In 2016, more than 36.6 percent of US households rented a home or apartment and that number just keeps going up. No matter how many people rent, the process is always daunting to new renters. If you’re new to renting, you’re probably not even sure where to start looking for a place to call your own. Luckily, as Keyrenter Property Management Austin says, finding an apartment or rental house isn’t as tough as you might think.
Here are a few key things to keep in mind when you start your search.
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Figure Out Your Budget
Before you can start looking for a place to call home, you need to think about how much you can afford to pay. Look at your monthly income and try to choose an apartment that only costs about 1/3 of your income.
Any money you regularly receive each month counts as income. This could include stipends from internships, income from a part-time job, or even money your relatives send you.
Once you have an idea of how much you get each month, you can figure out what you can afford to pay. You’ll need to budget for utilities like water, electricity, gas, and internet if they’re not included in the rent.
Remember, you can always ask the landlord what the utilities ran for previous tenants. Even if they don’t have a firm dollar amount, they should be able to give you a range.
You can also cut the cost of your monthly rent by moving in with a few roommates. Just make sure that everyone (including the landlord) is on the same page before you sign the lease. Believe it or not, some landlords won’t rent to people who plan on having roommates.
Always Tour Multiple Properties
It’s tempting to move into the first rental that meets your needs and your budget, but that doesn’t mean you should. Whenever possible, tour several properties in the area to get a feel for what’s available.
See the properties in person rather than relying on photos online. Those photos don’t always show the true size of the space and may hide features and issues that you won’t like dealing with while living there.
After touring several properties, choose the one that you like best and that best fits your budget. Remember, you’ll be living there for the full term of your lease. If you move into a home or apartment that you’re not happy with, that lease term will drag by slowly.
Go Over the Lease Agreement in Detail
When you do find an apartment or rental house that you love, take the time to go over the lease agreement thoroughly. Read through every page and make sure you understand what the landlord expects from you.
If you have questions or concerns, deal with them before you sign the lease agreement. And if any terms in that agreement seem excessively strict or unreasonable, don’t be afraid to walk away.
It’s always better to keep looking than to get trapped in a lease with a landlord that makes your life harder.
Use a Co-Signer When You’re New to Renting
When you’re renting for the first time, you may not have a good credit score and won’t have a rental history to prove to landlords that you’re responsible. This can make it tough to get into some rentals.
Luckily, there’s a simple way around this problem: use a co-signer. A co-signer is someone who can vouch for your ability to pay rent on time while also being willing to assume responsibility for those rent payments if you don’t make them.
In most cases, this person will be a relative or close family friend.
You’ll be able to leverage their credit score, their rental or homeownership history, and their income to encourage the landlord to rent to you.
Think About the Neighborhood, Not Just the Rental
The perfect house won’t feel so perfect if it’s in a bad location or the wrong neighborhood. Before you sign the lease, think about where the rental is.
If it’s not convenient to work, school, or other activities you participate in on a daily basis, it may not be the right rental for you.
You’ll also want to think about how comfortable and safe you feel in the neighborhood. A great location with a high crime rate puts your safety and your belongings at risk.
Look for a neighborhood that’s both convenient and safe. You may end up having to make some compromises, but that’s okay.
Invest in Renter’s Insurance
Many landlords these days require that you buy a renter’s insurance policy before you can move in. But even if they don’t, you should still invest in a policy.
This type of insurance coverage protects you from liability if you damage the rental or someone gets injured while they’re visiting you. It also protects your belongings in the event of a break-in.
This is by far one of the most important tenant tips first-time renters need to know about. The coverage won’t cost you much, but it can save you thousands. Without the coverage, you’re forced to pay for those expenses completely out of pocket.
Take Pictures Before You Move In
For most rentals, you’ll end up paying a security deposit before you can move in. This deposit helps the landlord cover the cost of any repairs the unit might need when you move out.
That security deposit is refundable, provided you leave the rental in good condition.
Before you move in, take pictures of the property. Document any broken appliances, damage to the walls and carpets, and anything else that’s in disrepair.
Once you clean the property before you move out, use those photos to help you get your security deposit back.
Renting Doesn’t Have to Be Tough
When you’re new to renting, understanding lease agreements and finding the perfect place to call home can feel overwhelming. These tips should help you find the best rental for your needs quickly.
Once you find the perfect apartment or house, remember that you don’t own the property. If you want to make any changes or have any maintenance issues, you need to notify your landlord before taking action.
That doesn’t mean you can’t decorate! Check out our latest posts for helpful tips on decorating your new apartment.