So how do prospective renters/home shoppers combat misleading ads? There are numerous online sites that can be an apartment-hunters best buddies. Misleading Craigslist ads and shady landlords can't hide from the Internet. Much like you can do a background check on a person, you can new do background checks on a residence. Why not check out if a place truly is in a "quiet neighborhood," "safe," or "close to transportation."
As a renter I did a quick search on my own rental situation in order to see if I'm getting ripped off with rent or have I dropped myself in a crime-ridden neighborhood filled with creepy sexual predators. And these sites really were on par with my current renting situation.
Here are a six go-to search tools that no apartment-seeker should do without:
Google Maps: This is a great general resource for seeing exactly where your new potential home is located--especially if you are moving to a new city. See exactly where your new pad might lay in the general scheme of the city. Is it right behind a noisy elementary school or the city jail? For a little extra, go for the bird's eye view and really get a visual picture of the place you might call home.
Rentometer: How's this for a service? Simply enter your address and how much you're paying in rent. A few moments later you'll know if the landlord is jacking up the rent too high or is within the price range of the area. Is your new place a great deal or are you getting ripped off?
SpotCrime: Learn about the crime date for a specific locale. Via icons, find out exactly how many shootings, thefts, robberies, and assaults have occurred near the place where you want to hang your hat at the end of the day. Did a murder occur last week right around the corner? Why not find out.
Family Watchdog: This site, while creepy, is valuable if you have kids or are concerned about who's living next door. The information comes from the National Sex Offenders' Registry. You type in an address and it will show you how many registered sex offenders live nearby. You can even click on the color-coded icons (listed by crime) and see images of the convicted. Try it with your current address and you will get creeped out.
TheRentables: Not only does list city-by-city rental ads, but the site also integrates snapshots from Google map views and allows users to walk through specific neighborhoods. Is the neighborhood with "a lot of charm" actually located by the local junkyard?
YouTube: Yes, this site has more than cute cats playing the piano. More real estate agents and property owners are posting walk-through videos of their listings. Again, a great resource for those who are planning to move to a different city or just don't have the time to go to every open house.
RentedSpaces: We're not only a clever blog that talks about apartment living - we're a great apartment search engine. Apartment, condos, homes - find your next rental here.
The bottom line is: there is certainly a lot a person can find out about a place if they just simply roll up their sleeves, click their mouse, and become a little web-savvy.