Find the Right 'Home' in Tampa
The first thing people do when they know they are moving to a new place is to locate it on a map. They want to get a visual of how far it’s going to be from their familiar family and friends; how long it’ll take to fly back, bring family over, have friends visits. They do a quick google search of basic information; population, language, monetary unit, etc. Then they start to look for people who have lived there, ask how the experience was and what they should know before moving there.
The most challenging question is where to live, not only in terms of best neighborhoods, but also what options are available in that neighborhood. Several factors can determine the best options; whether you have children who will be attending school, how far the commute is to work and if you will have transportation. We have moved often, with and without children, and lived in so many different ‘homes.’ We didn’t know anyone and only had a realtor help us find a house. It took many hours on the Internet and many more hours combing through neighborhoods, before we finally signed a contract to purchase a house six months after our move. Here’s a breakdown of housing options available in Tampa.
Hotel - These days, booking a hotel room or suite is done with the click of a button, but staying in a hotel can become a pricey option (even if the company is picking up part of the tab). In addition, you can never truly unpack, feel at home or have a lot of privacy. Consider extended stay hotels that offer weekly or monthly rates, have suites equipped with small kitchenettes and larger living space.
Corporate Apartment/Executive Suite - Many apartment complexes have fully furnished units for clients who are neither visiting nor living in Tampa, but in the city for a month or longer. These corporate or executive apartments, have fully equipped kitchens including cups, flat and silverware, come with linens and towels and provide the additional security of a parking place. They are located in a larger building complex which offer amenities like a swimming pool, gym, small business center, common indoor and outdoor areas, and more. An additional perk is that you are not responsible for any maintenance costs should the toilet leak, fridge break or washer stop working. The rent for corporate apartments is often high but worth the expense because they provide temporary comfort and peace of mind. You have no annual contract, in fact, you sign a month-to-month agreement and are often only required to give a 30-day notice. Should you vacate the premises in the middle of the month, the rent will also be pro-rated.
Apartment - The housing market has been booming in Tampa and developers are rapidly buying property and building hundreds of units. Once completed, a property management company takes charge of the units. These apartments can range from small studios to 1, 2, 3 or more bedrooms. They are unfurnished, but have fridge, microwave, stove and (often) washer and dryer. Property management companies have fixed prices for units, and can charge different prices for the same unit (depending on its proximity to amenities, views out the window, etc.). Their prices are rarely negotiable but are inclusive of most maintenance costs. In addition, you have to sign an annual contract, with hefty penalties should you decide to move out before the end your contract.
Condo - Short for condominium, a condo is like an apartment except that it is owned by a person (versus a management company). It is a community of buildings in which the condos are owned by individuals. These individual can rent a condo furnished or unfurnished, set the rental fee and negotiate the price. Condos are also located in complexes that have amenities, but often the property owner (and potentially you as the renter) is responsible for fees to be paid to the Homeowners Association (HOA). These fees are used to cover expenses to maintain the external areas and pay for extra perks at the facility. Should the fridge or AC stop working, you can contact the owner, who should take charge of the repairs.
Townhouse - Townhouses are designed in a row, so tenants usually share at least one wall
(unless it’s the first or last unit in a row). They are often two or more stories with a garage and can be quite large. In a townhouse community, owners may or may not have HOA fees because most of the interior and exterior of the property belongs to them. If they are larger communities with communal areas, amenities or certain types of maintenance fees, there will be HOA fees. Owners can rent their townhouse and contracts should be carefully reviewed before signing to see what is and what is not included in the rent.
(Single-family) House - People moving to Tampa for a year or more can buy or rent any house within their budget. In Tampa, it is financially more beneficial to purchase a house as the housing market is ‘healthy,’ businesses are establishing bases, professionals are settling here and the city has seen a steady rise for several years now. Mortgage payments are often equal to monthly rental fees and once you move on (or back) some of it can be recouped when the house is sold. When looking to purchase a house, be aware that your address will be tied to the school district. If you have children who will be attending public school, always do some research on the school you will be districted for. You will have to weigh your options carefully before making a final decision. Should your stay be more than one year but less than three, there are many house for rent, furnished and furnished, in all neighborhoods. Rent is often negotiable as you are dealing directly with the owner.
A word of caution before signing any contract.
Always read your contract carefully. If there are any questions, ask for clarification. If there is something you don’t agree with, ask to remove or rewrite. If something is missing, ask to have it added. Remember, before you sign, you are king, after you sign, you become a slave to the contract.
Always take pictures of the place you are moving into. This will document the condition of the place before you took it over and settle any disagreements you might have when you move it. This is a great way to ensure that you are returning the place in the same condition you received it hence also retting your deposit.
There’s a reason why contracts are written in fine print. Make sure you check all the details of the contract; that you are getting everything you want (in writing), that payment details are spelled out, that you are aware of your rights and obligations and that you know what will happen if you terminate the contract.