These days, an increasing number of people are choosing to rent a home rather than buying one, with some even putting their houses on the market to choose rental properties instead. Whether you want to downsize, like the flexibility that renting offers over buying, or simply prefer the convenience of apartment complexes that have built-in gyms or other amenities, it is important to consider several things before signing a lease.
1. Consider the Neighborhood
Before you begin looking for a place, consider what you want out of your neighborhood. If you have children, chances are you want a place with plenty of safe parks and that is in a good school district. If you're single, you may be more interested in an up-and-coming neighborhood full of restaurants and nightlife. Perhaps you simply want to live closer to your job. Whether you want tree-lined streets or busy crosswalks, consider what neighborhoods fit the bill in the area you're hoping to move to.
2. Think About How Much Space You Need
It's also important to consider how much space you want from a place before you move. If you live alone, a one-bedroom or studio might be enough, or you may prefer a two-bedroom unit so you can have an office to work out of. Families need to consider how many bedrooms and bathrooms they'll need. Two bedrooms and one bathroom might be okay if you have two small children, but older children or families that have more than two children will probably need at least three bedrooms and an additional half bath. Think about your pets when choosing a rental unit as well. Small dogs often do well in apartments, but if you have large or energetic pets, you'll need to consider renting a single-family home.
3. Decide on a Specific Budget
Once you've narrowed down your neighborhoods and decided how much space you need, you can begin setting your budget. Many people focus so much on how much they can afford in rent that they forget to factor in other bills that you'll need to pay. Many landlords pay for water, sewage, and landscaping, but many others do not. Regardless of where you rent, you'll likely need to pay for electricity, gas, and the internet. Another factor to consider when it comes to energy costs is how many outlets there are. Running many electronics or appliances at once not only gets expensive but can lead to power surges that damage items and cost you more to replace. If you don't have many outlets in your new rental, invest in surge protection options. If you talk to your landlord first, you may even be able to take the cost out of your rent or deposit in trade for adding an upgrade to the rental.
4. Consider Your Must-Haves vs. Your Wish List
Lots of amenities mean lots higher prices, so think hard about what you absolutely need to have versus what would just be nice to have. If you already love your local gym or YMCA, there is no need to pay extra for an apartment that offers gym and pool access. On the other hand, going to the laundromat gets very expensive, especially for families, so you probably do want to add washer and dryer hook-ups to your must-have list. Other things to consider are whether you need a dishwasher, if you want a unit that is all one floor, and if you want access to a basement. All of these factors can raise or lower prices, depending on what's most sought after in your area.
No matter where you decide to move, be sure to read the lease thoroughly before signing it. This outlines how much you'll pay, whether you can have pets, who can stay in the home, and which services the landlord covers. It will also provide information on the process to move out or re-sign the lease when it is up. Ensure your potential landlord has strong references from previous tenants and from the Better Business Bureau to further ensure you find just the right place.