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All of those rental alerts in your inbox have gotten you extra excited to be looking for an apartment, right? Well, before you hop in the car with your screenshots of listings, pen, and notepad, I would highly encourage you to not hold the photos you see online as face value. I repeat, do NOT allow yourself to be catfished by rental ads.
Think about this…
If signing a new lease is on the horizon, you may want to push the following thoughts to the forefront:
- What does my ideal rental look like?
- Is ample parking a necessity?
- Will lack of security make me uneasy?
- What is my maximum budget for a rental payment?
- How much living space do I want? Are there any amenities that could be a plus for my lifestyle?
Having these internal conversations will save you a lot of time when looking for an apartment. It will also be beneficial to inquire about situational ideas such as pet policies, overnight guest restrictions, and repair/maintenance protocol. Your needs are crucial, so creating a list of what you need versus what you want could be one of the most helpful steps towards renting.
When in doubt
When in doubt – always, always follow your gut when looking for an apartment to rent. Apartment hunting should be approached responsibly and strategically, but that shouldn’t mask the excitement of your search to find the right place to call home.
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Renting an apartment is just as significant as purchasing a home, which is why you shouldn’t jump in with your eyes closed. Tenants have rights as well and you are not at the mercy of your landlord, so don’t hesitate to ask the important questions when looking for an apartment.
Test your negotiation skills
If you are not working with a realtor to assist you in your search, you can still try to haggle your way into your ideal rental situation. All landlords want a great tenant so asking your future landlord to bundle the water bill into your rental payment, for example, maybe a simple way to move in with additional savings.
Don’t settle when looking for an apartment
What you see doesn’t have to be what you get. If the stars align and you find the perfect place that checks off all of your boxes, be open about what may be a downside. Most property owners do not want to screen multiple tenants; your honesty could sway them to want to work with you over someone else. Let him or her know what your concerns are. Repairs could be minimal and move-in day may be sooner than you anticipated.
Renting does not imply you need to fill in the first application you see. From the beginning, you should always state your needs with the landlord or property manager. Let them know if you require a rental unit with close parking, handicap parking, or a wheelchair repair. Be clear on if you have allergies and cannot rent an apartment with carpet. It wouldn’t hurt to ask if there is any history of mold. Although the possibility of any health hazards is a deterrent, it is always better to be safe than sorry.
Location, location, location
While some future renters may not have a preference of what floor their unit is on, others may prefer the top floor for the grandest view possible. Some people choose the first floor to avoid stairs or elevators. When you are looking for an apartment, you may also consider how long it will take to commute to work or school. It is also very important to think through your surroundings in case of an emergency. Be mindful of where your local hospital, police station, gas stations, major highways, and convenience stores are. Travel time between destinations could have its positives and negatives.
Not all landlords are created equal
Rental relationships between a landlord and tenant do not always fit like a glove. Take the opportunity to interview him or her as well. There is nothing wrong with asking why the former tenant moved out, how long the former tenant lived in the apartment, what their opinion of the neighborhood is, etc. Within a few minutes, you can get a better sense of the apartment and the landlord before signing on the dotted line.
Create an apartment checklist
If you aren’t transparent about what you’re looking for, you could enter a lease for an apartment that really isn’t a match for you. To avoid this, map out what your expectations for your future rental in the form of a checklist. Do not hold back when jotting down the dos and don’ts of your dream apartment rental because you will be able to quickly eliminate rentals that are not worth your time. This would include apartments that aren’t pet-friendly (if you are moving with a furry friend) or without enough living space.
Explore rental communities
When you are walking back to your car after viewing an apartment, feel free to ask a neighbor in passing how they feel about the neighborhood. No matter how many questions you ask a landlord or property manager, a part of you will always want to see for yourself. If your move-in deadline is not pressing, do a little extra digging to see if that rental community is the one for you. Simply driving around the area to see what stores are nearby or conducting a Google search of rental reviews for the community could be a big help in making a decision on whether or not you’ve found a great apartment or need to keep looking.
Take advantage of rental insurance
Nowadays, rental insurance is a requirement for securing an apartment. Landlords usually carry homeowner’s insurance coverage, but that does not protect renters. It is encouraged for prospective tenants to acquire rental insurance to cover the tenant’s belongings within the apartment in the event of a disaster. Coverage is very affordable and it’s honestly a no-brainer, but it doesn’t hurt to do your own research.
About the Author
Licensed Florida Real Estate Agent
Debrah is a Licensed Real Estate Sales Associate and Certified REO & Short Sale Specialist with a growing team of successful agents. She educates future first-time homebuyers via her co-created e-course and local events. Her 90% referral business has allowed her to close over $13M in sales transactions.
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