Renting your first home is an exciting milestone, but one that comes with overwhelming amounts of details and information. But armed with a little bit of knowledge and a touch of preparation, you can navigate this life-changing moment smoothly and confidently.
Consider Your Options
A typical property manager will have a number of unit types, and not all are the same. Carefully weigh the various options available to you within your area of search as you search for your new home.
If a potential building has multiple unit sizes and layouts, consider how much space you need to live comfortably.
Consider how the costs of spaces you’re looking at fit into what you can afford on a monthly basis. On a similar note, many property managers have income requirements based on the monthly rent. A common proportion is for monthly income to be about three times the monthly rent, but this can vary greatly by location.
This is a major consideration that will factor into many things, including costs and size. The benefits of roommates include pooling your resources in the form of money, furniture, and other necessities such as kitchen supplies. What you gain in savings, however, you may sacrifice in privacy by sharing your space with another person.
Furnished or Unfurnished
Do you have the basic furniture and accessories needed for your first home? If not, consider a furnished space if the option arises.
A potential community may offer more than just your unit. Give some thought to what else you may want or need. Think about the local offerings in your community nearby, like grocery store locations, gas stations, parks, and other local amenities that you may want to live near.
What common areas, if any, are a part of the community? Is there outdoor space or a picnic area? If you enjoy getting to know your neighbors, a common area might be a huge perk for you. And vice versa, if you prefer to keep to yourself, a common area might be a place that you’re okay going without.
If there is not in-unit laundry, is there a washer/dryer hookup? If not, how far away are the nearest laundry services?
Parking—what is included with your lease? A dedicated parking spot? A private driveway or garage? Paid parking permits? If your rental doesn’t have a parking spot, make sure you’re familiar with local parking regulations prior to moving into your rental.
Particularly in the winter, many Idaho towns have parking regulations around city snow plowing schedules.
Tour the Space
Most rental companies will allow tours of an available unit for prospective tenants. If at all possible, you should pursue this opportunity to view the space you’ll be living in. Be sure to ask any questions during the tour regarding the apartment, appliances, outdoor space, or surrounding area.
Some common questions you might ask during your tour or prior to renting a home:
How much do utilities generally cost?
What internet and/or cable services are available for this unit?
Are pets allowed? If so, how many and what fees are associated with them?
What kind of changes are allowed to be made to the apartment and/or property? (i.e. can you hang up artwork/photos with nails in the walls, plant a garden outside, etc.)
Applying for an Apartment
Particularly as a first-time renter, your potential new property manager will need a lot of information from you regarding your ability to pay rent and your reliability as a good tenant. The first thing to do is check the rental application to be sure you meet all criteria for tenancy.
In addition to filling out your information on the application form, you will need to provide some important documents to back up what you’ve written. Application documents you may need to show include:
Contact information, such as current address, email, and phone number
Government-issued photo ID
Copies of your last two pay stubs, bank statements, and/or tax forms
Letter or statement of verification of employment from your place of employment
Personal and/or professional references, if requested
Co-signer or guarantor application, if applicable
Credit Check and Fees
Most landlords will do a credit and/or a background check as they determine your eligibility as a tenant. This is to ensure that you will be a reliable tenant in making on-time payments for your rent.
Do you need a co-signer or guarantor? This is common with tenants with no credit or tenancy history, or if your income does not meet requirements for the rent of the apartment. Generally speaking, the landlord will let you know if you need a co-signer based on your application and credit check.
Security and Other Deposits
Be prepared to pay an application fee, and, if approved, a security deposit and combination of first or last month’s rent. This should all be detailed in the application for the unit you wish to rent.
Some landlords allow dogs but have size or breed restrictions. You may also be required to put down an additional pet deposit to cover additional wear and tear on the unit due to pets. Make sure you know what the policies are before applying so that you are compliant with the rules for a potential new home. The last thing you’d want is to get through the application process to find that your apartment won’t allow your pets.
If you’ve been accepted, congratulations! You’re on your way to your first rental home. If you take your time at this stage to prepare for this step, you’ll be on your way to your new happy home.
Read the Fine Print
Lease documents are long, and a reputable landlord will not be trying to trick you into signing something with loopholes or unfair terms. However, it’s in your best interest to become familiar with the terms of your lease to be sure you’re in compliance with your end of the agreement. Similarly, you can be empowered knowing exactly what your property manager is responsible for during the length of your tenancy.
Know What You Need on Day 1
If it’s your first rental home, you may not have much furniture or supplies to begin with. Think carefully about what you’ll need immediately upon moving in and be sure those items are easily accessible as you unpack. Examples include toiletries, light bulbs, towels, changes of clothes, and a bed or comfortable place to sleep.
Follow All Move-in Procedures
The exact details will vary by landlord, but be sure you’re following any requirements for move-in day. You should know where to go, and any rules for loading and unloading a moving truck onto the property.
Once you’re in, you’ll want to be a reliable, trustworthy tenant. This will ensure a positive relationship with your property manager and could be helpful in the future if you need a positive reference for a future home.
Be sure you know how your landlord expects to be paid and the due date for rent.
Know who to contact if anything goes wrong and who is responsible for repairs
Keep a copy of your lease and any other agreements or documents handy throughout your tenancy
While it may be far away, your role as a good tenant lasts until move-out day. Based on the terms of your lease and/or leasing agreement, be sure to leave the apartment or home in the appropriate state upon move-out. Many apartment managers will hide the move-out requirements to make sure you do not get your full deposit back. On move-in day at Rooftop Real Estate Management, we offer each tenant an in-depth form listing the required steps to receive the full deposit because that is the right thing to do. So you’ll know exactly what to do on your last day. Get in touch with us today so we can help you find your first rental home!