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More than 44 million American households live in rental properties.
If you’re thinking of renting a place of your own, you might be wondering what you should be watching out for.
Luckily, we’re here to help you out. Read on for our top tips first-time renters need to know.
1. Determine Your Budget
Before you start looking for a place, figure out how much you’ll be able to afford to spend on rent each month. Start by adding up all the income you receive each month, including your salary, any bonuses, and other sources of money.
Next, make a list of all your monthly expenses, such as utilities, transportation, food, and entertainment. Be sure to include any debt you have to pay off, such as student loans or credit card bills.
If you plan to save, that should also be part of your calculations. Think about how much money you’d ideally want to save on a monthly basis. This could be for a variety of goals, such as building a fund for emergencies, saving for a down payment on a house, or investing in your retirement.
Then, you’ll be ready to determine your rental budget. Subtract your monthly expenses and savings goals from your monthly income. The remaining amount is what you can afford to spend on rent each month. As a general rule of thumb, your rent should be no more than 30% of your monthly income.
2. Research The Market
Take the time to research the rental market in the area you want to live in. Look at average rental prices, amenities, and locations.
3. Make a List of Your Priorities
Make a list of must-haves and nice-to-haves for your rental unit. This can help you narrow down your options and find a place that meets your needs. Some things you might consider include:
- Pet policies
- Parking availability
- On-site laundry facilities
- Outdoor space
- Exercise facilities, like a gym or a pool
- Storage space
Of course, you may have to compromise on some of these things. It all depends on what’s available, and what your budget is.
4. Start Your Search Early
Don’t wait until the end of the month to start looking for a rental. It can take time to find the perfect place, so start your search early.
One of the easiest ways to find apartments is to search online. There are many online resources that allow you to search for apartments by location, price range, and other criteria. Different options are popular in different areas, so you’ll have to use some trial and error.
You can check local classifieds, such as newspapers and community bulletin boards, to find apartments that may not be listed online. Walk around your community, and see what buildings have vacancies listed.
You can also bring in professionals. This leasing agent is one great option.
5. Be Prepared to Provide Documentation
Landlords may ask for proof of income, references, and a credit check. Have these documents ready to go to speed up the application process.
Before you sign a lease, read the paperwork carefully and make sure you understand all the terms and conditions. There are usually standard forms, but some malicious operators might sneak unusual terms in there—that might not even be legal.
6. Inspect the Unit
Before moving in, inspect the rental unit carefully and document any pre-existing damage. This can protect you from being charged for damages you didn’t cause.
Look for things like holes in the walls, broken windows, or damaged flooring. Take pictures of any damage you find to document the unit’s condition.
Turn on lights, faucets, and appliances to make sure they are in good working condition. Check the water pressure, test the heating and cooling systems, and check the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
And, of course, check for any safety hazards, such as exposed wiring or lose handrails. If you identify any safety hazards, make sure to notify the landlord or property manager about them. No matter what price you’re paying for your new rental unit, it’s important to keep yourself safe.
7. Know Your Rights
As a first-time renter, you have rights. Familiarize yourself with laws and regulations in your area to ensure that your landlord is following the rules. Of course, these rules differ depending on where you are.
For example, in most places, tenants have the right to a notice before entry. Landlords are required to provide tenants with notice before entering their rental unit, except in cases of emergency or required maintenance.
You might also be entitled to certain things during the search process. Many places have non-discrimination rules, so landlords can’t consider certain factors when reviewing your application.
8. Be a Good Tenant
Pay your rent on time, be respectful of your neighbors, and take care of the rental unit. This can help you build a good relationship with your landlord and make your rental experience a positive one.
9. Get Renters Insurance
You should also consider Investing in renters insurance for your new unit.
Renters’ insurance provides coverage for loss or damage to personal property, such as furniture, jewelry, electronics, and clothing. This can be especially helpful if you experience a theft, fire, or other unexpected events that damage or destroy your belongings.
First-Time Renter: Get Started Today
There’s a lot to juggle when you’re a first-time renter. Hopefully, these tips have given you a way to get started.
Do you need more help to get out on your own? We can help. Look through some of our other articles on related topics.