How To Avoid The Big Mistakes Renters Are Making In Today’s Market
In order to avoid making a mistake of your own, it is important to know where the majority of mistakes are being made in the rental market. Having said that, you can learn a lot from those who have proceeded you in their search for rental properties. What mistakes are renters making when looking for new homes and apartments in today’s market, and how can they be avoided?
Finding a new rental home can appear to be incredibly straightforward on the surface. However, many renters are rushing in without doing their homework, only to find themselves living in a nightmare unit, losing thousands of dollars, having their credit destroyed and worse.
There is a reason so many landlords and property managers conduct thorough due diligence and checks on prospective renters, and even enroll teams of professionals to help them in their efforts. It only makes sense for renters to make sure they are using the best strategies from starting their search through to checking out prospective landlords, making sure the properties they are moving into aren’t major health risks, and that they won’t be left on the street and out of pocket in a few weeks.
So what are some of the mistakes renters are making in this process, and how can they be avoided?
Searching for Rental Properties
Searching for a new rental home can be trying, especially for those without perfect credit, or mountains of cash for deposits. There are many ways to search for apartments and homes for rent today. This can make it an even lengthier task. The key is honing in on the right options and places to look. Major listing platforms can be frustrating and full of entries which are no longer available. Craigslist can be good, but a minefield for sifting through scams. Driving desired neighborhoods can be a great option, especially for those wanting to avoid the stringent scrutiny of some managers, or apartment complex living, but it can take weeks, or longer to find a place. Then there are more local real estate websites and investors which may help streamline searches and make the process easier.
Vetting the Contact
Trust is great. Unfortunately, the rental industry has become so wrought with fraud in the last few years; making it important for renters to verify that they are dealing with the right individual. Are they the real owner, or at least an authorized property manager or marketers of the property? What is their reputation for managing properties? A quick Google search ought to be a great tell.
Is the owner solvent? Or are they in bankruptcy or foreclosure? This may not be a huge issue if you only need a place to live for a month or two. However, it could create a lot of trouble for those seeking long term rentals. Online public record searches, and copies of recent mortgage statements can help. Asking how long a landlord plans to hold onto a property is a good idea too.
It appears that application fees are being demanded on more and more rentals, especially in the wake of large institutions taking over thousands of residential homes. In moderation, these are not unfair. After all, there are hard costs associated with vetting and moving in tenants. However, some are going to extremes; tapping on processing fees to application fees, in addition to third party approval costs. Some may even make more money on taking applications versus actually renting properties. Get the 411 on the process, and your odds of being approved before handing over any money.
Counting the Costs
Renters also need to make sure they are aware of all the costs involved in moving into a new place before they get started. What utilities and other services will they be responsible for? How much will deposits for these services run? How much will moving really cost? Pool, water and sewer, and landscaping service, and even cable TV can either add costs, or value depending on whether they are included or not.
Reading the Fine Print
Many crazy clauses can be written into leases by landlords looking to squeeze out every penny they can. Make sure all the fine print is read before signing.
If planning on living anywhere for a reasonable period of time, it is worth going on a recon mission or two before signing a lease. For example; drive by the property at different times of the day, driving to the property via different routes, and asking neighbors about the property and landlord.
Home inspections are often deemed to be reserved for buying a home, not renting one. Still, families with kids may be wise to go the extra mile. Dangerous property issues can can range from mold to questionable neighbors.
Cash can appear to be a great way to pay for ease, and allowing landlords to skirt taxes and other fees. However, lacking a verifiable payment history can lead to landlord-tenant disputes of status, and can deny renters from the paper trail required by lenders for qualifying for home loans and buying a home in the future. Imagine a landlord starts an eviction on a tenant they say is months behind and never made a deposit. Without proof, what defense does a renter have? Use money orders, checks, or online payments and keep good records.
The vast majority of property managers will provide move-in checklists to be completed by entering renters. Don’t ignore these or you could be blamed for damage later, and have your deposit tapped to fix them. Complete a thorough walk through and protect yourself.