Renting an apartment is a popular housing option for many Americans who are not yet ready to settle down or are still building credit and saving for down payments. Renting also makes a lot of sense for people who are not ready for the significant responsibility that accompanies homeownership. It is estimated that there are about 2,654 new renters in America daily. Although apartment hunting is challenging for many, you can find the best apartment for your needs by following some helpful tips. Here are some insights worth considering to find the perfect apartment to rent.
1. Do a walk-through
Virtual tours have gained immense popularity in the real estate market, with many buyers leveraging them for convenience. In fact, Realtor.com estimates that 54% of buyers will skip property listings that don’t include virtual tours. Although virtual tours are undeniably convenient, many experts agree that it is no substitute for touring a property in person since walk-throughs can offer you real-time insights. Previous tenants may have caused maintenance issues, and you need to ensure that you won’t be held responsible for any problems that aren’t your fault. Therefore, come prepared and check for insect or rodent infestation in crawl spaces and cupboards. In addition, turn on all faucets and lights, and flush any toilets to ensure that they function correctly. Additionally, check smoke alarms to see if they work and look for fire safety equipment in critical areas like the kitchen. Also, examine walls and floors for any damage, and check whether all charging outlets in the apartment are functional. Finally, please take pictures of any problem areas and show them to the landlord. This way, you have evidence to show that you didn’t cause the damage just in case you encounter problems getting your security deposit back when relocating.
2. Work with a trusted real estate broker
Apartment brokers help landlords find tenants and prospects for their next apartment for a fee. Consequently, consider reaching out to a reliable real estate broker like Compass to help you find a good apartment in a rental community that has many of your desired features and fits your budget. Working with a reliable broker is especially crucial in a competitive rental market or if you are eyeing high-end rentals. Your broker can also help you save time searching for an apartment since they can sift through available rentals to narrow down your options based on your specific needs. Brokers are also knowledgeable about neighborhoods, so they are an excellent resource for moving to a new area since they can fill you in on specific details regarding your new location.
3. Set your budget
Budgets are undoubtedly necessary when making any major decision in life, including searching for a new apartment. Consequently, setting a solid budget is the first thing you should do before beginning your apartment hunting. A great budget is crucial because it prevents you from signing a lease for a new apartment that is more expensive than you can afford, mainly if you include utilities. Also, a budget can help you identify areas in your personal finance where you can pinch pennies to afford your dream apartment. It would be best to consider whether you can afford higher seasonal costs for cooling in the summer and heating in the winter when setting your budget. In addition, consider how much you can afford to spend on utilities, rent, parking, and any other apartment amenities in a single month. The US Census Bureau recommends that your monthly rent should not surpass 30% of your monthly income, so avoid any apartments that will cost you more than this.
4. Make a list of non-negotiables
There are numerous types of apartments out there, so knowing what you are seeking is essential to simplify your apartment search significantly. Therefore, know what square footage you are looking for and the minimum number of rooms or bedrooms you want in your new space. Also, determine whether access to outdoor space and natural light is a priority for you, so you can rule out apartments that don’t have these features quickly. Furthermore, know the minimum essentials you want in your bathroom and kitchen, like ample storage space and up-to-date appliances, respectively. Finally, consider the overall amenities you prefer in your living area, like air conditioning, parking space, laundry within the unit or building, and elevators. These non-negotiables make for a better living experience as a renter, so many experts advise that you should be uncompromising on them when apartment hunting.
5. Run a credit check
Landlords typically run credit checks to determine whether there are any blatant issues with potential tenants like bankruptcy and unpaid bills. Therefore, you should expect a background check when searching for an apartment to rent. Although landlords run these checks before approving you, it is always a great idea to request your free credit report first. This way, you can glance through it to check for any possible roadblocks and take proactive steps to rectify any errors you might come across. Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion are required by the Federal Tarde Commission to offer one free credit report yearly at no cost to you. Also, requesting this credit report won’t affect your credit check. However, it may take up to three weeks to receive the report, so keep this in mind to remain in sync with timelines.
6. Prepare essential documentation
Landlords take on substantial security and financial risks if they don’t check out each potential tenant thoroughly. Therefore, it isn’t uncommon for many to request extra documentation in addition to credit and background checks. As such, it is prudent to gather other essential papers and keep them on file to advance your apartment search. You may need an employment letter since your landlord must know you are gainfully employed and can afford monthly payments based on your wages. You may also need pay stubs to verify the information in the letter of employment. If you are self-employed, your tax returns from recent years should suffice to replace pay stubs. However, you may need to offer more insights into what you do and how much you make per year when presenting tax returns. Reference letters from previous landlords, past employers, and acquaintances who can vouch for your honesty and responsibility will also go a long way to help you find an apartment quickly.
7. Look through rental listings online
There is no denying that many renters begin their apartment hunt online in today’s world. As such, you can also start your search for a great apartment by looking through rental listings online. These listings offer you an overall sense of apartment amenities and pricing, so you can quickly know what you can afford. Zillow is a great and reliable place to begin your search since it is the topmost real estate and rental site in the US, with about 36 million unique monthly visits. Also, it has informative and attractive listings complete with videos, images, and amenity details. Avail, Trulia, Apartments.com, HotPads, and Zumper are other great online listing platforms you can look through to find your apartment.
8. Talk to tenants
Prospective tenants are always expected to make great impressions on landlords, but many experts agree that the reverse is ideal. Therefore, find out if your preferred apartment is worth living in by interacting with past and current tenants. Generally, your landlord must be courteous and responsive to maintenance issues, so ask about infrastructure problems, tenant turnover, response time to complaints, among others. In addition, you can also ask tenants about living expenses and other realities of living in your new area so you can know what to expect.