What One Shouldn’t Overlook When Renting an Apartment

85861896_417351848a_zWe all know that finding an apartment can often be overwhelming, not only for the fact that there are seemingly endless options to choose from, but also because you will have to sign a long-term lease that will hold you to this place for an entire year. Because of all this, you should establish what exactly are you looking you for before you begin the search. These hints should help you in your quest to find a new place.

Location

It goes without saying that the location is the first thing to consider when looking for a new place. Whether you want to live in particular neighborhoods or you are searching for an apartment which is close to specific points of interest or, you should determine the general area for your new place. In case you have a particular area in mind, examine, make sure to get a good sense of the overall character of the surrounding areas, getting acquainted with the environment and absorbing the feel of the neighborhood, prior to making your decision. Do some research by, for instance, visiting the area, talking to your friends, reading online discussion boards, or checking out local websites. Once you have narrowed down your search to a specific area, you have to decide where exactly you want to live in that area. Think of particular points of interest you want in your vicinity. Do you want to be within walking distance of, say, work or nightlife, or you need a park in which you can walk your dog? Identifying specific points of interest will further narrow down your searching area.

Rent

The next thing to consider is the rental fee you are willing to pay each month. You have to establish a price range, setting a maximum amount for the rent. Searching within a particular rent range will enable you to look only at viable options. This range should be determined based on the constraints of the lowest maximum if you are planning on sharing the place with others. Now establish the length of your rent, as many landlords will require of you to stay at least 6 months or a year. In case you want or need a month-to-month rental for any reason whatsoever, know that your options are likely to be reduced and expect higher fees, as well.

 

Amenities

The type and size of a rental building can significantly affect the range of amenities available. For this reason alone, you should specify the amenities that are important to you, making sure to distinguish your wants from your needs. First, establish what features must be there for you to even consider renting a place, ruling out all properties that can’t provide for your needs. Now, think of the features you would like to have, but could easily live without. If you successfully separate your wants from your needs, it will be much easier to determine what a desired place absolutely must have. It can be helpful to further sort the required amenities according to their degree of importance.

 

Potential Problems

When you visit the place you are considering, don’t forget to examine the condition of the appliances, plumbing fixtures and cabinetry. In case something is not in good condition, this can give rise to additional expenses. If a tap is leaking, for instance, you’ll pay more for the water bill than you actually have to. Even the smallest issue that you notice can easily lead to a bigger one with the passage of time, so it is better to learn about all potential problems before signing the lease.

 

Author Bio: Lillian Connors is a blogger and home improvement enthusiast ever so keen on doing various DIY projects around her house. She is also an online marketing consultant, closely collaborating with a number of companies from all over the globe.

 

Disclosure: Some of the info for this article was provided by Permanent Plumbing Solutions.  

Searching for an Apartment: A guide for Tenants

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Whether you’re an expert at locating the right apartment for you and your family or you’re a newbie, the search for the perfect apartment can be long, stressful, and often filled with hidden headaches and loopholes. Thankfully, the search for your apartment isn’t as hard as it seems, especially if you go over this handy guide before you start looking for your own perfect apartment

I.               Know What You Want

By starting your apartment search without really knowing how many rooms you want, which neighborhood you want in, or even if you want a condo or townhome, finding something will be an even more difficult job. Make out a list of everything you do—and don’t—want in your ideal apartment, then take that with you to your real estate agents, apartment managers, brokers, or owner, or keep close at hand when you search online for an apartment. Such questions to keep in mind:

  • How many bedrooms and bathrooms do you want? Or more to the point, how many do you need?
  • What closet space do you need? (Keep in mind that many apartments don’t have as many closets as most homes do. It’s also easier to invest in a few shelves and closet organizers than to pay a monthly premium on extra closet space.)
  • What area or neighborhood are you looking at? Is this a big issue for you?
  • What other features are important to you (crown molding, nice cabinets, carpeting or tile floors, large kitchen, etc.)?
  • Do you need parking space within a garage or are you ok parking on the street? How many cars do you have? Will you need to have the parking paid for by the landlord?
  • What kinds of amenities are essential to you? Many large apartment complexes have luxuries like swimming pools, exercise rooms, spas, in-building laundry facilities, or even sports rooms (for basketball, etc.).
  • If you have pets, you will most definitely need to be looking at apartments that allow pets, whether it’s a cat, a dog, or even a reptile like a snake.


