Much like purchasing a home, finding suitable rental housing begins with knowing your finances and monthly budget. And like purchasing a home, be sure to answer the related questions before your quest begins. What type of rental best fits your needs: single-family home, condo, townhome or apartment? Do you want a roommate? How many bedrooms and bathrooms will you need? What about a garage? Do you prefer to live in the city, a suburb or in the country? Would you rather be close to work, school, shopping or public transportation? Are there specific must-have amenities like an exercise room, swimming pool or tennis courts? Knowing the answers beforehand will narrow the next stage — the actual search.
For starters, check this guide’s yellow pages or the Internet. Most online sites, such as www.rent.com and www.apartmentguide.com provide detailed information, photos of the properties and search engines based on price, location and number of bedrooms. Many sites also offer rent specials and availability of units.
Property management companies and real estate offices will be more than glad to help you find a house, condo or townhome. Or simply drive around the preferred neighborhoods and maybe snag an unadvertised rental. A network of local friends and relatives can also help.
Before deciding, you should learn as much as you can about your potential new home. Here are a few things to consider:
Understand the total financial commitment. What are the costs of deposits and application fees? Are utilities included in the rent? How much is a typical monthly summer and winter utility bill? Will the rent increase when the lease expires? Is a pet deposit required? Also, determine the cost of renter’s insurance and any effects on your automobile insurance, which are often based on location.
Interview the management staff or property management company. If in a complex, are they located on site? How quickly do they respond to issues? What kind of issues are they working on?
Talk to nearby tenants or potential neighbors, if interested in an apartment or condo complex. What do they like best and least about living there? What is the parking situation? How are the noise levels both inside and outside?
Visit the neighborhood during the times that you would usually be home. How is the traffic around the area? Note the parking and noise conditions.
Ask for references to check a property management company’s past performance. Was the staff responsive when called?
Were there any issues in returning a security deposit in a timely manner?
Check with the local sheriff’s office or police department for the crime rate in the neighborhood.
Review any association rules to be sure you can live within their guidelines.
Read the lease carefully before signing it. Do a thorough walkthrough of the residence and note issues with the property on the lease or a separate document. Be sure to have a member of the property management staff sign and date the document to ensure you don’t have to pay for damages you were not responsible for.
Make sure the lease specifies the length of the term with a start and end date, the monthly rent and when it is due, deposits and amounts paid. The lease should also detail the amount of notice required before moving out, the condition of the rental after moving out and the amount of time to expect the return of deposits.