Six Tips for Renting an Apartment
Before you begin your apartment search, you need to understand how much money you can afford to spend on rent. In other words, you need to develop a budget. Experts suggest that spending no more than 30% of your annual income for housing costs. This is a guide line for use in developing a housing budget. Also, consider the benefits of renting vs. buying.
Determine Your Budget
Totaling your monthly expenses to determine how much you have available to spend on housing should be your first step in crafting your budget. The Kiplinger Company provides a handy calculator called the Household Budget Worksheet for this specific purpose. Fill in those lines for which you have known expenses, estimate your unknown expenses. If you leave the rent paid line blank, the difference between expenses and income will be the maximum rent you can afford to pay. The calculator provides a structured way for determining your total monthly expenses, and includes line items for utilities. In this regard, you may be able to get some guidance from your utility company as to the average costs within any proposed property for electric and gas. Keep in mind, however, that the cost of utilities will vary based on household preferences with regard to what is a comfortable temperature setting and how much energy you’d like to use or not use. Make sure you understand what is and isn’t included with the rent you pay. Many buildings charge for trash removal and water/sewer.
As in any budget, some expenses will be fixed, wherein you won’t have the ability to lower the costs. For instance, such fixed expenses include recurring payments that absolutely must be paid, and are nearly always independent of the specific property or location. These expenses include car and student loans, car insurance, food and healthcare. Some expenses are classified as discretionary income such as entertainment and vacations. These are expenses where the family has discretion as to the money they spend for the specific purchase. In determining your budget, you will need to weigh or prioritize these expenses. This will directly impact the money you have available for monthly rent.
Determine Cost of Additional Fees
The cost of renting an apartment will almost always require other fees. These include application fees, security deposit, pet deposits, and utility deposits if you haven’t had electric or gas in your name within the utilities geographic region (coverage area). The security deposit typically is one month’s rent and generally refundable at the end of your lease providing you leave the apartment in the same condition as when you first moved in. Application fees vary with owners, but generally range from a low of $15.00 to as high as $150.00. It is essential to understand all the fees you will be required to pay prior to placing your deposit.
Determine the Features and Amenities
Before beginning your apartment search, it is important to determine what your needs are versus your wants. In other words, what are the features and amenities that you would like in your new apartment? One needs to consider location prior to searching for specific amenities and apartment features. Is the apartment close to work? How long will it take to get to work? Is public transportation available? Is the apartment located near shopping, schools, and houses of worship? Once you have narrowed the location to an area, neighborhood or zip code, you need to consider features and building amenities. Be sure to take into account whether you need a two bedroom, one bedroom, or studio apartment. If you need a two bedroom, do you need two bathrooms? Many buildings are walk ups, and therefore you need to determine the importance of floor location to your family. You need to consider the importance of having a modern kitchen, balcony, washer and dryer in your apartment, type of construction, and building safety among other features. You need to consider how important amenities such as a club house and pool are to your family. By determining in advance the importance of the many available features to your family, you can be more productive in your search, and ultimately in your satisfaction of your new home after moving in.
See the proposed apartment before you sign your lease
Whenever possible, ask to see the actual apartment you’re looking to rent. Even if it is exactly like the model, it may be in a location you find undesirable. This will also give you a chance to see the condition of the apartment, and just as important, the condition of the common hallways and grounds. A dirty hallway, trash all over, is indicative of the management company’s priorities, as well as the tenants, and more specifically, potentially your future neighbors. It also gives you an opportunity to see the outside lighting and hallway lighting, both of which are important from a security perspective. Looking at the apartment you are going to rent will remove most, if not all, surprises.
Review your Lease
Make sure you take the time to review your lease. The majority of every lease is standard, but each owner has specific rules and regulations with regards to when you can move in, use of the laundry, what is and isn’t permitted within your apartment (grills, barbeques, water beds are often banned), and penalties for paying late. You should confirm all the fees and costs that you were verbally provided are in the lease. Confirm the term of the lease, and the notice provisions requirements. The notice provisions will contain language as to how many days in advance of the end of the term notice to terminate is required to be sent, and to whom and how that notice must be sent. The lease is a contract and it obligates the Tenant to its provisions, therefore, you need to understand and review all of the lease provisions. Generally speaking, the signatures of a lease are jointly responsible for the obligations of the lease. Therefore, if you move in with a friend, and they leave, you remain responsible for all the obligations of the Lease.
Obtain Renters Insurance
Renters Insurance is something you should consider. Most landlords require renters insurance. Renters insurance will cost anywhere from $10 to $30 a month depending on your desired coverage. Most landlords require third party insurance to cover losses that you might cause due to negligence or accident from floods, burns or other injuries. Generally content insurance is voluntary, but everyone should obtain this form of insurance coverage. The landlord is not responsible for your personal belongings in the event of a loss, and of course you want to be covered in the unfortunate event of theft. Renters insurance is just as important to a tenant as homeowners insurance is to a home owner. The cost of insurance is relatively low for $20,000 of personal property coverage. It is a good idea to take pictures of all your valuables and furniture. This will speed up processing and payment of a claim in the event of a loss. You might want to read the MSN”s The Basics of Renters Insurance.