II.            
Figure Out a Budget

Deciding on a budget can be just as difficult as searching for the apartment itself. You need to figure out a price that you can afford, and that includes monthly utilities, including water, lawn maintenance, laundry fees, cable TV, renter’s insurance, and more. Many landlords want their tenants to make three times the amount of the rent; for example, if the rent is $1,200, then they want the potential tenant to make at least $3,600, in order to include other bills as mentioned above. If possible, include as many small bills and utilities as possible in the budget in order to ensure you have everything covered before you even go out to look at an apartment. Once you have a budget in mind, DO NOT look at any apartment that goes over this amount. It will only disappoint you since you won’t be able to afford it. Or it may tempt you into making bad choices like getting an apartment that you can’t afford and going into debt over it.

III.           Where to Look

There are various places for you to search for an apartment; it’s really up to you and what works best for your family and/or schedule. Many people like to look online first, then contact the landlord or broker and schedule a time to go out and take a tour of the space. Many prefer to contact an apartment brokerage firm or real estate agent who specializes in apartments/townhomes/condos and go from there.

Other places to look for vacancies include local newspapers (check out the Classified or Homes sections), rental signs in front of duplexes or apartment complexes, online bulletin boards like Craigslist or Rentalroost.com, and other online websites that list apartments that are for rent, or going to be for rent in the near future. Also, be sure to ask friends and family to keep you in mind if they hear of any upcoming apartments that will be for rent soon.

IV.           How to Stay Organized During Your Search

Because you probably have so many things to keep track of (budget, how many bedrooms/bathrooms you need, parking space info, etc.), it’s essential to be organized when you begin calling agents and looking at different apartments. Before starting your search, write out your wants and needs, your budget, how much you have to put down as a deposit, how many pets (if any), what amenities you want, etc.

Once you begin your search, you will need to maintain a new list to keep track of the apartments you look at and notes about each property. Here are some things you should write down after talking to an agent or touring a property:

  • The apartment’s address
  • Name of the landlord, owner, broker or real estate agent and their contact information
  • How many bedrooms and bathrooms the apartment has, as well as the total number of square footage
  • Any pros and cons you see right away
  • Any additional notes you want to remember (such as promises the landlord made, what amenities the property has, specific things about the neighborhood, etc.)


V.            
Understanding apartment lease and rent agreements

Finally found the perfect apartment that fits both your budget and your needs? Great! Now it’s time to start reading the notorious lease agreement and try to make heads or tails of it. Fortunately, it is not as difficult as some may think it is. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind:

  • The lease. First off, you should understand what a lease is. This document is defined as a legally binding contract of the renting of land, buildings, etc., to another. Before signing any lease, make sure you understand all the terms in the document (and if you don’t, please ask!). Generally, the lease is usually written in simple language that can be easily understood.
  • The security deposit. This will most likely be touched upon both verbally by the landlord/agent/broker and also in the lease. This deposit is the money that is given to the landlord when first renting the property and is supposed to cover any damages that might incur over the course of renting the apartment. The amount of the security deposit is subject to many things, including what state the apartment is located in and what the landlord wants. Generally, it is equivalent to one month’s rent.
  • Terms of the lease. If the terms of the lease do not match what you and the landlord/agent/broker have already gone over (i.e. people named on the lease, date the rent is due, amount of the rent or security deposit, etc.), immediately bring it to their attention so it can be fixed before you sign it. Once the contract is signed, it is binding, so it may not do you any good to argue about incorrect facts then.

Pros and Cons of Renting an Apartment

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While there are those who see renting as simply wasting money, there are certain benefits to renting an apartment versus purchasing a home, condo or townhome. And just as there are advantages, renting does have its disadvantages as well. If you’re looking at renting an apartment, take a look at this list of pros and cons to help you decide whether renting is right for you and your family.

