Your home is where you spend most of your time, and it is generally your largest bill. The right housing can make a difference between happy and unhappy living and affordable versus unaffordable living. Find and sign the deal on the perfect rental home by following these tips.
What to Look for in a Rental
Before you start your search for rentals, make a list to help you narrow down what you are looking for. This list should include your price range, housing type, housing size and location.
- Price Range: To figure out how much rent you can afford, write down all of your bills, including food, household goods and entertainment money. Calculate those amounts and subtract them from your net income to see how much you can afford. Most financial experts agree that it’s a good idea to stay under 30 percent of the household income for rent and utilities combined, which is a number that most Americans follow, according to an article in the Daily Beast, which estimates that the average household in the United States spends 29.5 percent of their income on rent and household utilities.
- Housing Type: Mobile home, apartment, condo, townhouse, duplex or single family home–which is right for you? As far as money goes, the rental rates generally run from cheapest to most expensive in the order of the above list. That same list also works for privacy, with level of privacy going from least private to most private. Finally, consider amenities. Mobile home parks, apartments, condos and townhouses often have swimming pools, gyms and other facilities for resident use. Duplexes and single family homes usually have private backyards.
- Housing Size: This one is pretty easy to figure out. How many bedrooms and bathrooms do you want? Do you want a bedroom for each person. Will the kids share a room. Do you need a dedicated room to serve as a home office? If you have several people that get ready for work and school at the same time, extra bathrooms may be useful. Factor in these issues to come up with your target housing size.
- Location: Location is one of the biggest factors that determine if you will be happy in a home. Safety is a popular concern. Call the local police department to find the crime rate in the area.
- Commute time is another factor that many people find important. Go to Google Maps to figure out the distance of the home from your work. Finally, look at the amenities in the neighborhood. What stores, restaurants, attractions and hospitals are nearby? Are they the type of stores you like?
How to present yourself when meeting the Landlord
Renting a home is a business deal. If you think of it that way, you will be in the right mindset to meet a landlord. Here are some tips to follow:
- Dress neat and professionally (like you would for a job interview).
- Arrive on time.
- Be polite and show common courtesies (introduce yourself, shake hands, say thank you, smile).
- Have your information (copies of your ID, proof of income and references) ready to present to the landlord.
Just as you should exhibit professional behavior, so should the landlord. If the landlord is rude, you might be better off looking somewhere else. You don’t want to get stuck dealing with an unpleasant person throughout your tenancy.
What to Expect
Every locality has different landlord/tenant laws, but they are all similar regarding what the landlord must provide, which includes:
- Habitability: It is the landlord’s responsibility to ensure electrical, plumbing, heating, weatherproofing, windows and locks are all in working order. Your area may also include additional items in the required list that landlords must provide. Check with the self-help center or law library in the area to get a list of the landlord’s legal responsibilities.
- Privacy: Landlords are legally required to provide tenants with reasonable privacy. Generally, they should only stop by the home to make needed repairs or to show the home to potential buyers if it is for sale. In addition, they are required to give tenants reasonable notice – dictated by local laws – before stopping by. Check with the self-help center or law library to find out what the required notice time frame is in the area.
- Written Contract: A landlord should provide a tenant with a written rental or lease agreement. Make sure to read it thoroughly before signing it to make sure you agree with what it says. You can always try to negotiate any details you are unhappy with.
What to Expect
There are several things that landlords don’t have to do and often won’t do, unless they have agreed to do so in a written contract. Here is a list of things not to expect, unless it is included in the written agreement:
- Paid utilities
- Paid gardening or pool services
- Cosmetic repairs
Doing your homework greatly increases your chances of landing your dream rental. Start your search as early as possible to give yourself time to be extra picky. Happy searching!
- The Daily Beast: The Rent Bubble Is Going to Blow Up Across the Country
- Nolo: How to Impress Prospective Landlords
- Hud: Tenant Rights