Finding an apartment or home to rent is a process that involves more than many people give it credit for. In addition to finding an apartment in your budget, there are lots of decisions to make like knowing what kinds of features and amenities are on your “must-have” list or if you’ll take on roommates or not, as well as information and paperwork to get ready for a potential landlord to review. Get yourself ready to rent with these tips.
Know Your Finances
A responsible landlord will confirm that a potential tenant can truly afford rent before allowing a tenant to sign a lease. This often means verifying that the tenant’s income meets a certain threshold; conventional wisdom says that a renter’s total monthly income is at least three times the cost of the rent. While some landlords will ask for the information just once during the initial application process, others may ask for income verification more frequently, especially in apartment complexes where rent is determined by income.
Many landlords also asses a potential renter’s credit score prior to issuing a lease. A credit score of 650 is usually sufficient, though some complexes may require higher scores or allow lower scores to rent. If you’re unsure of your score, you can always check credit score using free online tools to give you a better idea of whether or not you meet the requirements for a particular apartment.
Know Your Bottom Line
The listed cost of rent for an apartment isn’t always the final number a renter will pay each month. When viewing an apartment, be sure to ask what exactly is included in the rent. Ask which utilities, if any, are already covered and which are not. Not all apartment complexes include parking in the cost of rent, especially if the parking is covered or secured in any way; this is often an additional monthly fee, and it typically isn’t cheap. All of these additional costs should be factored into renters’ budgets before they sign a lease.
Your first payment can sometimes be an especially large one, as many landlords will ask for the first and last month’s rent along with a security deposit. However, some landlords will apply any application fees paid by an accepted renter to be put towards the first month’s rent. When looking for somewhere to rent, be on the lookout for apartments offering move-in incentives like the first month free.
Inspect Your Unit
When touring, ask if you can see the exact unit you’d be renting, rather than a model. This will give you a chance to document and point out any issues with the apartment that could cost you a security deposit later or that may take a particular unit out of the running.
Check to make sure that everything in the apartment is working properly. Do all the light switches work? Is the water pressure adequate? Do all doors, drawers, and windows open easily? Are all the locks secure? If there are any issues, even minor ones, bring them up to the landlord and request that they be fixed before you move in.
It’s also a good idea to drive by the complex at different times a day to get a feel for the neighborhood. Understanding what the neighborhood is like at night is particularly important, as this will give you the best idea of its overall safety.
If you do decide to sign a lease, make sure to take pictures of the unit before you start moving in. This is another chance to document any issues or damage that should not be attributed to you. Keep any photos you take on hand and be ready to share them with building management in case there’s a dispute.
Having your finances in order, knowing the true cost of an apartment and how it fits your budget, and taking time to thoroughly inspect the unit are all important steps to getting ready to rent.