Whether you’re looking for your first home after leaving Mom and Dad’s nest or you flew the coop years ago, it’s important to do your research before signing on a new place to live. Here are 10 things to help you in your quest to find your perfect next home:
- Establish your price range: Produce a budget with your expenses listed out. Be sure to work in things like groceries and gasoline/travel expenses. If you put your whole check into your rent, you won’t have enough for your utilities.
- Know your must-haves: Do you need a dishwasher, or can you wash your dishes by hand? Do you need on-site laundry facilities, or do you visit the folks on the weekends? Do you want a covered parking site, or can you park on the street? These are the types of questions you need to ask yourself before you step foot in a leasing office. The options are endless when it comes to housing features, but you likely won’t get everything on your wish list. Rank the features by most-wanted to least-cared-about.
- Know your expected move-out date: Leases come in different lengths, so you need to be realistic about how long you plan to stay in one place. Leases can be month-to-month or for three-, six-, seven-, nine-, 12-, 13- or 14-month terms. Some places will customize lease lengths for you, so be ready to talk time. The longer you lease, the cheaper your monthly rent is likely to be.
- Decide how much or little you need: Some housing options lease by room and some by unit. There are pros and cons to each, but ultimately it rides on what you need. If you’re uneasy around strangers and can afford it, leasing an entire unit may be best for you. If you’re comfortable meeting new people and don’t need a lot of space to spread out your stuff, you may find that leasing a room is easier to manage. Tangent to this, take inventory of your things (or lack thereof). If you don’t have any furniture to your name or the money to purchase any, you consider furnished housing. Furnished housing includes key pieces of furniture — usually a bed, desk, couch, coffee table and small dinette set.
- Check pet policies: Some housing options don’t allow pets at all or have animal restrictions (usually breeds and number of pets per household). Most communities charge a pet deposit to cover potential damages, and some charge pet rent — a monthly fee added on to the rent for keeping a pet. Pet rents can range from $15 to more $150 per month and sometimes can be charged per pet, per month. When you establish your price range, be aware that pet rent can affect the base rent you can pay for the unit/room.
- Know your handyman IQ: Some housing options have a five-star, on-call maintenance staff, and some may ask you to mow your grass. Keep in mind that Texas has hot summers, cold winters, rainy springs and falls, and lots of insect life. Things like heating- and air-unit repair may be the landlord’s responsibility at most housing options, but some defer to the tenant. Don’t take on more than you can handle — know your responsibilities.
- Get to know the landlord/leasing agent on the first meeting: You never know when you’ll need a friend, and your landlord/leasing agent can be the best friend you’ll ever have. Get as much contact information as possible for when something breaks or in case of emergency, and make a good first impression with the landlord/leasing agents. They could be the difference between a good leasing experience and not.
- Get copies of everything and know what you’re signing: Use the renter’s terminology in this guide to familiarize yourself with frequently used terms in leasing contracts. After you’re done signing on the dotted line, get a copy of everything and keep it safe.
- Document existing damage prior to move-in, and follow up in writing about repairs: Before spending a night in your new place, write down in detail everything that is damaged. Be as specific as possible, and take pictures or video of serious damages like stains, holes and cracks. Make a copy and submit a copy to the housing office. Submit repair requests in writing in a timely manner and keep a dated copy for yourself.
- “Interview” each space while doing a walk-through of a unit/room.
Don’t be shy about scrutinizing details while touring the facilities. Things to consider:
- Grounds should be well-lit and well-maintained.
- Parking should accommodate residents
- Buildings should not show sign of cracks in walls or damage to walls, roofing, siding, etc.
Swimming pool and other amenities like gyms should be maintained.
- Note location of mail and laundry facilities. They should be well-lit, and entries should be visible and open.
- Make note of things like graffiti or trash left around the property.
- Make sure exterior doors have at least two locks and that they work.
- Make sure windows have locking mechanisms and screens and that they work.
- Check for signs of insect or rodent infestations.
- Flush every toilet and test every sink to check plumbing.
- Check for water damage.
- Turn every light and fan on.
- Change the air conditioner/heater setting to see if it makes strange noises when it powers up.
- Test garbage disposal.
- Check for icemaker and that fridge and freezer are at proper temperatures.
- Examine flooring for scuffs, rips, ripples, stains, damage, sagging or uneven transitions between rooms or along baseboards.
- Check every cupboard for damage, signs of insect/rodent infestations.
- Check for cracks and dents in the walls and baseboards.