Whether you are just starting out and searching for your first apartment, or an experienced renter in need of a new place, looking for a new apartment can be an exciting process. You may already know what you want in an apartment and may already have your heart set on a specific location or neighborhood.
However, some aspects of finding an apartment and renting are not exactly enjoyable. While renting an apartment is often cheaper and quicker than buying a home, getting approved for a rental isn’t always easy. There are a number of things you must keep in mind, as well as steps you can take, to help make the process simpler.
Things to Know Before Renting
1. Some Landlords Require Good Credit History
People with low credit scores often apply for apartment rentals because they can’t get approved for mortgage loan. However, renting an apartment also involves an application process that may include a credit check, a landlord reference and income verification. Many of the larger apartment communities will have minimum credit score requirements.
2. Rent Doesn’t Help Your Credit Score
If you’re looking to improve your credit to qualify for a mortgage loan in the near future, understand that rent payments don’t help your FICO credit score. Your landlord is a creditor, and you’re obligated to make your rental payments on time. However, the majority of landlords do not report to the credit bureaus unless you have been evicted or have a substantial balance. Thus, your credit report will not reflect your apartment agreement or your rental payment history.
If you need a credit score boost, getting a credit card or auto loan is your best bet. These creditors update credit reports on a monthly basis, and your timely payments help add points to your score.
3. Your Rent Can Increase
Signing a one-year lease guarantees your rental rate during that specific rental period. However, after your initial contract term, some apartment landlords may offer you a renewal with an increased rent rate. Seasoned renters are aware of periodic rent increases, but if you’re a first-time renter, rent increases can catch you off-guard and impact your personal finances if funds are already tight. Plan for rent increases by selecting an apartment with a monthly rent that’s below your rental budget so that you can handle increases if you plan to rent for a few years.
Steps to Take Before Renting
1. Get Renters’ Insurance
Don’t think that you don’t need insurance simply because you’re a renter. If a natural disaster or fire destroys your apartment, the landlord’s insurance does not cover your personal belongings.
You can obtain renters’ insurance from any local insurance agent. The monthly premiums are relatively cheap, and $50,000 worth of coverage costs approximately $25 per month. This insurance covers your belongings against theft and damage. Displacement coverage may also be offered.
2. Evaluate the Property and Neighborhood
You should choose a neighborhood that’s convenient and comfortable. Some first-time renters make a hasty decision and sign a lease without fully checking out the area and its proximity to their work place, schools, shopping or any other points of interest.
Don’t rush the rental process. Before committing to an apartment, visit the community during different times of the day – perhaps in the evenings and on the weekends when most of the residents are at home. Is the area quiet? Do you feel comfortable? If possible, talk to some of the people in the community and get their opinions of the neighborhood.
3. Read Your Lease
Yes, leases can be long and boring and it can take a while to read the entire agreement. However, it is a legal document and once you sign your name, it is a done deal. Apartment managers typically go through each page and explain it in detail. You may even request a copy ahead of time so that you can read it at your leisure. Make sure that you agree with all of the terms, and if necessary, ask questions!
Don’t let eagerness to find a new apartment result in a bad decision. There’s nothing worse than being locked into a one-year lease and being subject to unfavorable conditions. When compared to buying a home, renting an apartment doesn’t seem like a such a big deal – but it’s still a major decision. The more you know about the process, the easier it becomes.
If you are looking for an apartment in the greater Ann Arbor area, please contact RentFAST, a FREE apartment locating service and a division of the Charles Reinhart Company.