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  1. #1
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    Default Moving in May: Rental questions (realtor), areas, monthly rent, etc.

    Hi all,

    I've been doing a lot of research (thanks for the great site and forums!) and am getting closer to my moving day (5/18/09). Here is some background:

    I am going to be getting a 2 year position at UM Coral Gables campus. Pay will be 37K/year with full benefits. Hubby will likely have unemployment from current job when we move down there, and will probably get some kind of job paying around 60K. We want to make sure that my guaranteed salary can pay all the bills though (trying to be smart). It's going to be a shock though because we're currently in an upper-middle class situation right now, and will likely plummet down to working-middle class when we get to Miami.

    Anyhow, we're moving down with another family member that will be helping to share the rent and a small dog (under 20 lbs). We are looking for a 2 bedroom apartment/condo/duplex/home with at least a 1.5 bath (prefer 2). In terms of amenities, the place must allow dogs, and be on a lower level (or have elevator; one member of family is disabled). Would prefer having laundry in unit, and would love to be within walking distance of a dog park. All that really matters is the number of bedrooms and bathrooms though, and energy efficient AC would be good, as we keep our place pretty cool.

    We have researched areas, and based on people's responses have come up with the following neighborhoods: COral Gables (avoid near 8th street), Coconut Grove (avoid Douglas & Grand area), South Beach, Brickell, South Miami (be sure to be either just N of US 1 or S all the way to SW 136th; avoid bordering UM on the west ride). I'm used to commuting long distances (I lived in CA), but would like to avoid it. I'm not opposed to using Metro Rail. Hubby MAY be able to get a job in Fort Lauderdale (has some connections there), but no guarantees, so I'd prefer to be closer to UM.

    We want it to be a relatively safe neighborhood. We've lived in areas that were being regentrified and would prefer to avoid the drive-by shootings and rampant thefts. I want to feel pretty comfortable taking my dog for a walk in the evening (I'd likely purchase Mace or a Taser just in case; no where is really that safe anymore), and want an area where I don't have to worry too much about my car being broken into (I, of course, never leave anything within plain sight). I don't expect to be able to leave windows open at night, but at the same time don't want to be fearing for my life.

    Our current budget for renting is a maximum of $1400 per month. We would much rather that number be closer to $1200. Also, want to avoid a monthly pet rental fee (do have up to $500 for pet deposit though).

    Some of my questions for you:

    1. I am coming down in mid-April for a week to find a place (will need to start lease around 5/20). Is that early enough? Do I need a realtor to help me find a place? If so, who pays the realtor?

    2. Is rent and deposits negotiable in Miami (should say that credit is no concern, we are in the low 800s)?

    3. Are the areas I am looking in OK? Should there be certain places to avoid within those areas (that I haven't already listed)?

    4. Am I more likely to find a place in a large complex, or a privately-owned place?

    5. Any other websites aside from Craigslist, Herald, rent.com, and apartments.com to be looking for a place?


    Sorry for the long story!!! Thank you in advance for all of your help! I'm so excited to be moving there (as I stare out my window at the 15" of snow we got in the last 3 days!!!)

  2. #2
    Editor Matt Meltzer's Avatar
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    I can help you with about 2 answers there.

    First, realtors' services are typically free as they get their cut out of your deposit money. You get your deposit back, but it comes from the seller's end.

    You are better off going somewhere privately owned. There you can negotiate rent and deposits and whatnot. With big complexes, you pretty much have to tow the company line.

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    Thanks for the tips Matt. I'm wondering if we even need a realtor though....or if we can find a place relatively easy on our own.

    Any other input from others??

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    Senior Member Doug's Avatar
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    Hi twiggers, in your research, did you happen to check out my article about how I moved to South Beach? I found my place in just a couple of days -- without the help of a realtor -- just walking around, copying down phone numbers on signs. I agree with Matt that a private owner is a better route to go. Less bureaucracy!

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    I did read your article Doug (very helpful!) and that is one of our plans. Well, we want to find some on Craigslist, etc. and then just start driving around. We're pretty good at being able to assess an area (as to whether we'll feel comfortable there)....and we're hoping 6 days in Miami will be enough time!!

  6. #6
    Senior Member Doug's Avatar
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    Sounds good...just keep in mind that the rest of South Beach is very different from the craziness of Ocean, Collins and Washington. If you live a little further west of those streets, you'll feel like you're in a completely different place...but you can still get to the action when you want it.

  7. #7
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    Thanks Doug! All of South Beach might be out of our price range (we'd really like to stick to 1200-ish for a 2/2 and I'm seeing more like 1500-1600 for a 2/2 in SoBe). I'm having a major suspicion that we'll be ending up in South Miami or The Grove. Any advice regarding either of those two locales....in terms of areas to avoid or even places to look for a rental?

