Renting, in general, is a challenging process, involving lots of time and energy, and renting a house is no exception. With over 30 percent of Americans living in rented houses or apartments, the demand for renting has been rising steadily. Property management companies and individual landlords have been doing their best to ensure that the demand meets the supply. So, if you’re looking to rent a house within a specific budget, you’re sure to find something sooner or later. But while you’re house-hunting (or even before), follow these nine steps to ensure that you’re on track toward finding the perfect house for rent:
- Set your housing budget
It’s a given that any significant investment or expense requires a budget. The same goes for your rental house. You’ll be happy to know that as far as finding the ideal rental house goes, you have many options to choose from, whether it’s duplexes or one-bedroom bungalows, or even brick houses! So, the first thing you need to do is set a budget. Figure out how much you have and how much you can afford without breaking the bank.
As you may be aware, the 30 percent rule directs you to use 30 percent or less of your income on rent (before taxes). At the same time, you need to consider other recurring expenses, such as utilities, internet and cable expenses, and renters insurance, and plan your budget accordingly. You also need to consider moving costs and those required to furnish your house. In addition, remember that many landlords cite income specifications, so be sure your income is at least two to three times the rent you can afford.
Since you’re renting a house, be prepared for some unforeseen expenses, such as community or HOA fees, maintenance and equipment costs, pest control, and garbage removal. Be sure to check with your landlord whether these expenses are built into the rent. If the house isn’t equipped with amenities, such as a washer and dryer, you’ll have to dip into your savings and get it or maybe even travel to the nearest coin laundry to get your clothes washed.
- Find out your credit score
Is a good credit score critical to renting a house? Not really. A lot of tenants find houses with no credit or with a bad credit score. However, the process becomes more challenging because in such cases, you may need a cosigner who can guarantee your rental payments or lure the landlord with more money beforehand.
Therefore, it makes sense to obtain your credit report to find out what your score looks like. Where might you get your report? You can either request it online at annualcreditreport.com or order it by phone or email. The alternative is to get it online from the portals of the three credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion). Give your report a thorough read and check your score. If it’s good, you can relax. Else, you can give yourself some time to better your score before initiating the house-hunting process. Should you find some discrepancies, raise a dispute and get it resolved. Remember that an excellent credit score leaves a lot of room for negotiation. So, you may end up finding what you’re looking for at a lower price than you had anticipated!
- List your needs and wants
One of the most important things to do before looking for a rental house is to make a note of your needs and wants. The needs comprise things you require for sustenance, while the wants are things you can do without. Let’s say the house needs to have two bedrooms and two bathrooms. The neighborhood should have all the essentials, such as a grocery store, a bank, a post office, a drycleaning shop, among other things. The area also needs to be safe so that you’re comfortable returning late at night. If you have a car, a parking space is a must, and if you don’t have one, your house needs to be close to public transportation options. Of course, this is hypothetical. Your list might have entirely different things.
Now, do you need a fully-equipped gym or a swimming pool? A fireplace, patio, or a backyard? No, it’s great to have such amenities, but your happiness isn’t at stake because you don’t have them. Your available bank balance will require you to let go of certain things, so choose wisely. You can always acquire the things you ‘want’ when you’ve saved enough money.
- Use apps and portals to find a house
With the entire world online today, there’s no shortage of rental apps and websites you can use to find the perfect house for rent. Such apps and sites have a wide range of listings of rental houses with detailed descriptions, amenities available, tenant requirements, and the rent charged. Since a description is of no help unless you can view it, you’ll find uploaded photos of the rental properties.
Speaking of apps and rentals, you can always refer to Cirtru, the most reliable and trusted rental room finder in the United States! Its detailed filters will help you sort through multiple rental listings, based on your preferred rent, move-in date, and lease period, among other things, and fetch the ones aligned to your requirements.
- Explore your choices in person
Based on your preferences, let’s say you’ve selected a few houses for rent. What next? Depends on where you’re looking for rental houses. Are they in the same state or another one? If they’re in the same state, you must set some time to check out the properties in person to see if they match with their photos.
If the properties happen to be in another state, take a couple of days off work and travel to the city to vet the properties in person. If your schedule doesn’t allow you to travel, request a friend or family member (if you have one) to visit the properties and share photos and details with you. If you don’t know anyone in the city, request the landlord for a virtual tour while you’re on a video call with them.
While you’re touring the house, physically or virtually, be on the lookout for anything that doesn’t seem right. As you go from room to room, be sure to check it from top to bottom to see if you can locate any defects. Check inside closets and cabinets to find signs of any rodents or bugs. Be sure to identify signs of mold, water damage, or holes in walls. Write them down in case you forget to broach the topic of getting the defects fixed before moving in with the landlord.
- Be prepared to ask questions
Make a list of questions to ask your landlord, not just about the house defects, but about a number of equally critical things, and be sure to get them clarified. Here are some key topics you could ask questions about:
- The amount of money you need to fork over: This includes the security deposit, the first and last month’s rent, and pet deposits or fees, if any. Clarify under what conditions you’re likely to get your full security deposit back.
- The maintenance policy: This is about the procedure for filling out a maintenance request form and the turnaround time for the request to be looked into.
- The guest policy: Includes the number of people who can stay over and the duration of stay.
- The pet policy: This deals with the number of pets allowed, along with their breeds and sizes.
- The rental payment collection mode and due date: Check whether the payment can be made online.
- The amount of late fees and their collection date
- The notice period required before moving out
- The lease duration and renewability: Clarify the consequences of an early lease break, whether the lease can be renewed once it expires, and the extension period of the new lease.
- Initiate the application process
After you’ve found the house you wish to rent, the next step is to fill out the application form and submit all the paperwork required for the process. Besides asking for specific details, the application process will require your approval for a background check, credit check, and validation of your income, employment, and bank accounts. In addition, you’ll need to share previous landlord references for your current potential landlord. Last but not least, you’ll have to share a few professional and personal references of people who can vouch for your character and financial credibility.
Remember, there’s an application fee involved, which might hover anywhere between $25 to $45. This fee will be used to run the checks, and you should know whether you’ve been approved within a few days.
- Get renters insurance
We referred to renters insurance briefly while talking about recurring expenses you should consider while preparing your budget. You might be wondering why you need it.
Know that a landlord insures their property and its surroundings well before renting it out. But what’s not insured are the belongings you bring with you when you move in. So, let’s assume the house catches fire and destroys everything, including your things. In that case, how will you replace all of them? Do you think you’ll have enough funds to cover the cost of all your stuff? Anything that’s damaged or stolen from you will be covered by renters insurance.
Finally, renters insurance will also cover legal and medical expenses should a guest file a lawsuit against you for getting injured in your rental home. It’ll cost you not more than $30 per month for a $50000 policy, so consider getting one for the safety of your belongings.
- Read and sign the lease before moving in
Once your application’s been approved, you need to sign the lease agreement. But there’s something more important you need to do before that: read the lease. Read it well, search for inconsistencies, and get them clarified by the landlord. In fact, it might be wise for you to read up on the local landlord-tenant laws and be prepared before signing the agreement. That way, you’ll know whether you’re being taken for a ride by the landlord and take proper action whenever necessary.
Remember that once the document’s signed, both parties must comply with it to avoid legal complications.
We believe after reading this information, you’ll be ready to take the plunge. What do you think? While the entire process from budgeting to signing the lease might seem overwhelming and tedious, it’s essential so that you find a house worth your while and can enjoy living there without any hassles, legal or otherwise.