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Expats moving to the USA will find a range of high-standard accommodation options available to them. In larger cities, accommodation can be expensive. Expats on a budget can mitigate this effect by living in the suburbs rather than the city centre.
Ultimately, there are many options and whether new arrivals are looking to rent an apartment or are eager to purchase a prime plot of land, expats are likely to find a home well suited to their individual needs and budget.
Types of accommodation in the USA
Accommodation in the USA 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)
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 USA, 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 USA is a relatively easy process. Expats should begin by doing some research into the city that they are relocating to in order to get some perspectives on neighbourhoods that best align with their priorities. From there, there are several 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. 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 USA, 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 that they'd like to rent, 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 a serious candidate 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 USA are generally signed on a six-month or one-year basis. Before signing, expats should ensure that they've read the contract through 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 the 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 USA 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.