The year in our current home has, however, given us time to familiarize with the surrounding areas, the rental market, differences in rental leasing, and evaluate what we want in a our next home.
Here are some links for rental hunting that we’ve come across. If you have other ones, please do share 🙂
- Apartment Guide (http://www.apartmentguide.com/apartments/California/Santa-Clara/) — Apartments listed here are professionally managed. A monthly free catalogue is al available at all news stands outside local grocery markets.
- Craigslist (http://sfbay.craigslist.org/apa/) — If you’re looking for a townhouse or house, this is the place to look. Be careful of fake/scam postings. There are gems to be found here too.
- Apartment Ratings (http://www.apartmentratings.com/) — Rated apartments are usually professionally managed ones.
- Yelp (http://www.yelp.com/) — YELP is very popular here. Ratings from restaurants, services to apartments.
- Tenants can move-in/out anytime of the month (well, at least with the professionally managed complexes – you may need to confirm with private landlords). We moved in on July 10th, so our first month’s rent was pro-rated and all subsequent rents are due on the first day of the month. Whereas in BC, your first month had to be paid on the first day of the month, and move-out was always at the end of the month – no pro-rating.
- Monthly rental prices are calculated based on supply-demand. When we were first looking for apartment rentals, the leasing agent said if we signed today, our monthly rent would be $1950 per month. But if we sign next weekend, it would be $2000 per month instead. The monthly rent increases as the calendar year approaches summer, which is when most people move. November/December are the “slow” seasons when there are fewer people moving, so signing leases then tend to result in more attractive monthly rental expenditures. At the same time, there are also fewer available units to choose from too. The $50/month difference in rent between signing now or next weekend looks to be the leasing company’s way of getting X amount of cash flow from the unit for the whole calendar year regardless of when a tenant signs.
- Garbage disposal and sewage fees are separate from the monthly rent. Water is separate. Heat and electricity are also separate. (This point may be different with private landlords.)
- The city/water service company bills the complex X amount a month for the entire complex’ collective garbage disposal, etc. use. Next, the complex divides up the X amount between each of the dwellings based on square footage and number of occupants. This amount appears on a NWP bill. (NWP seems to be the common billing company for this sort of utilities billing from professionally managed complexes.)
- For heat and electricity, it works the same way as in BC where these expenses are separate from your rent. In BC, the bill you receive is from BC Hydro, whereas, in California, it is from Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E).
- There are many more older apartments in Silicon Valley than in the Greater Vancouver Area. High-rises and concrete housing structures are rare in the South Bay. That being said, most are wood framed and were built 30+ years. For light sleepers, a top floor is worth the extra rent. Your sleep won’t be disrupted from creaking floors in the floors above.
- Cool temperatures hit the South Bay during the “winter” months of October – January, so heating is installed in every home just like in Canada. Investing in a good fan or having an A/C for the balmy spring and summer months is a must.
- Because you do not have US credit history, you may need to show your Offer Letter to the leasing office/landlord as proof of your ability to meet monthly rental payments in full and on time. When you start working, you can also elect to get an Employment Verification Letter from HR which states your job title, annual salary, and who from your employer’s HR department can be contacted if the landlord needs further verification. The Employment Verification Letter might be more handy than an Offer Letter since it will simply list your salary, and not all of extras that you may want to keep private (e.g. benefits, bonus, etc.).
- Your potential new landlord may conduct a credit check. Being a new transplant to the US, your file will likely have the status of “no history – too new to rate”. Perhaps bringing your Canadian credit history to the interview/showing may help in your tenant candidacy. I heard that the competition for good rentals is expected, so preparation of these financials is essential to securing the unit of your liking.
- Although San Francisco has rent control, not all cities in California have rent control – like Cupertino, Palo Alto, etc. Make sure the lease has an exit clause that you’re comfortable with, and you also understand the landlord and tenant rights.
- The Landlord and Tenant Guide is available from the California Department of Consumer Affairs at http://www.dca.ca.gov/publications/landlordbook/.
- British Columbia also has rent control, and its Landlord and Tenant Guide is available from the Government of British Columbia Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) at http://www.rto.gov.bc.ca/documents/guides/act_english.pdf.
- If your children are of or nearing school age, familiarizing with the public school zones, admission requirements and school ratings may be beneficial, and potentially a determining factor in your home neighbourhood choice.
- In South Bay, cities/neighbourhoods with historically good/excellent public schools command higher rental prices and higher real estate than those with mediocre school ratings. Some parents elect to live in areas with lower housing costs and pay for private school attendance instead.
Happy home searching!