Looking for a home to rent – particularly if it’s your first time – can be an intimidating under-taking. While your exact needs and wants are probably as unique as you are, the process of seeking and signing for the right lease is a common one with common factors. Here are a dozen all-inclusive points to help you through it.
1. What do I need to pay to move in?
The first check you hand over or digital payment you make is going to be more than just a month’s rent. Most of the time it needs to include payment for your last month’s rent and/or a security deposit. Additional fees may apply depending on the building, neighborhood, etc.
2. Will I need a guarantor?
In some instances, particularly in larger cities, leases require a minimum household income or net worth. For example: most apartments in New York City require your yearly income be 40 times the monthly rent. If you don’t meet those requirements you may need to enlist the help of a guarantor: someone (typically a friend or relative) with a high income/worth who can cosign your lease and ensure the rent will be paid.
3. How long will I rent for?
There are a few factors to consider here. Not just how long you’ll be in the area before you next move (for a PCS or otherwise), but whether or not you expect to deploy while there, how long the available lease options are, and whether or not an upcoming pay raise or family situation change will allow/require a different living space.
4. What if the landlord wants to sell the place?
Just in case you find yourself in a house or apartment when its ownership changes hands, it’s smart to learn your rights as a renter well in advance. It can differ from state to state but, in general, a new owner will leave your lease unchanged until it ends or give you adequate time to move out. But knowing the specifics will prepare you in case of any dispute or confusion.
5. What’s the policy on late fees?
Hopefully you’ll never have to deal with this in actuality, but you never know. A check can get lost in the mail, a bank transfer might not go through in time, or you might plumb forget. Find out ahead of time what the policy and price of late fees are anywhere you’re looking to rent.
6. Is there a strict guest policy?
This usually isn’t an issue when renting a house or large property. But many apartment buildings and rental condos have limits to the number of overnight guests and the length of time they can stay with you. Whether you’re the type to host big slumber parties and long-term couch surfers or not, it’s worth knowing.
7. What’s the pet policy?
Bringing your beloved dog, cat, fish, hamster, or Burmese python with you when you move? Then you’ll definitely want to make sure any apartment or house you rent has a policy friendly to your particular pet(s). I think most people would agree that no living space is worth giving up Fluffy (which is a good name for any of the animals listed above).
8. What is the maintenance request process?
At some point, you’re going to need something fixed. And, while you’re welcome to see to it yourself, one of the benefits of renting means you’re not responsible for necessary repairs and upkeep. Knowing exactly what it takes to get a maintenance issue addressed will likely impact your decision to rent a place or not.
9. How long is the commute to base?
This will probably be one of the first things you wonder when looking at a rental property, but count this is as a friendly reminder. Whether you, your spouse, roommates and/or all of you will make that commute twice a day, it’s worth it for your whole household to know how quick a trip to the post takes.
10. What kind of neighborhood do I want to live in?
Finding a place with a great layout and high ceiling is great and all, but consider where it is and what’s around it before you move in. Do you prefer to be outside of town with plenty of space and quiet, or somewhere you can walk a few blocks to restaurants, stores, and other amenities? Like the old real estate adage goes, “Location, location, location.”
11. What’s the parking situation?
Usually not an issue if you’re renting a single family house with a driveway and/or garage. But if you rent an apartment, unit in a condo-style community, or anything else with shared, semi-shared, or public parking you’ll need to know the particulars. How many cars can you have? If there’s a lot, does it have dedicated spots for each housing unit? Any extra fees associated with keeping a car there? And so on.
12. How old/recently updated is the property?
Many listings will include the dates of construction and any subsequent alterations/updates. And a building that’s very recently built or refurbished will be advertised as such, because newer construction means higher rent. But if those facts aren’t readily displayed, ask. An older building that hasn’t undergone renovations in a long time is more likely to have problems than a recently fixed up one.
You’ll probably have more questions to ask your-self, family, realtor or even the internet when hunting for a place to rent; those more specific to work, life, family and monetary situation. This dozen (not to mention the helpful rental tips we’ve dished out here and here) are ones everyone should think about, in order to land the right home in the right place for the right amount of time.
Ethan Hansen says
Thanks for pointing out that you should ask what the parking is like before you rent an apartment. My wife and I want to move to a smaller place as our kids move out, and we don’t want to buy a small house. We’ll be sure to ask about the parking policy for when our kids come to visit!