The Tiny house Blog

The ABCs of House Hunting in California + 5 Red Flags You Must Avoid‍

Updated on:
June 9, 2023
Ariel view of LA with the mountains hills in the background

House hunting for rentals in a metropolitan city is a challenging process requiring you to be clever and efficient to close your dream apartment successfully. According to the U.S. Census reports, California recorded the highest number of people living in rental units (17%), following New York. With California being a vast state, you can find and choose from numerous houses and apartments for your stay. However, it is necessary to be mindful of how you proceed with the house-hunting process and stick to the essentials or the ABCs of finding a suitable rental apartment. 

If it's your first-time house hunting for a rental apartment, you must update yourself with the different requirements to select the most suitable home. It will help you avoid any risks and red flags that can come your way. Hence, here's a checklist of a few essentials and ABCs of house hunting that you should always have in mind. 

What are the ABCs of House Hunting?

1. Make a Checklist of What You Want 

With numerous listings and inventory hitting the market, new renters tend to be less decisive about their requirements. Before you hunt for your dream apartment, be determined about your likes and dislikes, preferences, necessities, and other factors that make your house come together. 

Making a checklist with all these details will help you narrow down possible homes that fall under these categories and allow you to make informed decisions. While actively house hunting, renters should also remember that finding the right property management company Fairfax or in other cities will help you navigate your personal needs and lock down the property at a bargain price. 

2. Plan a Budget 

A flexible budget is a key requirement for a house-hunting process, along with keeping a separate estimate for the repairs, travel costs, monthly expenses, etc. Flexibility will help you cover unplanned expenses while ensuring you don't overstep the financial limits you have for renting your apartment. 

You want to have an amount in mind that you're willing to put down monthly rent that excludes other unprecedented overheads. Having a budget also simplifies the house-hunting process, as you can narrow down the location and size of apartments that fall within your reach. 

3. Neighborhood Research 

It is crucial to research possible neighborhoods you would like to rent in before commencing the house-hunting process. A thorough neighborhood research will help you identify the positives and negatives of different areas and focus on finding apartments within the location that appeals to you. 

You can look up the number of rental properties available, public facilities, transport channels, crime statistics, taxes, job opportunities, and other essential details that will help you narrow down suitable options for your requirements. You can check with Fairfax property managers or local authorities to know more about different neighborhoods. 

You should also hire a real estate agent in the location where you wish to purchase a tiny home. For example, work with a real estate agent who got their real estate license in California if you want to move to California.

Did You Know?

Currently, over 116 million renters exist nationwide. Out of which, more than 19 million renters in all U.S. households spend over 30% of their annual income on rent and utilities. 

5 Main Red Flags to Avoid When Finding a Rental

When hunting for your new home, there are many red flags that first-time renters may stumble upon. However, if you're not well aware of them, it is possible that you could overlook these and not realize them until it's too late. To make the most of your search and achieve successful results, here's a look at some potential red flags you must catch and avoid to find your dream apartment. 

1. The Rent is Too Low 

While this may sound appealing at first, as it could save you a high expense, a meager price of an apartment compared to similar properties in the area can be a potential red flag. Why are the homeowners keeping it this way? There may be reasons you must look into to understand the appropriate rent price the house should offer. It could signify that the apartment isn't in its best shape, and the homeowners are trying to mitigate the risks and repairs.

2. Not Too Many Photos Available

One of the first things one looks at during the apartment-hunting process is pictures of the house or apartment. If the homeowner hasn't provided a decent amount of photos, it could be a potential red flag you're looking at. It could signify that they are not showing something and want to hide relevant information about the property. 

3. Carries a Strange Smell

If you're visiting an apartment for the first time to see how it fits your requirements, and you stumble upon a strange smell, chances are this could be a red flag in disguise. If the homeowner made no mention of it or is being vague when questioned, it is better to let go of that property and look at different ones. 

4. The Owner Hasn't Spent Much Time in it

Always look at the homeowner's history to understand more about their personality and properties before you choose the property. While there may be genuine reasons, such as multiple property investments, moving to another city, etc., that could have prevented a homeowner from staying in the apartment, it could also be a red flag if the reasons are vague and do not have any depth. 

Thus it's best to work with a trusted property management company that can guide the landlord-tenant relationship, along with other services such as regular rent collection, lower repair, and maintenance costs, showing you around the neighborhood, etc. 

5. Withered Pipelines

If you come across pipelines that are not in great shape and the homeowner hasn't mentioned it, it is a potential red flag you should avoid. Drainage systems are an essential requirement for every home and should always stay well-maintained. 

Did You Know?

A large share of millennials (24.7%), the largest section of homeowners, believe they'll 'always rent' rather than purchase a home. The top reasons listed were affordability, flexibility in rented apartments, and avoiding high maintenance costs.


Finding the perfect rental in a new city is challenging, and the energy it takes may lead to overseeing important red flags you must avoid. Identifying potential vulnerabilities is necessary if you're a first-time renter, as it will help you choose a rental apartment suitable to your requirements. Hence, when hunting for your dream apartment, always stay mindful of the essentials you must follow and pay attention to different red flags that may present themselves to you. 

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