The Virginian capital, Richmond, has become something of a new hotspot that is attracting both out-of-state Americans and foreigners with its promising economic opportunities and laid-back lifestyle. We recommend prospective newcomers and expats considering a move to Richmond research the housing options, scout suitable neighbourhoods, and decide whether to buy or rent.
The latter determination will, of course, depend on the duration of their stay, their budget and the state of the housing market. Regardless, new arrivals in Richmond tend to rent first and set down permanent roots once they have a feel for the city. And, given the influx of new residents, housing demand increases, and the robust nature of the city's economy, purchasing a house in Richmond is considered a solid investment.
Types of accommodation in Richmond
Househunters will discover that Richmond boasts a wide variety of housing options. From inner-city apartments and condos to spacious houses in the outlying suburbs, newcomers will be spoilt for choice. The standard of housing in the city is equally varied, but generally satisfactory.
Apartments are modern self-contained units within a larger building and are largely found in downtown Richmond. They are more affordable and tend to suit young professionals who haven't yet started a family.
Condos are a happy medium between houses and apartments. New arrivals will find this option allows them to have extra space along with the benefits of communal living. Condos are self-contained units within a bigger complex where residents share a range of amenities, including swimming pools, gyms, gardens and laundry facilities.
New arrivals in the city and expats tend to gravitate towards the suburbs, where they're afforded more space, a garden, quieter surroundings and good schools.
Types of houses in Richmond include Cape Cod-style houses, colonial mansions, rowhouses (also called townhouses) and cottages.
Finding accommodation in Richmond
A few important considerations for house hunters in Richmond include budget, amenities, proximity to workplaces and schools, and how much space they require.
Online is usually the best place to start the search. Property portals, community pages and social networking sites are all useful. Real-estate agents are also a valuable resource, as they will have intimate knowledge of the city's various neighbourhoods and the housing market in general. They do charge commission, of course, but they remove a lot of the hassle from the househunting process. Prospective renters or buyers simply submit their desired specifications, and the agent does all the legwork.
Renting accommodation in Richmond
The demand for accommodation in the city is rising, so prospective renters should move quickly when they find something they like.
Making an application
Once prospective tenants have found a property to their liking, they'll need to express their interest directly to the agent or landlord. They will then conduct various credit and reference checks, and if they come back with no issues, the tenant and the landlord can sign a lease. For expats, it's a good idea to open a US bank account and have a social security number before applying for a rental property.
Rental contracts are usually for a year or more, though new arrivals can sometimes negotiate shorter leases. At the end of the lease period, the landlord and tenant can either agree to renew or terminate the agreement. Tenants can terminate a lease early, but the landlord generally has the liberty to choose whether the tenant will be liable to pay the full lease amount or not.
Renters need to pore over the terms of their lease agreements to determine which utilities form part of the contract. In most cases, the landlord covers standard utilities such as water and electricity. Optional extras such as internet, cable TV and other luxuries are typically for the tenant's account.
Prospective tenants will be required to put down a security deposit of one month's rent to secure the lease on a property. These rental deposits are fully refundable once the lease is terminated, provided the property is in an acceptable state. For this reason, it is important to carry out a detailed inventory at the beginning and end of the rental term, as damages will be deducted from the deposit.