Pros

  1. Amenities and other added features. Many renters of apartments enjoy such options as swimming pools, exercise facilities, tennis courts, game rooms and even movie theaters. If you’re searching for an apartment to rent, make sure to ask about what amenities the apartment complex or community has to offer, and whether usage of these facilities is included in the rent.
  2. Maintenance and repairs. Unlike homeowners, renters have the luxury of having someone else take care of all those pesky little things that can go wrong – from broken appliances, leaky faucets, clogged toilets, and major repairs like cracks in the wall, or a broken water or heat pump, renting means that the landlord has to take care of these repairs and also offer regular maintenance. Larger complexes and apartment communities even offer a special department just for repairs and maintenance. Those who rent apartments also don’t have to worry about snow removal or yard maintenance.
  3. Freedom and mobility. Many people who rent apartments do so because of relocation due to their jobs, to be closer to family (due to caring for a sick parent, etc.), or wanting to live in a better neighborhood than they can afford if they would have to purchase a home. Renting an apartment makes it a lot easier to move than if you owned a house; you would have to wait until the house sold before moving to wherever you need to go. However, with an apartment, you can give appropriate notice to the landlord and then move without too much hassle or long wait time.
  4. Lower initial costs and fees. Compared to the amount of money you have to dish out when you first purchase a home, renting is definitely less expensive in the beginning. Renters usually pay a few hundred dollars for a security deposit, whereas those who are buying a house can pay thousands of dollars upfront in a down payment.
  5. Save money. Especially in a down economy, renters can save money when home values are plummeting. Even though it would make sense to purchase a home when the prices are low, if you wait until the values are getting ready to rise, you can save money in the long run.
  6. Smaller space, less hassle. Many renters seek to rent an apartment due to downgrading from a larger home, and find that a smaller space is easier to maintain. Seniors, empty nesters, singles and college students can all benefit from renting a small- to medium-sized apartment, giving them the advantage of having to take care of less space.
  7. Location. Ultimately, many people who rent apartments do so because it’s located in a particular area or neighborhood where they can’t afford to buy a home (or there just aren’t many homes available for sale). Whether the area is close to a job, a good school, or near family, many people find that renting is just a better option, especially if the housing market or economy is in a downward slump.
  8. Taxes and insurance. Renters don’t have to worry about real estate taxes, and the only insurance they need is renter’s insurance, which is much cheaper than homeowner’s insurance. There are no taxes for renters, but homeowners sometimes have to pay thousands of dollars a year in different taxes (such as property taxes, state and county taxes, school taxes, and local taxes).

Cons

  1. Parking. Many renters have problems with parking, especially if their apartment is located in a busy area of the city. Paying to park is a perpetual expense, and if your landlord has no designated area for parking, then you have to find a spot on your own, often quite a distance away depending on the area and how busy it is. This is a definite con for many of those who are looking to rent an apartment, especially in major metro areas.
  2. Decorating. If you love to personalize your living space, especially with lots of bold paint colors, many renters find that they are not able to decorate to their liking, since many landlords will not let their renters paint walls, or do any heavy decorating projects like you can in your own home. Decide if this is a deal-breaker for you when choosing to rent or not. Even if you do have a lenient landlord, make sure you first ask for permission to make the changes you desire. If you thoroughly enjoy home renovation projects and prefer to spend your free time working on decorating your home, renting may not be the best option for you.
  3. Pets. There are numerous landlords and property managers out there that don’t allow pets of any kind, the majority of restrictions being on dogs and cats. Landlords are generally under the impression that these types of pets will destroy their property, no matter how well mannered they may seem. If you have pets, you might have a hard time finding a rental, therefore making your search a longer and more cumbersome one. Also, landlords who do allow pets always want a pet deposit upfront, making the expense of renting a bit higher.
  4. Noise. If you like a quiet environment, then renting an apartment may not be for you, since many apartments might have loud neighbors and/or thin walls. Many renters have to deal with noisy neighbors, barking dogs, parties, etc., while living in an apartment. You may want to think of an alternative if you really need peace and quiet where you live.
  5. Rule enforcements. One of the most disconcerting reasons that many tenants move out of their apartments is living in a complex where rules were not enforced as they should be. The landlord may have “special” or favored residents who break rules and get away with anything, while the other tenants are forced to maintain those rules or get in trouble. There really is no way to know if a landlord may favor certain residents over others, so you always run the risk of renting a property where you may be treated unfairly compared to other tenants.

