Though moving to a new apartment can be very exciting, finding a good one to rent could be a daunting task. These are 10 things you should consider before the big step:
1. Set a budget.
Consider how much you can afford to pay and follow the “rule” not to exceed 30-percent of your monthly income. Focus your search according to your budget and though you may be forced to compromise when finding a bigger apartment in a better area, make sure it’s worth spending the extra money. If you’re looking for a cheaper place to rent, try roommate services to share an apartment, but make sure you know what types of people or habits you’d prefer to avoid.
2. Where to search?
I highly recommend you use a real estate agent’s professional services which will assure a smooth and hassle free transaction, especially if you’re relocating from another area. Not to mention in these economic times you want a guarantee that the rental unit is not in pre-foreclosure or in foreclosure proceedings. You don’t want to move in and then be evicted because your Landlord didn’t make their mortgage payments.
However, if you are going to go it alone try looking in the newspaper classifieds, apartment hunter publications, college campus bulletin boards or on the Internet. Mention to your friends that you’re looking for an apartment to rent and maybe they know something in their buildings.
3. What to search for?
Take a sheet of paper and write them down your requirements list. Do you want a quiet building close to school or work, that allows pets and has ample parking? How about a dishwasher machine or laundry facilities nearby?
You may also want to visit the neighborhood at various times of the day, night and weekend to see if it’s what you expected.
These all count when you decide where to live in for the next few months, if not years.
Finance & Documents
Because the Landlord wants to make sure you’re good with paying the monthly rent most of the times, you’ll most likely have to complete an application and pay for the application fees or for credit reports. In this very competitive rental market Tenants must also be prepared to offer the Landlord 1st, Last & security to move-in upfront with their offer to lease.
Just like a CV for a job application, a renter’s resume should include all the information to make you stand out from other applicants and to convince the landlord that you’ll be a trustworthy tenant. Personal references, last addresses with landlord phone numbers, your monthly income or a copy of your credit report will make you look good on paper. Have you taken a good look at your online profile? Try searching your name, what would a potential Landlord find?
5. What’s included?
It’s very important to know if the rent includes heating, water, electricity, cable or Internet connection but more important is to know what are the average utility bills in the building. Ask the Landlord if you want to be make sure you won’t get crazy numbers on your bills.
6. Read before you sign
A common mistake we usually make is not to read a contract before we sign. Obtain a copy of any rules and regulations, make sure you go through everything and before you sign the lease, check to see if these are mentioned:
- The beginning and the expiration date?
- The rental price and information about your security deposit?
- What are the reasons for which your landlord can terminate your lease contract?
- Are there any penalties for moving out of your apartment before the expiration date?
- Are there any responsibilities on your head for repairs and such?
- Is subletting allowed ?
- See if you have to buy renters insurance? It will increase your total cost.
- Is there a policy about guest visitors?
- Are pets allowed, if so is your pet deposit refundable?
- Are there vehicle or motorcycle restrictions?
- Whose responsible for pest control?
7. Contract issues
It’s a big move so you have to make sure you’re covered on every aspect so never sign a lease without seeing the apartment even if it’s a bargain. Second of all, my advice is not to sign a contract that has an automatic renewal clause, because you may not know what’s going to happen next year. Maybe you change work or move to a new city and a renewed contract would only force you to pay even if you’re not living there.
Last thing and a very important if you enjoy privacy, keep away from a lease that gives the Landlord unlimited access without notification. Tenants have their rights and a Landlord should be permitted without notice only in case of emergencies. As well as respect the Landlord’s privacy, unless an emergency arises, try to remember that calling your Landlord on a Sunday morning at 8AM and asking them to change a light bulb maybe could wait until business hours the next day.
Inspect the Apartment
Most important thing when you inspect an apartment you plan to lease (or buy) is not to let the looks deceive you. Look for the “hidden” attributes and if there’s any damage ask for it to be repaired otherwise you may be blamed for it later.
8. What to look for
You like the price, the area is great, but you need to see where you’re going to live. Here are a few things to take a closer look at:
- Pipes – be it gas, water or anything else, check for leaks.
- Sink faucets, shower heads and water – make sure water (both cold and hot) really comes out of the faucets and the shower head and it’s with a decent pressure. Also the toilet has to flush properly and thoroughly. Fill up the tub, does it drain properly? Look under the sink counters, any leak damage?
- Electricity and appliances should all be working. Check if all the lights or other electric devices are operational. Also check the air conditioner and the heater to see if they’re good for anything.
- Ceilings, walls and windows. Check the windows to see if they open, close and lock properly. Are there blinds or curtains, are they in good repair? Also inspect the walls. The more walls in common (shared with adjoining apartments), the greater the chance of noise from next door. Be sure to look up to the ceiling, any water stains?
- Noise. For some people, outside noise may be extremely disturbing and may interfere with learning. If it’s a highly trafficked area you may have problems concentrating and even sleeping.
Negotiate Your Lease
If everything went smooth, you like the apartment and the landlord likes you, it’s worth trying to negotiate a little bit.
9. Know your landlord
It’s very important to know some basic information about the landlord. If it’s a management company with thousands of apartments for rent it may be harder to negotiate, but if it’s a family and they just need to secure the income each month, you have a green light to close the deal with a small discount.
Read the lease carefully and see what applies and what doesn’t. If there are things in the lease you may not need or if you’re willing to take some responsibilities like cutting the lawn or taking deliveries kindly ask the landlord to lower the rent. Another way could be to offer a longer-term lease or a higher security deposit. A very important aspect of negotiating your lease is to be polite and not give ultimatums because you may get a quick negative answer.
Amy Vulpis is a full-time real estate professional with Atlantic Properties International, Inc. in Fort Lauderdale, FL. She is dedicated to providing her clients with superior customer service. For any questions regarding buying, selling or leasing or more information on the South Florida Real Estate market contact Amy Vulpis, Realtor @ 954.591.4280 or visit www.amyvulpis.com.