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How to Avoid A Bad Rental (For Renters)

No one starts out looking for a bad rental.


Renters begin their search imagining your dream rental, a place that rents for a reasonable rate and has management with excellent customer service. Unfortunately, that’s not what everyone ends up with.  And with the rental market so tight these days, it’s no longer as simple as a quick peruse in your local paper or a haphazard Google search for your area.


So how do you find a great rental in your area? What pitfalls should every renter seek to avoid? Thankfully, with a little planning, a bit of legwork and a good amount of patience, it is possible to avoid a bad rental.


Give Yourself Time:


Whether you are starting off in your first apartment right after graduating, or you are a more experienced renter looking for your next place, it’s vital to start looking early. You don’t want to accept a sub-par rental out of desperation, and in a tight rental market, bad rentals are always going to be more easy to come by. Worse still, if you have a deadline for which you need to be out of your current place, desperation could cause you to fall prey to a rental scam.


Understand Your Budget:


More-than-likely, your rent is already going to be your highest bill of the month, so it's important not to overshoot your budget. Experts advise that a renter spend 30% of the take-home pay on housing, including the utilities. There are easy-to-use  rent calculators that allow you to see, at a glance, how much you can afford. Keep in mind, however, that extras like childcare, current debts and other expenses may impose more constraints on your budget than a general rent calculator can predict. You also should take into consideration your financial goals, such as plans to begin saving for a house while you are renting.


All of these factors should play into your evaluation of rentals available on the market. Not all bad rental situations are due to creepy neighbors, damaged buildings, or bad landlords. Securing a rental that you can’t truly afford will lead to a terrible rental experience, and no one wants to end up in a rental they resent. If you find that your dream apartment is just out of reach, it may be time to opt for a roommate or find a rental that offers a good compromise on your needs vs wants.


Explore the Surrounding Area:


A surefire way to end up with a bad rental, is to take the listing at face-value. A rental is more than the building itself, external components like city noise, the friendliness of neighbors, its location in relation to central hubs, all make up the recipe of a good or bad rental situation. To find something that you will truly be happy living in, examine a prospect by taking a walk around the surrounding area at different times of the day or week. Note the rental’s proximity to places of interest (like coffee shops, gyms or schools) and the general noise level at different times of the day.


Remember, a home that seemed serene during the open-house, can be deceiving if the noisy neighbors were not yet home from work. Dealing with bad neighbor problems could be avoidable if you are willing to do a little extra research.


Be Professional And Ask Questions:


Just like you would with a job interview, act professional and put your best foot forward. Stand out from other prospective renters by having a renter resume and pet resume prepared, and by simply appearing clean and tidy--even down to the vehicle you use to meet the landlord. To a landlord, the way that you treat your car can be reflective of the way that you may treat a rental property… no landlord wants to imagine their rental covered in fast food wrappers and dirty gym clothes.


During the walkthrough, be sure to ask questions. Decide if interacting long-term with this manager or landlord is the right fit. Avoid a bad rental by asking the landlord questions about how they respond to emergency repairs, or if they have any repairs on their radar for the unit. These answers can shed light on their future dealings with you should you become a resident.


Act Like A Detective Before Signing The Lease:


Don your best Sherlock Holmes outfit and get to work; there’s no better way to avoid a bad rental than to act like a detective, and this is especially true when getting ready to sign a lease agreement. Be as detail-oriented as possible when examining the lease, make sure you understand what utilities for which you would be responsible, and even ask how they are calculated. Some apartments calculate utilities based on a shared water bill, which is important to note if you’re looking to save money by taking shorter showers.


Overall, don’t be afraid to ask questions before signing the lease. Your landlord will be grateful that you took the time to understand their expectations, and you will be glad that you are not faced with any surprises down the road.


Final Thoughts

Unfortunately, if you are not vigilant during your rental search, it can be all-too-easy to wind up in a bad rental with a poorly fitting management team. Finding the ideal rental might require more work, a few compromises and even a bit of luck, but there are few better feelings than feeling that comes from finding the perfect home for your needs.


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