Are you looking at rental properties? You’re in good company: the average person in the United States will move around 12 times during their life. The 2014 Census revealed that nearly 37% of households were renting, and 25% of renters are renting by choice rather than necessity. In fact, a survey showed that half of all renters surveyed believed that renting was a better choice for those on a budget and to keep stress levels manageable.
On the bright side, this level of interest in rental properties means that more furnished units and luxury apartments are being built every year, and the choice and variety of rental amenities are growing yearly. On the flip side, all this choice can make it hard to make a decision among so many renting choices. Here are five important steps to finding the perfect rental properties to choose from.
- Set your budget in advance and don’t go above it. Be sure to draw up a budget in advance. Look at where all your money is going, and follow the golden rule of rental properties: don’t spend more than 30% of your income on rent. In fact, many landlords will want to know your income before they even rent to you, and some will not allow you to rent at all if you get too far beyond that number.
In addition to the actual rent, don’t forget to budget for extras that you’ll want, like cable or parking or laundry if there are no laundry hookups in the apartment. Don’t forget about utilities, either.
- Start looking early. If you wait too long, you’ll feel pressured into taking something because you need a place, not because you really love it or can afford it. The best time to look is usually the end of the month before you know you’ll be moving out. At the end of the month you will usually have the most selection to look through.
- Prioritize what you really want and need. Today’s rental properties can come with a lot of lovely extras, like amazing decor, spa baths, property pools, and other items. But don’t let these extras steal your focus. Be sure to consider how close the place is to work, public transport, family, grocery stores that you like to patronize, church, school, etc. What is the property’s policy on pets? Are there stairs, and is that ok with you? Once you’ve nailed down what you absolutely need you can let the extras help you make the final choice.
- Hang out in any area you might like to live. If you’ve narrowed your search to a few great places, spend some time in the neighborhoods to get a feel for the culture and life there. What’s it like after work in the evening? After dark? What about before work coffee runs, or weekend vibes? Is it a place where you could feel comfortable with your friends or would like to take your kids? Are there restaurants, coffee shops, stores, churches, mailing centers, or other places nearby that you could envision yourself using? What is security like at the apartment complex, and what is the crime rate in the neighborhood?
- Make sure you are ready to get approved quickly. This means making sure your credit is in order and you are ready for a background check. You’ll also want to carefully go through any lease to make sure all the details are correct and things you can live with. Don’t be afraid to negotiation for some perks, especially if there are a few things you don’t like about the property. That lack of view or that window that will heat up in the summer on the south wall could be leveraged into free cable, reduced-price parking, or even a little bit of remodeling before you make the final move.
Finding just the right property for you and your family is possible. It just takes a bit of advanced planning and careful thought. Think in advance about everything you need to do and the search will be faster and easier than you fear.