Renting: 9 Tips You Should Follow Before Signing a Lease

By: J. Kline.

Renting: 9 Tips You Should Follow Before Signing a Lease
Image Source: Pixabay

If you’re fresh out of college or moving out on your own for the first time, you might be nervous when looking for your first apartment. Is it close to work? Is the area safe? Are heat and hot water included? What about pets, smoking and other tenants? If a thousand questions are running through your mind when looking for a new apartment, here are 9 tips you should follow before signing a lease.

1) Under special circumstances, rent is negotiable.

Under special circumstances, rent is negotiable.
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If a unit has been on the market for several months, that’s a good indicator that the landlord is likely open to negotiation. If you’re attempting to secure cheaper rent, show the landlord that you’re completely serious by agreeing to sign the lease immediately if you reach terms satisfactory for both parties. A smart position to take is to convince the landlord that waiting longer for another tenant to show up could cost them money. This might encourage them to lower the rent for you if you’re ready to move in as soon as possible.

2) Avoid rental application fees when possible.

Avoid rental application fees when possible.
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Some landlords will charge a fee of $30 or more to run a credit check when you show interest in an apartment. If you’re actively shopping around for the best place andview 5 apartments each with a credit check fee of $30, you will ultimately spend $150 before you even sign a lease. One quick way to avoid these fees is to pull your own credit score. While everyone doesn’t accept this, some independent landlords and individual management companies will allow you to submit your own credit score.

3) Budget according to the area you plan to live in.

Budget according to the area you plan to live in.
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Being realistic about your income and the 12-month cost of the area you want to reside in is the key to being a responsible renter who is smart with their money. It’s commonly recommended that you spend no more that 30% of your annual income on housing costs. However, if you’re a hard worker with low pay or acollege graduate with an entry-level, low salary position, you’re likely going to spend more than 30% of your budget due to high housing costs. A good way to cut down on costs is to find a responsible roommate that is always able to pay their share of the rent on time. Always interview prospective roommates before agreeing to move in with them. Make sure that you both budget your individual expenses and monthly rent costs.

4) Budget for extra costs.

Budget for extra costs
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In some areas, you may be responsible for paying more than rent. Additional bills may include heat, gas, electricity, cable and Wi-Fi. Always research to get an idea of what you might pay for these amenities each month. While cable and Wi-Fi always have the same monthly fees depending on your plan, the costs gas, electricity and heat fluctuate based on your usage.

5) Always call before visiting an apartment for rent.

Always call before visiting an apartment for rent.
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It’s definitely good idea to call before visiting a property.Use the first phone conversation to get all the facts – how much is the rent? What’s included? Is maintenance available 24 hours a day? Does the landlord or management company accept first-time renters? A phone call could prevent you from wasting an hour traveling to and viewing an apartment you can’t rent because you have no prior landlord references. Always call first.

6)  Tour the property in person.

Tour the property in person.
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There are many photos and virtual tours designed to showcase a property online for potential renters. However, there’s no substitute for visiting an apartment in person. You’ll get a feel for the location, neighborhood and all the nooks and crannies of the property. Physical tours give a closer view of the potential space you might move into. Some things look better in person while others look worse. Meet with several landlords and visit multiple locations so you can make comparisons before making a final decision.

7) Ask your potential landlord several questions while viewing the apartment.

Ask your potential landlord several questions while viewing the apartment
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Always remember: If you see something, say something. How old are the floors? When was the last time the apartment was painted? Is the crack on the bathroom window going to be fixed? How quickly are repairs handled? Find out as much as you can about your potential landlord and management company. Are they experienced property owners or is this their first time renting to someone? You may be applying to rent their space, but you can interview your landlord as well. Do you research and know what you’re getting yourself into.

8) Overcome the red flags on your application.

Overcome the red flags on your application.
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First-time renters are red flags to property owners because you’ve never lived on your own and maintained a space. Unfortunately, there is a misconception that you may not be able to manage the responsibilities of paying your rent on time and respecting your neighbors. You also might have a low credit score or no credit at all, making you a liability. The best ways to overcome these red flags are to provide a reference from your employer, two of your most recent paystubs, and recommendations from a work colleague or college professor. This shows that not only are you responsible, but you’re serious about taking the big step of renting your first apartment.

9) Become a desirable tenant.

Become a desirable tenant
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Desirable tenants are fully prepared to possibly pay first and last month’s rent as well as a security deposit. Good apartments move fast in competitive markets. Therefore, your ability to provide a security deposit can be the final step in your apartment hunting journey before you sign a lease. Note that these expenses can add up to several times the amount you would normally pay in rent. Someone with little or no credit can also become a desirable tenant by having a co-signer with a good credit score. Providing a consistent employment history helps too.

Always remember!

Always remember!
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While searching for your first apartment may be stressful, following these nine tips will make your journey much easier because you will be more prepared. Before signing a lease, always be aware of who you’re renting from, the quality of the apartment, its amenities and location, surrounding neighborhoods and the distance from your job. Most importantly, know your budget and focus on what you can afford. Good luck on your apartment search!