Finally moved to that one city you’ve always wanted to live in? Starting school at your favorite institution? Getting ready to relocate because of a dream job? If you’re not ready to buy a home yet, you’ll almost certainly be looking for a rental. But finding the right place isn’t just a matter of picking from a list. You want to do everything in your power to choose wisely; that can be the difference between finding a house — and finding a home.
We’ve compiled a list of twelve things you should look out for when renting, according to professionals and experts in the real estate industry. If there is one thing that real estate professionals are hot on, it’s due diligence, so take a leaf out of their book and make sure you’re ruthless with your checks.
These range from warning signs to good omens, from straightforward suggestions to brilliant insider tips you might not have considered. Use these tips to make your next renting experience a more rewarding one!
Follow first impressions
What does the outside of the rental property look like? First impressions are often accurate ones. If you see an ill-kept lawn, poorly-maintained walkways, broken railings, dirty entryways or loose gutters, your instincts will tell you to be wary of the property. Trust it! A bad outside often reflects a shoddy inside.
Research the neighborhood
It is important to research the community you’ll be living in; you can do this before you even see the property. Walk around the neighborhood and see what the rest of the area is like. Ask yourself, is the neighborhood safe? Are the other residents of the neighborhood friendly?
Select an area, not just a house
Doing your research doesn’t just mean deciding if a neighborhood is “good” or “bad,” it means deciding whether a particular area is best for you. Where will you spend most of your time? Is your job or school within easy access? What about amenities? All these questions help you decide on the property that best suits your needs.
Ask questions — outside edition
You’ll want to ask a lot of questions about the potential flat, but you need to start asking even before you enter the building. Ask about garden access, suitability for pets, or even what parts of the exterior you might be responsible for. Your questions might uncover some surprising information that helps your decision before you even set foot inside.
A question that may not occur to you is asking about the safety of a building. This might be as broad as asking about the safety regulations of an apartment building, or as tiny as noticing the quality of the locks on the doors.
When you first move inside the property, give a quick scan for damage. Holes in the walls, torn carpet, and stained ceilings are all huge warning signs. Some fixes are easier than others, but many problems won’t just disappear because you’ve started renting. Damage tends to get worse over time, not better; if you notice any much-needed repairs, remember to…
…Ask about repairs
Be sure to clarify WHO is responsible for fixing any damage. Remember, not all problems are created equal. A stained carpet is sometimes a simple fix while damp, blackened ceilings rarely are. Stained ceilings and other water-related problems may indicate serious issues within the rental property. If you still want to proceed, be absolutely sure to figure out who pays for what.
Check out the basics
Don’t get caught up in the cool views or fancy features of a property before you’ve covered the basics. Does the central heating work? What about air conditioning? Check the water pressure and make sure the apartment is properly insulated with double-glazed windows.
Look for safety
If you’ve just checked for security features on the exterior, extend that search to the interior. Look for working latches on doors and windows, and make sure fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors function properly. Tenant security needs to be a top-priority.
Consider the appliances
Household appliances can make a huge difference in the price of a rental property. Does the potential rental come with a refrigerator, washing machine, or dishwasher? If so, double-check that they work and find out how new they are. Also, be sure to inquire about who pays to fix them if they break.
Think of your needs
What do you need in a rental? A single student looking for a quiet place to live will have very different needs from a married couple expecting their first child. Someone who enjoys cooking may require a larger kitchen, while a self-professed ramen expert may only need a small countertop. Don’t pay extra for features you’ll never use, so consider carefully what you need in a flat.
Ask questions — inside edition
Finally, anytime you think of a question, ask it! What are the views from the front window like in the winter? How is the heating system? Are you allowed to change the colors of the walls? There are no stupid questions, and you should ask all of them up-front. You may not enjoy the answers if you wait.
All of the tips above fall into three broad questions that every renter needs to consider. Is the property suitable for your needs and your desires? Is the property well-maintained and in good repair? Lastly, is the rental secure? The tips above fit into one or more of these broad questions. Use them together to put yourself in the best position to find the perfect rental.