Renting a home gives you increased flexibility to move when you want. Don't like the neighbors, traffic pattern, smells, or sounds of a place? Need to leave for a less (or more) expensive place if your income changes? A move is easier if you are renting a home because renting involves less commitment.
Renting also shifts property management and maintenance responsibilities to a landlord. The maintenance and upkeep costs included in the rent will be more efficiently spent by a professional apartment manager over a large number of apartments on a property.
In general, if you are new to a place, and you are not certain that you are going to stay, start out renting.
When you rent an apartment, be prepared to pay a month's rent in advance plus a deposit (which may be approximately a month's rent). Also have with you some proof of income (tax return or statements) or employment (acceptance letter or employee identification).
CASE STUDY: Kevin gets a small apartment at a ski resort.
TACTIC: Make a list of potential rental properties by using newspaper classified ads, Internet rental sites, or even a walk through the neighborhood looking for signs.
Get listings based on the location within your target neighborhoods and the rent amount within your ability to pay.
Once you have a list of rental properties, you can eliminate some by a quick check of fundamentals.
You can usually judge these fundamentals by making an appointment for a quick visit to the property. You might even be able to eliminate some properties from your consideration just by viewing them from the street.
TACTIC: As you consider rental properties, look first for these fundamentals: safe, clean, pleasing, and quiet.
- Safe: You need to be confident of your personal safety where you live. Has the landlord taken reasonable steps to prevent crime? Are there appropriate locks, lighting, and layout of the grounds and buildings to reduce crime? Is every aspect of the property up to building and safety codes?
- Clean: A clean property is desirable for your own health and pleasure, but it also indicates the degree of care that the landlord places on the property. You should see no broken windows, doors, walls, locks, elevators, or lights. The pathways, hallways, and all public areas of the property should be clear and clean. Wear and tear on sidewalks, walls, or gates should be at a minimum.
- Pleasing: You are going to live in the property, and if some aspect of its aesthetics just don't fit with you, take the property out of consideration. It might be perfectly safe and clean, but its original architectural design might be so flawed that it would make living there for you an unpleasant experience. You should also check the path to your potential apartment door. Would you have to go through a maze of hallways? A side alley? A dark parking garage?
- Quiet: Also check for noise--do you hear stereo music playing? Stereo music that can be heard outside an apartment is normally a violation of a lease and against the law in most municipalities. Stereo music playing unchecked in an apartment building you walk by or visit is a good sign that the landlord or management company does not care about the property or is simply too incompetent to do anything about it--either way, stereo noise should put any apartment you visit (or live in) off your list for consideration. Visit the apartment at different times of the day and evening to check. Ask the landlord what they do about stereo noise and get such promise in writing.
- Competently Managed: Is the landlord a professional property manager or company with a track record of positive experience? Avoid renting from absentee landlords or property owners with little or no experience in the rental market. Some get-rich quick schemes involve buying and renting properties, and the people doing this are sometimes delusional and/or irrational when it comes to managing a rental property properly. In general, look for a company with multiple buildings and which has a dedicated, competent, courteous maintenance staff dedicated to making sure things run well in the properties.
Next, look at the properties that fit your needs.
TACTIC: If a property is fundamentally safe, clean, pleasing to you, and competently managed take the time to go through a detailed checklist.
- the rental amount
- the size of the unit
- number of rooms
- condition of kitchen
- condition of bathroom
- what is included in rent (heat? electric?)
- what kind of heat
- What kind of electrical outlets--make sure some are grounded (3-prong) for a computer or large appliances
- what kind of air conditioning
- onsite laundry (amount)
- onsite parking if you own a car (amount)
- if you don't own a car--what is the discount on rent? If the car parking is included in rent and you don't have a car, ask that your rent be reduced--if the landlord won't do this, don't rent from them and tell them why.
- appliances included
- furniture included
- maintenance procedures -- is there a number to call 24 hours a day? Is there a dedicated, professional maintenance team? Is the landlord accountable and present in the area?
TACTIC: Consider renting the smallest apartment you can. You will save on money and make your life more efficient.
Your apartment will be priced based on what renters in the market are able and willing to pay. You may get more living area per dollar in a studio apartment than in a one-bedroom apartment because people who earn more usually want a separate, enclosed bedroom.
TACTIC: Make your final choice in your apartment and neighborhood by taking all the information you've gathered into account, but choose what you genuinely want--trust your "gut feeling."
Your apartment will have a tremendous impact on your mood and motivation. Don't just choose the cheapest apartment. Be willing to pay more for a better location or a more pleasing view, layout, or neighborhood. Choose an apartment that you are satisfied with from the start of renting it.
Search for free or low-cost housing
If your finances are limited, you might be able to find places where you can exchange work for free or low-cost housing.
TACTIC: See if you can find living arrangements for low or no cost in exchange for your work or time.
Check classified ads or contact nursing homes, large apartment complexes, colleges and universities, hotels and resorts, retirement homes, churches, or homeless or domestic shelters, or any institution that may provide services to residents around the clock. Ask if any positions are available which include free or reduced cost housing.
If you make such an arrangement, absolutely make sure you get the agreement in writing, in specific terms, before you move in. Make sure that the responsibilities required are worth the housing provided.