  8. #8
    Senior Member Doug's Avatar
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    Unfortunately, the times I've looked around South Miami and the Grove, I was surprised to find rents just as high -- and sometimes higher -- than South Beach. I bet you can beat that $1500 figure for a 2 bd on SoBe, though, with a little searching! Times are desperate now, and landlords are willing to make concessions.

    If you do decide on the Grove, I would avoid the very west end. That side is notorious for drug deals, and things can get a little dicey there, though I've driven through it (for other reasons!) and it seemed nice enough...kind of a Bahamas feel. The east side of the Grove is closest to the shopping and the metrorail, but in my opinion, it's become a little overbuilt. A very different feel from the one it had in the 60's when it was the hippy epicenter of Miami.

    In Coral Gables, I would look around the areas close to Miracle Mile, because they're the most pedestrian-friendly. There are also some beautiful little side streets there.

    Take the time to explore all three areas and see what goes best with your personality, and you may very well find something in your range in any or all of them.

  9. #9
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    Thanks Doug! I wasn't seriously considering SoBe before, because of the rents. Can you tell me areas in SoBe to avoid? Also, we have 3 vehicles, and so we'd really like something in SoBe that had pretty accessible parking.


    I was doing a little snooping on Craigslist last night and I keep seeing ads for 'Design District' and 54 Biscayne. Isn't the Design District in the downtown area? Is it not a safe area? Why so many vacancies in that area?

  10. #10
    Senior Member Doug's Avatar
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    In South Beach, just avoid the real touristy sections, i.e., Washington, Ocean and Collins, north of Fifth. It tends to be hard to park and it's crowded and loud at night. I used to have a place on Michigan and 7th, and it was a nice, quiet area. Just head a few blocks west, and you're good. Anywhere between Lenox and Washington, especially close to Flamingo Park is really nice. Alton Road and the area right around Lincoln Road also tend to be a little congested. South of Fifth is nice also, as is West Ave, if you're more into highrises. There isn't really a bad neighborhood in South Beach, per se. The dodgiest part I guess is the first block north of Fifth, especially around the Meridian Market, which is on Meridian. Not so much in terms of crime, just a few panhandler types.

    Regarding the Design District, personally, I would avoid it. The actual district, what there is of it, is very nice, but it's in one of those forever "up and coming" areas that used to be bad, but which has recently experienced a certain renaissance, with art galleries and a few trendy shops amid some blight. It almost looks like they took a little of Rodeo Drive and stuck it in Compton. Adjacent Wynwood has a monthly art walk, which is interesting, but also rather gritty....too much urban drama for my taste.

  11. #11
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    Thanks Doug! I lived in one of those 'up and coming areas' once and vowed never to do it again! I've since learned that 'up and coming' means it'll be 'up' in about 20-30 years!!

    Thank you for the tips regarding South Beach. We'll definitely make the excursion there; actually, we'll probably be staying in South Beach just to have a bit of the tourist experience while we are there for 6 days!

    Is the commute from South Beach to Coral Gables that bad? I guess I'm thinking that South Miami or The Grove won't be too bad getting to campus, but I wonder about SoBe to campus?

  12. #12
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    Oh, another question....just a general apartment question.

    Air conditioning. This is so crucial for us. We've lived in the desert before and we keep our house very cool in the summer months. What is the best way to determine whether or not we're getting good A/C efficiency? Obviously central air will be the absolute best (window AC is out of the question), but is there anything specific to look for or ask?

  13. #13
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    Hi Twiggers! Welcome to the forums!

    If you have three vehicles I would totally avoid South Beach, especially if one of your family members is disabled. It will be very difficult for you to find a unit with guaranteed parking for three cars and even if you park on the street, your disabled person may have to walk a lot to get home. Also, break-ins are common on South Beach streets.

    Otherwise, you'll be paying fees in parking garages that may not even be close to your apt or be put on a waiting list for parking in your building.

    As well, in certain areas of the beach you will not feel safe. And the commute to South Beach and back just isn't worth it, especially if you are on campus all day.

    My recommendation to you is the City of South Miami (not "south" Miami - 136th street is way south of the "city" itself)

    I lived here when I went to grad school and it was a charm. I live here again now, and I'll tell ya, I would never even consider mace or a taser. It's pretty safe. I walk around here all the time, even at night, although it's always good to practice common sense, no matter where you are.

    It's only a 10 minute commute MAX to UM and you always have the option of taking the metrorail (only one stop, though!) I use the UM gym almost every day and it's a very easy, quick drive.

