home has been inspected and any damages have been covered.
Lease agreements in the US are generally signed on a six-month or one-year basis. Before signing, expats should ensure that they've read the contract thoroughly and have a good understanding of their rights and obligations.
Sometimes utilities are included in the cost of rent. However, they're usually an extra expense for the tenant. Costs to consider include billing for gas, electricity, water, refuse, phone and internet. The lease agreement should specify who is responsible for which utility expenses.
Buying property in the USA
Foreigners employed in the US can buy property and apply for financing. However, plenty of supporting documentation will be needed to secure funding from the bank. Those looking to buy property in the States should also bear in mind that one of the most crucial steps along the way is to secure the services of a reliable estate agent as they will play a large part in the purchasing process.
Initially, buyers provide the realtor with a comprehensive list of individual housing requirements. Based on this, the realtor generates a list of potential properties. Once buyers have identified one or two options that seem promising, the realtor will then further assist in liaising with the seller; organising viewings, house inspections and property reports; negotiating sales contracts; advising on market trends and prices; and conducting title searches. Suffice it to say that buying a house in America is far less a project undertaken individually than it is in partnership with an estate agent.
►Learn about schooling options with Education and Schools in the USA
"A wide variety of housing options are available, from luxury condos with all the amenities of a resort to Spanish-style homes, modern houses and quaint apartment buildings. There is something for every budget and offers are plenty.
"The months of June-July are the most popular moving months so you may not have as much inventory, or you may have to make a quicker decision in order not to lose the property you are interested in and have less bargaining leverage. If you will be moving during the summer, it may be best to secure housing a couple of months before arrival."
Read more about French expat Emmanuelle's life in the United States.
Are you an expat living in The USA?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to The USA. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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