Choosing a Place to Rent & Legal and Financial Concerns
When you are looking for a place to live that is right for your needs, you will want to go through the process carefully and take several factors into account. It can help to determine your goals in advance even before you start looking for an apartment or house to rent. Once you are ready to look actively, there are many ways to find homes of which you should be aware. Finally, you will want to investigate the landlord and the other tenants to make sure that you are comfortable with them.
Determine Your Goals
Most people have certain requirements for what they need in a home, such as a certain number of bedrooms or bathrooms, a pet-friendly environment, a home office space, parking, or disability accommodations. They also may have certain non-essential preferences, such as design features, proximity to their work or to their children’s schools, or access to parks and outdoor areas. It can be a good idea to determine which aspects of your future home are essential and which are simply preferable so that you can distinguish among your options more easily.
Also, renters typically have certain limits on how much rent they are able to pay. People generally are advised not to spend more than about a third of their monthly pay on rent, although this is not an absolute rule. You should not forget to include utilities, internet, parking, and any additional charges associated with a certain home in your calculations. Most landlords require a certain amount of rent as a security deposit, such as one or two months. This expenditure should be taken into account as well.
Costs to Consider in Addition to Rent
Utility bills (electricity, gas, internet, etc.)
Broker fees, if applicable
Miscellaneous fees, such as the cost to do laundry
You may want to consider which type of lease best suits your needs and future plans. A short-term agreement is more flexible if you may need to move again in the near future, while a long-term lease provides more security.
Ways to Find a Home
Taking a broad, inclusive approach to your search can reap significant rewards. People often start by telling friends, colleagues, and family members about their preferences and asking them for suggestions. If there is a certain neighborhood or area where you want to live, you can regularly look for rental signs there or notices in local stores or businesses. You can also check real estate classified ads in local newspapers. (Some tenants even post an ad to attract potential landlords, but this is less common.) Even if there is no obvious rental sign posted, you can usually check with the manager of a certain complex that interests you to see whether something might be available or available soon.
Going online is another main way in which people find their homes. Craigslist is a commonly used site for both landlords and tenants, although it is susceptible to misrepresentations and fraud. You should make sure to meet with the party posting a listing in person before you get too far into the process. Other websites are dedicated to providing national listings of apartments, such as apartmentguide.com, rentals.com, and apartmentsearch.com. These may provide more information than a potential landlord on Craigslist. Some densely populated metropolitan areas, such as New York City, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, have specific websites for listing apartments there.
Check reviews online before working with a real estate broker or property management company to find a place to rent.
Sometimes bringing in a professional third party to help with your search can be helpful, especially if your own time is limited. Real estate brokers often assist people who are moving to an unfamiliar part of the country or to a city with a vast range of options. However, you should be aware that brokers often charge significant fees, which can be either flat fees or a percentage of the rent. You may want to make sure that the broker has exclusive listings that are tailored to your preferences before undertaking this extra cost.
Like real estate brokers, property management companies can be useful aids but should be approached with caution. They may oversee many rental properties in a certain area, and prospective tenants can approach them directly to discuss their needs and the options that might fit them. In many areas, however, their quality can vary dramatically, so it is wise to conduct background research on a specific management company before relying on it.
Investigating the Landlord and Tenants
You probably want your home life to be as smooth and stress-free as possible. Finding out more about your landlord and the condition of the property can be critical. (Your landlord will be investigating you as well during the rental application process.) You can ask the landlord’s current tenants and neighbors about them, and you often can find useful information online. A simple Google search may reveal issues with the property or the surrounding area, such as security problems, maintenance difficulties, or a pending foreclosure. Apartmentratings.com also offers many renter reviews of apartments and landlords, which can provide more specific information.
Just as a difficult landlord can make your life miserable, so can dangerous or inconsiderate tenants. Landlords are not legally required to investigate the criminal history of their tenants, although many do. They are also not required to disclose any information that they know about a tenant’s criminal history to prospective tenants. However, it may be possible to find this information online. People who are former sex offenders, for example, are typically required to register with their state’s sex offender registry. If you are a woman living on your own or a parent of young children, you may want to check out this information.
Tenant behavior that is not criminal but annoying or dissonant with your lifestyle may be harder to identify in advance. However, talking to tenants before signing the lease can give you a general idea of what to expect.
Airbnb and Short-Term Rentals
It may be a good idea to ask the landlord or review the lease or rental agreement to determine whether the property allows short-term rentals such as Airbnb. Buildings that allow short-term rentals may feel less peaceful or secure when people are rotating in and out.