Are you looking to rent or moving after a long stint at your current apartment? Times have changed and you need to be aware of what’s happening. For example, a criminal background check on new renters is about as common as toast, and a credit check usually a requirement as well.
In states and cities, especially California, Florida, and Arizona where the real estate market tanked, you will find that renting what you really want is simpler than before. However, be aware you may well be dealing with a new landlord who has little experience since everyone and their mom is trying to generate extra revenue from rentals these days.
You see, while it has become a renters market more and more, everyone is also becoming stricter about exactly who they let in. After all, who wants to clean up a carpet soaked in Dog wee, or the inside of a fridge that looks like the local dump. Below are a couple of tips for you to help make the process a little simpler.
Decide How Much You Can Afford.
Determining how much you can realistically afford on rent is an exercise many don’t seem to have mastered. The general rule is to spend no more than 30% of take home, but I think that’s garbage. If you’re taking home $3,600 per month, don’t spend more than $800 on rent. That’s somewhere in the vicinity of 22% which is a far more realistic figure, and one that will ensure you aren’t strapped each month. Remember to figure in utilities, internet, phone, etc.
There Are Many Options.
There are dozens of websites such as craigslist.com, apartments.com, apartmentfinder.com, etc. Of course check your local paper, rental magazines, etc, and ask friends, relatives, family, etc if they know of any options. Scope out the prospective neighborhood during the day and at night, and if the front door is reinforced, bullet-proof glass, wonder if it’s the best place.
Look over the exterior and common areas of the property. It will become very obvious, very quickly, how much effort is expended in keeping the place up to snuff. Smelly hallways are often a staple of apartment complexes, but if there are numerous stains and the carpet is filthy, think twice. Likewise other common areas should be well kept and the lawns, paths, etc should be tidy and free of debris. There are all kinds of little things that may signify less time than required is spent maintaining the place.
You won’t always have the option, but see if you can talk with current residents about the property and management. Perhaps the landlord has a nasty personality only shown to those that have moved in. Or, maybe there are numerous pets that leave little gifts everywhere. Regardless, schedule a showing to get a feel for the place before committing.
What Features Do You Want?
List the amenities you think you can’t live without. These can be anything from a master bath, larger windows, second floor balcony, huge kitchen, French Chef, etc. Of course, make sure you definitely sweat the small stuff as well, as that is what’s going to make or break your experience. For example, low water pressure might just drive you mad, and if you don’t believe me, try it. Or maybe the electricity gets spotty when demand is high. Many apartments also have electric water heaters, meaning hot water is going to be in short supply, unless the water heater is 50 gallons or more. Or maybe the refrigerator is going to be too small for your weekly, Saturday night banquets with your in-laws. I’m just saying, consider the not so obvious stuff, not just how the apartment looks.
Checking Everyone’s Background.
When you have a general idea of who gets your money, prepare yourself before going over the lease agreement with the landlord. If you decide to lease, there is often a non-refundable application fee. They will also usually want a copy of your drivers license, and your social security number to run a background check which will usually include a credit check, criminal history, and rental history if available. The big deal is the credit report.
On occasion, higher priced apartments and more stringent landlords will ask for recent pay stubs or a letter from your employer to verify income. In New York City for example, renting an apartment is similar to buying a house. You’ll often be asked for tax returns, recent bank statements, and a reference letter from your current landlord along with personal references. Of course New York is expensive to live in, which means mortgages are higher as well. As such, landlords definitely want to make sure they’re not going to have someone default on rent for 4 months before being kicked out. It could mean they’ll have to sell or end up in bankruptcy court.
These days everyone is trying to rent out an apartment of house and if in that situation, you can easily access civil court records such as bankruptcies on an individual. It might also be a good idea to ensure the place you’re renting isn’t in the middle of a foreclosure, etc.
Are You Aware of All The Charges?
In most apartment buildings, heat and water are included in the rent. However, you might be on the hook for gas and/or electric. Also consider internet and cable, as there are usually not covered. Parking is also usually included, but it’s definitely worth a check as well. However, if there is too much nickel and diming, you may be better off looking elsewhere.
The unit you are going to be renting should have absolutely no damage or be in need of repairs whatsoever: don’t sign anything or move in until everything is to your satisfaction. At lease time, be ready to pay a security deposit and usually the first month’s rent as well. Read the contract and don’t let yourself be pushed by anyone. Double-check that the start and end rental dates are correct as well.
Good luck and make sure you don’t let your ego do the talking.