I spent 10 years as a renter. I rented houses, several different apartments, and a town home. I have to say I’m glad I rented throughout that period of my life. I just wasn’t settled down enough to buy, even though financially I could have purchased a home earlier, given the lending standards at the time.
If you are a renter, have no shame in not being a home owner sooner. There’s more to owning a home than just the ability to make a monthly payment. A lot of other things have to line up. But that’s another topic for another time. What I want to discuss today is being financially ready to rent, as well as some general financial tips for renting.
Maintain Good Credit – Most shrewd landlords are going to run a credit check on you before they let you in their place. Therefore, it’s important to show a clean credit history (free of defaults) and a good credit score. If this is your first time renting, you may want to do a quick check of your credit score and / or credit reports before you fill out an application so you’re not blindsided. If you have some dings on your credit, you may have to search for an apartment that doesn’t do credit checks, or you may have to fork over a bigger deposit and upfront rent.
Prepare for Deposits – Even though you don’t need a big down payment as a renter, you do usually need at least a security deposit (in case you leave the place in shambles), and sometimes even prepay first and last months rent. So, depending on the place you are renting, you could need anywhere from $500 to $5000. So start saving and be ready for the big cash outlay.
Research the Rental – Like any financial transaction, there is no guarantee that the person on the other side is going to hold up their part of the bargain, or that they place is what they say it is. There’s a myriad of things that could go wrong with your place: you could have bed bugs, bad neighbors, a landlord who won’t fix anything. This is why you should do your due diligence and help to ensure you’ll be getting into a good situation. If it’s an apartment, visit apartmentratings.com and see what others have to say about the place.
Negotiate Upfront – Before blindly accepting their asking price for the rental, feel them out and see if they are willing to negotiate. Ask for a lower monthly rent, less of a security deposit, or ask to get your utility bills covered. Finally, see if there are any repairs or improvements to the place that you could do in exchange for lesser rent. The bottom line is to negotiate.
Know Your Lease – Before you sign your lease, make sure you understand it. Ask to read over it before hand so you’re not pressured to sign quick in front of the landlord. Look for any rules or regulations that might cost you. And pay special attention to the early termination clause. If you have to break the lease, it could mean an obnoxiously large fee.
Look for Alternatives – Something that I didn’t do enough of in my renting history is look for alternatives to the big apartment complexes. You can just as easily rent small homes, garage apartments, even the guest bedroom. These may be a more comfortable fit for you and you may find a better financial experience than the one-size-fits-all treatment of the apartment complexes.
Get Renter’s Insurance – It’s a good idea to get some renter’s insurance. Very cheap, and can usually just be tacked onto an affordable auto insurance policy. Even if your stuff isn’t that valuable, renter’s insurance can help you out if someone, for instance, gets hurt in your home and tries to sue you.
Use Movable Decor – Finally, when you move into your place and decide to spruce up the place, focus on decor that you can take with you. Think lamps, rugs, plants, etc. And if you decide to paint, remember to check your lease and run it by the landlord. They may cut your rent for the month for the new paint job.
Do you have any money tips for renters? Leave them in the comments below?
photo by turkeychik