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June 27, 2016
Tagged in: Tips for Renters

The high demand for urban living is pushing up rents all around the country. While this is good news for property managers and landlords, renters may feel quite differently about it. Finding a good apartment can become a challenging endeavor in today’s competitive market and a bit of forethought might make the difference between you getting the rental you want and the landlord’s next interviewee snapping it up.

Here are a few words of advice that can help you land your dream home easily, courtesy of rental website RENTCafé.com.

1. Crunch the numbers and see what you can afford

Most big-city renters are forced to make fast decisions about apartments as inventories are low and competition is fierce. The first step towards identifying your new home is finding out how much rent you can actually afford. Experts recommend spending no more than 30% of your monthly income on rent. So let’s say your monthly payment is somewhere around $3,769 (the average U.S. monthly salary). Ideally, you shouldn’t spend more than $1,180 a month on rent.

While getting a nice rental in a good neighborhood in Houston, for example, where the average rent is $1,292, shouldn’t be a problem, things are quite different in the fast-paced Western metros where rents are advancing very rapidly. Average asking rent for a San Francisco apartment is $3,289 according to data from RENTCafe.com, while L.A. rentals average $2,322.

If you still can’t find a place within your budget, there’s always the shared living option. Getting a roommate will help you cut down on expenses, including rent and utility bills, and you’ll have someone to share the household chores with.

2. What is your preferred move-in date?

Ideally, you should start your apartment search 30-45 days before your projected move-in date. This will give you enough time to figure out all the details and browse through enough rental listings to find the one that fits your needs. While vacant apartments are usually available right away, occupied rental homes are usually listed one or two months prior to vacancy.  

3. What’s the part of town that best suits your needs?

It’s no secret that location dictates much of the money renters shell out on rent every month, so you shouldn’t treat this matter lightly. Consider which part of town would best cater to your taste and budget. Do you want a place that’s close to the city’s major entertainment destinations or employment hubs? Would you sacrifice location for space and move to the suburbs? Or prefer renting in a transit-oriented development that gives you convenient access to public transportation?

The Ivy Residences at Health Village community in Orlando, Fla., for instance, offers 248 one-, two-, and three-bedroom units averaging 941 sq. ft. The site is part of the 172-acre “Health Village” which is a mixed-use, transit-oriented, master-planned, urban development centered on health and wellness.

4. Take your apartment search online

Once you figure out the location and budget, you may move on to visualizing your options. While driving up and down the streets looking for “for rent” signs or asking friends and acquaintances for references could work, it can take a long while before you actually spot the right unit.

To speed up the process, you can go online. RENTCafé.com lets you tap into their extensive rentals database and pinpoint the one apartment that answers your every need. Moreover, you can easily apply and complete the lease online. After becoming a resident of a community utilizing RENTCafé, you may securely pay rent, submit work orders, renew the lease, check on lease terms, and communicate with property personnel, all through the property website or mobile app.

5.  What are your must-haves?

Renting offers a viable alternative to homeownership, a way of life that is not burdened by property taxes and having to maintain home, yard, and garden. Moreover, most modern communities come equipped with all the bells and whistles, from resort-inspired waterparks to fruit gardens, electric car charging stations, lounge areas, free WiFi, and Yoga studios, which is much more than most homeowners can afford. So when trying to narrow down the search, include specific preferences and assess properties based on criteria such as:

  • Property type (apartment, condo, townhouse, student housing, etc.)
  • Apartment amenities (furnished unit, hardwood floors, washer/drier, etc.)
  • Community amenities (high-speed internet, media room, covered parking, smoke-free environment, pool, etc.)
  • Sustainable living (green building, efficient appliances, and more)
  • Pet-friendliness

6.  Find out if the price is right

When looking at homes in tight markets and finally finding one that you really like, it might be wise to check if the asking rent is aligned with the rest of the market. You’ll be able to see if the rental is overpriced or maybe if the asking rent too low. How is the latter a problem, you might ask? Well, an asking rent much lower than the rents of similar units in the same area might be an indication of other problems (unsafe community, deteriorated property, old interiors, unresponsive staff, neglected common space, etc.). This is where Rentometer can be of real help.

We found this beautiful community in Dallas’ uptown, an area bustling with city life and positive energy, and wanted to see if the price is right. A simple query on Rentometer revealed that the asking rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the Post Square apartment community is reasonable for the area. Cool, right?

(See Full Rent Comp Report)

7.  Any aces up your sleeve?

Renters insurance might just be a deal-breaker. Just like a sound credit history and a “good tenant” status. To make sure you secure the lease, have your credit report, renter’s history, and references at hand, and be prepared to put down a deposit on the spot if you think you’ve found the one.

While renters insurance is generally optional with most property managers, you should let the manager know upfront if you intend to buy a policy. In addition to standing proof of your responsible character, renters insurance will keep you shielded against a variety of mishaps that could cause partial or total loss of your personal property including electronic equipment, clothing, furniture, and jewelry.

A standard insurance policy provides protection in case of such unfortunate events as fire, lightening, windstorm, explosion, smoke, glass breakage, theft, hail, and more. Most policies also come with a liability protection clause which essentially provides coverage for accidental physical injury to another person as well as damage to property caused by the insured policy holder.