How To Prepare Your Property For The Rental Market

Painting walls, interior decorationPeople have different reasons for renting out their property. Some people are in the property rental business and own and/or manage a large number of properties. Other people need to move somewhere temporarily but want to keep their home for future use. Then there are people who are determined to sell their property—but only at a price the market is not willing to pay yet. For these people a great option would be to rent out that property for a while. After all, smart investors are buying up and renting properties quite deliberately because they realize that a rental home is not just an asset that can appreciate over time, but one that can also produce income at the same time. Rental prices are on the rise and why not take advantage of that?

Whatever your reason for renting out your property, it will most likely need some work to get it ready for the rental market and get top dollar. Preparations in the following areas should be considered before your rental hits the market:

1. Make the Necessary Repairs and Check All Safety Features
On the top of the list should be all heating, plumbing, and roofing issues. All other issues that could be considered safety issues should be addressed as well. Repairs made now will save you time and money in the long run, and will safeguard against increased damage and costs later. Be sure fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are in place and have been tested, and double-check that all windows, doors, and locks are in good working order.

2. Clean and Add Curb Appeal!
Clean the house thoroughly, including closets, fixtures, and appliances. Replace dirty carpets, polish wood floors, and make sure that the grout in tile floors has been spruced up. Remove all debris and trash from the entire property. If a one-time rubbish bin rental is necessary, go for it. Where needed, give each room a fresh coat of neutral colored paint. On the outside, tidy up the lawn and landscaping and make sure that the property has curb appeal. Sometimes replacing a mailbox, front door, adding some color by displaying flower pots, or a coat of fresh paint, can make a huge difference.

3. Prepare Proper Documentation of Your Home and Its Contents
Plan to inspect and document your rental home before tenants move in; then once again immediately after they move out. This is imperative and will serve as documentation of damage caused by the tenant if that warrants withholding the security deposit for repairs. Photos, a checklist, and even a quick video can do the job.

4. Decide on Clear Leasing Criteria and Screen Your Tenants Thoroughly
Before you prepare a rental application, it’s a good idea to pin down the leasing criteria to help determine who will be qualified to become your tenant. Some common criteria to take into account are:

  • No prior evictions
  • Good credit
  • No foreclosures or bankruptcies
  • No criminal convictions
  • No pets
  • No smoking
  • Good References

A quality tenant background check is a must. An online service like Houserie to do your screening for you makes a tenant background check a breeze.

But whatever your choices, do remember to follow the Fair Housing Act guidelines.

5. Get Rental Property Insurance (Landlord Insurance)
Landlord insurance is not the same as renters insurance, which covers the tenant’s property. A good landlord insurance policy protects you; it should cover everything from major damage inflicted by tenants to legal action they might take against you.

6. Prepare All Lease Documents in Advance
There are many basic lease agreements and other documents available online that can be downloaded. You can also have an experienced lawyer prepare (or just review) these documents. Other rental documents you might need include credit check authorization forms, move-in checklists, and any other notices you wish to post to tenants. These forms are all available online.

Preparing your property for the rental market is an important and critical step in the leasing process. Following some of the advice mentioned in this article will make the whole process a lot easier and will give you more bang for your buck. If this sounds like too much work, a property management company can handle some or all of it for you.

Searching for an Apartment: A guide for Tenants

for rent

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.

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, 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.)

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.