By Bill Gassett
Have you been living with your parents and know in your heart that it's time to move to the next phase of your life? If you're looking to rent a house or an apartment, it can be difficult to know where to begin. In fact, the differences between renting a house versus renting an apartment can be stark. It's essential that you figure out what you want from a rental before you begin your search. Whether you choose an apartment or a house, these tips will put you on the right track:
There are many rental properties to choose from that can vary greatly in size and location. A big consideration in your choice should be your budget.
When moving, it's almost inevitable that there will be additional costs that you don't expect, so don't look at properties above 30 percent of your income. This will give you enough breathing room to pay for utilities, HOA fees and other unforeseen expenses. Keep in mind that renting an apartment is generally less expensive than a home unless you're in a popular area of a city.
Your Credit Score
Although it's still possible to rent a home if you don't have an exceptional credit score, it can be more difficult. If you don't already know your credit score, check it before you start to search.
You can check your credit score for free on various websites including AnnualCreditReport.com. Doing this research will let you know if you need to take additional measures before you rent a property, like correcting errors in your credit report.
Searching for a Home
There are many things to consider when you search for a rental property. Which neighborhood do you want to live in? What type of home do you need? You also need to think about commuting to your job and access to amenities.
Be sure to watch out for potential scams. There's a lot of money involved in renting a home, so you could be at risk. Look out for homes that are being offered for far less than you would expect and landlords that are absent, or those that are keen to rush you into a decision.
To protect themselves, landlords screen potential tenants and meet them in person before agreeing to rent the property to them. If you're encouraged to hand over cash or wire money to the landlord's account, this is a major red flag. If you can avoid the scams and find a few homes that are in the right location, meet your requirements and your budget, it's time to move onto the next stage.
Potential to Rent to Own
One thing that renting a house offers over renting an apartment is the potential ability to buy the home in the future. Rent-to-own homes tend to be hard to come by because a lot of it is based on timing. Often, landlords choose to rent their property, but also have in the back of their mind the idea that they may sell somewhere down the road.
When looking at houses to rent, you may want to discuss with the landlord their thoughts about selling the house. Doing so could be a win-win if you enjoy living in the property. If you speak to an agent, they're bound to tell you rent-to-own houses are difficult to find. They can work out to be a perfect scenario for both tenants and landlords, so it's worth discussing.
If you have a few homes that you like and you live some distance from them, make sure to schedule the showings on the same day.
It's increasingly popular to have a virtual tour of rental properties. This will make it easy for you to quickly see if you like the home without the need to make the trip to view it in person. Even if you use a virtual tour of the property, you'll probably want to see it in person if you like it.
When you view the home, there are a few things you should look out for. Does the house have the sort of amenities you need? Are the rooms large enough? Is there enough outside space for you, and does it have parking? You need to think beforehand about what you ideally want from a home. Though you may end up compromising on some of these things, you should know what you are looking for.
Hire a Real Estate Agent
If you're looking in a high-demand area, you may quickly discover that finding a rental property on your own is not that easy. It might be worthwhile to find an agent to help join the search. Quite often, real estate agents are paid by the landlord, so it might not cost you anything.
Whether you pay a fee to the agent or not, it may be worth having another set of eyes looking for a home. Further, the agent will become a fiduciary in moving forward. You'll be able to bounce all of your rental questions off them.
Choosing Your Rental Home
Hopefully, you'll have found one of the homes you viewed to be exactly what you're looking for. Before you sign on the dotted line, however, you need to know how much money is required upfront, and what the landlord's rules are.
Find out things like: How and when to pay the rent, if you're allowed to decorate rooms, whether pets are allowed and how to exit the agreement.
Signing a Lease Agreement
If you're happy with all the details of the lease, it's time to sign, but not before you read and understand the entire contract. If there's something that doesn't look right, you should do more research or check with a lawyer.
If everything looks great, it's time to sign the contract and move in. Now you have the job of forwarding your mail and letting everyone know your new address. This includes businesses and government agencies, along with your friends and family. You can now enjoy living in a new house, though you still need to remember that you have to abide by the rental agreement.
In many areas of the country, finding a home or an apartment to rent can be challenging. Like the housing market, there are pockets of low inventory. If this sounds like the case where you'll be looking, it's vital that you keep your ear to the ground to find something acceptable.
Bill Gassett is a nationally recognized real estate leader who has been helping people buy and sell MetroWest Massachusetts real estate for the past 33 years. He has been one of the top RE/MAX REALTORS® in New England for the past decade. Gassett works for RE/MAX Executive Realty in Hopkinton, Mass. In 2018, he was the No. 1 RE/MAX real estate agent in Massachusetts.