For two and a half years, I was hosted, and even nurtured and pampered by my in-laws. Because of my professional situation, which was on hold for so long, my salary did not allow me to get an apartment. Fortunately, I finally got my promotion in August, and as I’m pregnant I was a little in a hurry to move, so it just left me two months to save and look for a “home”.
Easier said than done… It is not extremely different from France here, they ask the first month of rent and a deposit (around the price of the rent but not necessarily the exact same), proof of income and rental history. But they also look at your credit score and your criminal record! And most of the time, an application for a rental is charged (to cover the price for the criminal record precisely as well as agency fees – most owners use management agencies), from what I observed, between $40 and $100!!
As a foreigner, rental history and credit score can be a problem! Since I have not just arrived in the USA, I was able to “work” on my credit score and luckily mine is good enough (everything above 700 is good). For the rental history, my in-laws wrote a letter to justify where I lived so far and the conditions, and I also asked 3 people to write me letters of reference (my ex-boss and two friends). I had read that it could make a difference if you cannot provide a classic history (they normally contact the agency where you previously rented who must then fill out a form that basically says whether or not you have been a good tenant, that you always paid your rent on time, and that they would rent to you again).
In my case I was lucky, this apartment was on the market for 2 months so we can consider that I did not have a lot of competition, it was my first application and I got it!
It is an old apartment and there have been some upgrades/minor repairs needed, but it is a two-bedroom apartment in a very safe area. Not easy at all to find in my budget!
Here are the apps I used to find apartments for rent:
I mostly used the first 2, and I have a small preference for Trulia that allows you to see the crimes statistics! Super important in a city like Jacksonville, especially when you do not know the neighborhoods very well.
You can also use a Realtor; if I understand correctly, they receive a commission by the rental agency if they find a tenant, so it does not cost you anything.