Regardless of what the pros and cons may be, you may sometimes have no choice but to rent an apartment. You can make the best of any situation by searching for your perfect rental unit based on your own lifestyle – pet-friendly or kid-friendly or just in a fantastic neighborhood that suits all your wants and needs! To find your perfect rental, go here.

How landlords can reduce property maintenance costs

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Investing in a rental property is a commitment, and requires proper care and devotion to enable it to become profitable. Maintaining and managing a property can be expensive, but these two simple cost-cutting measures can help you reduce your overhead and make a solid return on investment.

Reduce Home Maintenance Service Costs by fixing small maintenance problems yourself

Quality of living is a very important factor to your residents, and therefore it’s essential to ensure that maintenance issues are resolved quickly and efficiently, especially when the issues involve structural problems and water damage. Toilet leaks, major dry wall cracking, and roofing related issues require immediate attention and need to be fixed properly and quickly without a delay.
Normally you would utilize the services of a handyman or professional, but honestly, the vast majority of home maintenance tasks you can accomplish with relative ease yourself. For specialized maintenance consider hiring a professional, but fixing run-of-the-mill issues yourself is a great way to cut down on those costs. Taking up the repair duties will obviously demand more of your time and physical exertion, but it’s a nice way to drastically reduce the costs generally associated with home maintenance.

Opt for a Resident Manager Instead of a Management Company

This is contingent upon the number of properties you’re attempting to manage. If you don’t feel you can effectively run the place yourself, consider hiring a Resident Manager to focus on the daily duties. He/ she will be tasked with acquiring new tenants, monthly billings, and maintenance (a nice solution for the aforementioned reduction of home maintenance costs).
Management companies are far more expensive and not always the ideal solution. From a cost-effective standpoint, if you cannot attend to all the management needs, hiring a singular individual makes more sense as opposed to a company.

In Summary

Rental properties are long-term investments, and reducing home maintenance costs by either fixing small problems yourself or by hiring a Resident Manager instead of a Management Company you can save lots of money, reduce your overhead significantly and experience profitability sooner rather than later.

Author Bio: Trevor enjoys writing about home improvement and the housing industry’s continuous innovations. He’s currently marveling at the efficiency of geothermal heat pumps.

Questions a tenant should ask before signing a lease

Signing a Lease? Ask These Questions Before You Move In

Are you the type of person who enjoys reading lengthy contracts? I’m willing to bet the answer to that question is “NO”. Agreeing to a serious contract without first reading the fine print, however, could put you in a sticky situation. There are many factors at play when deciding on leasing a property. When you’re responsible for maintaining physical property that’s not yours, you better know what’s at stake. Besides, just because your landlord is running a background check on you doesn’t mean you can’t ask him or her a few questions in return. Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind before signing your name on the dotted line.

Understanding lease length

Before you begin looking for a new rental, it’s important to know how long you plan to live in the desired location.  There are two types of leases, fixed-term or month-to-month. Fixed-term leases require the tenant to fulfill the contract for a specified amount of time. Sometimes it’s as low as 3-months and other times it’s as high as 18-months or 2 years. Some condo and apartment complexes encourage renters to sign longer fixed-term contracts by offering reduced monthly rent.  Furthermore, if the renters intend to leave before the contract’s end, they’ll likely incur a hefty fee to break the lease.

Where fixed-term contracts lock in renters, month-to-month contracts offer better flexibility. However, where month-to-month rentals require less commitment, they typically cost more to maintain and landlords may choose to incrementally increase rent over consecutive months.

Does the landlord allow renters to sublease?

Let’s say, for instance, you moved into an apartment with a one-year fixed-term lease and during that first year you receive a job offer of a lifetime in a different city that is too far away for commuting. Let’s also assume that the company that has hired you doesn’t offer you a relocation package, forcing you to pay the fee to break your lease. It’s a bittersweet position to find yourself in, but don’t lose hope quite yet. Some landlords will allow you to essentially “replace” yourself, but that responsibility is yours, not theirs. Subleasing is fantastic because sometimes it can get you out of a bind and save you from having to pay the fee to break the lease.

Ask about pro-rating

This question is rather simple, but if asked and agreed upon, can save you a good chunk of change. Pro-rating involves only charging a percentage of the monthly rent relative to the amount of time you actually lived in the place for that same month. So, if you moved in on the 15th, you should only be charged about 50% of that month’s rent.