    You can drive down 57th avenue from Bird Road to 80th street and might find signs for rental in homes that border campus. They may be out of your price range, but you never know. I would avoid anything west of campus until you get past 62nd street, but that's mostly homes. The area that is sketchy is roughly between US to Miller Road between 57th and 62nd avenue.

    South Miami provides very comfortable living with easy access to shops, restaurants, food markets, a movie theater. It's very family friendly. It's not a big city, but very walkable, bordering Coral Gables east of US1. It is peaceful and green, close to the most beautiful tropical areas of the city.

    There are numerous apartments around here and I suggest you drive around. You can also call the woman who runs this website: southmiamirentals.com I spoke with her not long ago and she told me she had units ranging from $800-$1600. The $800 units were 700 sq.ft. which is unheard of in South Beach.

    Make sure you tell her you want to live near the Winn Dixie or the Publix. Those areas are ideal for UM people.

    Your chances of finding a unit with two bedrooms and at least two guaranteed parking spaces is greater in this part of town. For your third car, you can get a South Miami residential permit. Parking is ample.

    Good luck and let us know if you have any other questions.

  14. #14
    Editor Matt Meltzer's Avatar
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    Twiggers, your AC is going to jack your power bill no matter how you look at it. FPL (our power company here) gives you a lot of helpful hints like making sure your windows are properly sealed and that you keep your doors closed except when absolutely neccesary. Also, avoid apartments with high ceilings and even 2-story units(or houses if that's the case). But aside from using central AC I don't know what to tell you. It's just a big cost of living down here that you have to accept before you move.

  15. #15
    Senior Member Doug's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by twiggers
    Thanks Doug! I lived in one of those 'up and coming areas' once and vowed never to do it again! I've since learned that 'up and coming' means it'll be 'up' in about 20-30 years!!

    Thank you for the tips regarding South Beach. We'll definitely make the excursion there; actually, we'll probably be staying in South Beach just to have a bit of the tourist experience while we are there for 6 days!

    Is the commute from South Beach to Coral Gables that bad? I guess I'm thinking that South Miami or The Grove won't be too bad getting to campus, but I wonder about SoBe to campus?
    Happy to help! Getting from South Beach to Coral Gables isn't really that bad. There are a variety of routes in and out and it only takes 15-20 minutes. Most of the rush hour traffic is heading north and south on US-1 and the 95...or else the Dolphin Freeway going east in the mornings and west in the evenings.

    Maria's right about cars and South Beach, however! The less, the better. Parking can be a pain.

    About A/C: sometimes the landlord can tell you what the bill averages for your apartment in advance. If not, ask the present tenants if they're around while you're seeing the unit. Or maybe check with some of the neighbors. My 1 bd apartment in South Beach was an older building with hardwood floors and had central air/heat. The bills averaged $130 in the summer and about $60 in the winter.

  16. #16
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    Thanks for the info regarding AC Matt & Doug!

    Matt: I lived in CA for many years where we had temps above 100 for over a month, and had to deal with the highest electricity bills in the country. $300-400 bills were not unheard of! Does the power company down there offer budgeted billing? Here in Indiana they have it where they estimate your usage and then you get the same bill every month.....it kind of evens everything out so you don't get those $300 bills in the summer.

    Doug: WOW...15-20 minutes is nothing at all. Shoot, I'm 5 miles from school now and it takes me longer than that if it snows (like today's drive will, I'm sure).

  17. #17
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    Maria: Thank you sooooooo much for all of the info regarding South Miami. We will definitely have 3 vehicles, and my brother-in-law cannot walk long distances, and 2 of the vehicles are big huge trucks/SUVs. So, you are right, that might be a problem. I think we'll definitely drive around South Beach when we are there just to check things out, but I have this sneaking suspicion that we're going to end up somewhere closer to campus. So anything along 57th is OK, just avoid the couple blocks right around campus?

  18. #18
    Senior Member Doug's Avatar
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    Twiggers, did you live in the Palm Springs area out there? I just got back, so I was curious!

  19. #19
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    I actually lived in the Modesto/Stockton area (commonly called the central valley). Not normally called a desert, but we actually fit the description (less than 12" of rain per year). It's hotter than hot in the summer....although not quite as bad as Death Valley/Palm Springs area!

    Oh, I meant to ask another question of all of you. Which wireless carrier do you use? I am contemplating AT&T, but am concerned about whether or not their coverage is good. I'm imagining that in a big metro area that all the carriers should be pretty comparable.

  20. #20
    Senior Member Doug's Avatar
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    Oh, okay! I've been through there but don't know it well.

    I'm with Verizon, and have a 450 minute plan with free in calling, nights and weekends. The base rate is $39.99, but with all the taxes and surcharges, it comes to $48.67 per month or thereabouts.

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