For the many people who aren’t homeowners, renting an apartment or condominium can start out as a challenging task. There are a vast array of things you must consider before signing a lease, so you can ensure you’re moving into the dwelling that’s best for your budget and your lifestyle. There are always questions you must ask yourself before you get started – what’s your monthly rent budget? What kind of neighborhood are you looking to move to? How much space do you need? What resources are there that can help you find a rental?
To get started, check out your monthly budget and use that to figure out how much you can pay at a maximum each month. This number should include rent as well as any required utilities. Create a brief list of what you’d ideally like in an apartment, such as number of bedrooms and/or bathrooms, minimum square footage, a dishwasher, in-unit washer and dryer, and so on. Once you’ve made your list and created your budget, websites like Trulia, Zillow, and Craigslist can help you find rentals in your area.
Here are a few other elements to look into when you’re looking for a rental:
- Be cognizant of “hidden” rental costs. Technically, they’re not hidden, but they’re costs that not everyone keeps in mind when looking for an apartment. These costs include, but are not limited to: application fees, credit checks, pet deposits, security deposits, background checks, and so on. Also, you should ask any potential leaser what utilities are covered in the rent, as some places will cover certain costs.
- Location, location, location. While much of the Bay Area has access to mass transit, such as BART or MUNI, there are still lots of cities that are very car-reliant. Finding an apartment that’s within walking distance to your work or school can pay off if you aren’t in the market to buy a new car. It’s also important to note the environment of your desired neighborhood, as that can affect your quality of life. If you’re a more quiet person, you might be better off finding something in the suburbs or outside a major city.
- Ask potential landlords about maintenance and who handles what. One of the odd benefits of renting as opposed to owning is that you generally won’t have to pay for any maintenance in your rental. However, you should ask questions about the maintenance process before signing a lease, including how you would file a service request and how long it takes for requests to be handled.