How are maintenance requests handled?

Many major apartment and condo complexes have procedures in place on how maintenance requests of renters will be handled. Many of those complexes even have full time personnel on their staff who take care of all maintenance and emergency issues. As a tenant of a standalone unit or home it is very important to ask the landlord how maintenance and repair issues will be handled and in what time frame. Sometimes the landlord will expect you as a tenant to contact a repair service directly. In other cases, the landlord will contact the repair company themselves. Either way, find out ahead of time how maintenance requests will be handled.

Another question you might want to ask your landlord is if and when regular inspections will be conducted? Personal privacy is a sensitive matter and you probably don’t want someone barging in unexpectedly.

Utilities: who pays what? What about deposits?

Utilities are expensive. Gas, electricity, cable, water and garbage disposal costs all add up. Ask your landlord about the diffusion of payment responsibilities. Besides utilities, association fees are quite common. Buildings with pools, workout facilities and business centers all come with added costs. Are these fees included in your rent or do you have to pay them as part of your monthly association fees?

When signing a lease you are usually required to put down a deposit. Deposits serve as upfront insurance policies for property managers and will usually be returned to you after you move out and you have left the rental unit in good condition. Unless you have a dishonest landlord or absolutely obliterated the property, getting this deposit money back shouldn’t be an issue. Assumptions aside, always find out the deposit return policy.

Inquire about move-in details

Before hiring Boston’s best moving company to move you into your new home, know what you need to take care of before walking in the front door with all your gear in tow. Many landlords require insurance policies but can sometimes skim over whether or not you’ve submitted or transferred yours. Some large complexes have rules on what time of the day moving in and out is actually allowed. Another important thing to find out before moving day arrives is to make sure that all the utilities have been transferred and turned on. The last thing you want to find out while you are moving is that the electricity has not been turned on!

Renting a new apartment or house can be a very exciting time in someone’s life, but before signing the lease, please make sure you know what responsibilities you have as a tenant and what you can expect from your landlord. This will prevent many common “renter problems” in the future.

Author Bio: Mark Healey writes about moving, home improvement and DIY projects. Sometimes he writes about other things, too.

 

Make Your Commute Easier!

Do you currently live far from work? Driving for hours each day to and from work not only causes you more stress and frustration, but it also takes up valuable time that you could otherwise spend on your hobbies or with your friends and family! The solution – move somewhere close to work or somewhere near public transportation so that you can utilize your commute hours engrossed in a good book or knitting your latest creation rather than navigating heavy traffic in frustration.

RentalRoost’s proprietary public transit search function can help you find a home within walking distance to public transportation! First, go to the Find Properties tab and select the city in which you want to search for a rental. Next, select the Public Transit dropdown menu and pick the train line that is closest to your work. The map will highlight available rental properties near each stop on the line. You can zoom into a particular location to focus your search or browse all stops to widen your search to different cities along the train line. Say goodbye to lengthy boring drives!

Public Transit 1

On the off chance that you cannot move into a more commute-friendly location, here are a few ideas to make your daily drive a bit easier:

  • Subscribe to some fun new podcasts. You can learn new languages, discover amazing scientific facts, or just listen to some incredible stories. A few favorites: Coffee Break Spanish, Stuff You Should Know, and This American Life.
  • Invest in a nice Bluetooth device to catch up on your calls. Between work and afterwork events, it seems like you don’t have enough time in the day to catch up with all the important people in your life – your college friends, your siblings, your parents, your buddies from yoga class, and your high school besties. You can use this time to check in with your friends. But remember – DON’T TEXT AND DRIVE! And even if you use a Bluetooth device, pay attention to the road and not your conversation!
  • Catch up on your music. Build a great playlist of new artists you’ve been meaning to listen to or just create a great playlist of your perennial favorites. This will help you start to unwind from the moment you get into your car.
  • Play the alphabet game by yourself. Or the license plate game. This will not only entertain you, but it will also help you pay more attention to everything happening on the road.
  • Create a carpool. Find co-workers who live nearby and form a carpool. This will give you some friends to connect with on the road, and it will also give you a much-needed break from behind the wheel, at least a few times weekly.