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Your Checklist for Renting a Place

In the next couple of years you want to buy a property, but what do you do until then? Not everyone is at the point where they can afford to put a large sum down for a house. Even with no money down options, you may have to compromise by coping with a high interest rate or other catches. Until you are ready to weigh all the options for making a real estate investment, find a place that is nice to rent and your buying moment will come.

1. Ask yourself what you want. This seems simple enough, but it can be the question which keeps you from paying an extra $50 per month to have a tennis court when you don’t even play tennis. Ask yourself if you want lots of amenities or just a nice location within walking or short driving distance of schools and features. Will paying less but driving further to work be worth it? Prioritize the features you want in an apartment or rental home before you look so you don’t get dazzled by lengthy descriptions later on.

2. Ask around. Before you sign a contract, try to talk to a few of your future neighbors. Find out if maintenance follows through, if there are any problem tenants and if they would sign a lease for the same place all over again. See if anyone will tell you what the utilities usually run per month (if they’re not included in the rent).

3. Read the fine print. Breaking a lease, having pets, adding roommates later and making decorative alterations are all questions you should have the answer to before you sign away six to twelve months of your future income. Also consider that although a place without a lot of rules is liberating, it may also be a sign of general indifference about how they run their rentals. Thinking about the fine print may have you returning to the first item on your checklist again and again – what do you want in a rental?

You may live in a big city where apartments get rented out quickly, so you don’t have a lot of time to think about your checklist, but don’t feel bullied into a decision. Once you’re seated at the leasing agent’s desk you should take advantage of your opportunity to ask about the details. Have your questions written down so they know that you’re organized about your decision. Good luck!

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