Buying a house is no joke, so it’s no wonder that, according to the Pew Research Center, more Americans are renting now than at any time in the past 50 years.
But while finding and landing a rental don’t require quite as much footwork or financial maneuvering for a mortgage, it’s no walk in the park. In fact, finding your new place—and negotiating the perfect rental agreement—requires a certain amount of experience and finesse. Still pretty green? Don’t sweat—that’s what we’re here for.
Know when the power is in your hands
“The best advice I’ve ever gotten regarding renting was from a family friend who is a real estate attorney. He said that, as a renter, I would never have more bargaining power than right before moving in. It’s the most crucial time to negotiate for lower rent and ask for repairs. He specifically mentioned that I should carefully inspect the unit, turn on and off all appliances and faucets, open and close all doors and windows, check that all locks are functioning properly, and check the smoke and CO2 detectors. If anything’s amiss, demand it be fixed before you move in, and odds are he’ll hop right to it in order to close the deal.” – Julia Van Broek, renter in Lafayette, CA
Live within your means
“I’ve been a renter for close to 10 years now. One of the pieces of advice I’ve received that has always stuck with me has to do with sticking to a budget when it comes to monthly rent. We’ve all been in the situation where we find the apartment of our dreams and think, sure, it’s a little above my budget, but I could probably make it work, right? Wrong. Living above your means will nearly always come back to haunt you. Renters should live by the rule of thumb that rental payments should never cost more than 30% of your gross monthly income. Unfortunately, all the budgeting in the world will not make up for living in a rental situation that you, realistically, cannot afford.” – Morgan Whitehouse, renter in Bend, OR
Keep your landlord close
“My best renting advice is to rent an apartment with an on-site property manager or landlord. When your property manager or landlord lives in your building, they are very motivated to keep the building in tiptop shape and secure. If the elevator is broken, the building heating is on the fritz, or residents keep leaving the garage door open, they are on top of it in a way off-site owners aren’t. Whenever we’ve had an issue in our unit, I just have to go downstairs, knock on my manager’s door, and within minutes have someone up to fix the issue.” – Kara Harms, renter in San Francisco, CA
Know whom you’re renting from
“Do a background check on your landlord. You never know who you may be renting from! Ask for references. Speaking to former tenants may save you a headache in the end.” – Dani Kahn, renter in Seattle, WA
Get renters insurance already
“The best advice I ever got was to invest in renters insurance. It isn’t that expensive, but it can be great in the event of a catastrophe. Renters often think they don’t have enough valuables to make it worth it, but trust me, it is.” – Gayle Leeson, renter in Southwest Virginia
Come back later
“I was told to check out the apartment area at different times to make sure that the noise is acceptable—even if you can’t be in the apartment, you will notice a difference in the outside noise that could filter into your home. Oh so true, not everyone loves church bells … or the commute traffic you didn’t notice when you visited the apartment at 10 a.m.” – Julia Simens, renter in Incline Village, NV
Your rental is only temporary
“A rental isn’t your dream home. Most people only rent a house or apartment for a few years. You most likely won’t be able to make any improvements to it since it isn’t yours, and some improvements you will have to fix before you move out. So it is OK to ‘settle’ with a rental. You won’t be there forever, and any improvements you make will only cost you and benefit someone else. So, make your life easy and keep in mind you won’t be here forever.” – Andrew Selepak, renter in Gainesville, FL