Moving out of the safety of your parent’s house is both exciting and a little scary. I was the first of my friends to leave the nest and get a place of my own. Since then, I have spent 10 years renting six apartments in three different states. My hope is that the following tips will help you save money and aggravation while looking for your first place.
1) Ask Yourself These Questions First
- How much can I afford each month?
- Do I need a roommate?
- Do I need my own room?
- How about my own bathroom? .
- Do I need a parking spot?
- Do I do a lot of cooking?
- Do I have a lot of electronic equipment?
- Do I want to have cable?
- Do I need a large closet?
- How close do I need to be to my job or school?
It is important to keep in mind the things that you use daily and will need to continue to use in order to be successful. My husband and I quickly learned that we need to have an abundance of three pronged electrical outlets wherever we live. We live “plugged in” and you would be surprised how many places for rent are short on three-pronged outlets. We decided that premium cable channels are must-haves so we always check to see if an apartment is cable-ready, and who are the local cable providers.
2) Do your Homework
Reach out to local realtors, utilize internet sites, and pick up a local paper to comb through the rental inventory on the market in your area. The more research you do, the more likely you are to find a great place. There are an abundance of lovely homes to rent in most areas, often the challenging part is finding a great place in your price range.
3) Found a Place? Do Your Research
Google your landlord or apartment community to make sure they have a good reputation. See if they have a record with your local Better Business Bureau. The last thing you need is to move in somewhere that is known for having persistent plumbing problems, or was without heat for three months in winter.
4) Visit 3-5 Apartments Before Committing & Document with Photos
This will give you the opportunity to confirm that all of your must-haves are present at your new potential home. Taking pictures is a great way to document the state of the home or apartment before you move in. Our last landlord tried keep our security deposit because he claimed we had “ruined” his hardwood floors. My husband and I had photographs from before we moved in that clearly proved that the floors were “ruined” prior to our stay. Those photographs ended up saving us quite a bit of money and time.
5) Be Prepared for the Rental Application
Know what documentation your landlord is going to require and make sure you arrive with it at the time you are going to fill out the rental application. Bring a checkbook because you will likely need to write a check for the cost to your potential landlord to pull your credit score. They also might want paystubs and references; I even had one landlord ask for my most recent college GPA. Whatever it is, know ahead of time what they require, and arrive prepared.
6) Read and Understand the Terms of the Lease
It sounds simple, but this is the most important piece of advice I can offer. Check to see who is responsible for the care of the yard. Are heat and hot water included in your rent? How long is your lease for and will it automatically renew for 12 months at the end of your period? What happens if you break your lease? The Better Business Bureau has a great reference site outlining the details of what you should know about your lease as well as tenant and landlord expectations. Check it out here. I have been relatively fortunate in my experience as a renter. I have friends who have lived through some true horror stories. Are there any sage pieces of wisdom from the other experienced renters out there? How about some horror stories?