If you're thinking about renting a home whether it's a condo, townhome or a detached home, here are a few things you should know.
How much can I afford? The rule of thumb is that your yearly income should be at least 40 times the rent. So, if the rent is $1500/month, you should make at least $60,000 per year.
What about pets? I love pets but when renting, they limit your choices because many landlords don't want animals destroying their home.
How much are the upfront costs? Once you find the home you'd like to live in, you will need to fill out an application. There is an application or processing fee which ranges from $25 to $50 depending on the company that has listed the home. You will also be giving the listing company the 1st months rent at the same time. Some companies are ok with personal checks, others required certified checks or money orders. Once your application has been accepted, which can take anywhere from a day to a week, you will sign a lease and give the landlord a check for the security deposit which is usually the same amount as the rent. So, if the rent is $1500/month, your out of pockets expenses in the beginning are $3000 plus the application fee. If your application is processed but not accepted, you will still have to pay the application fee but will get the 1st months rent back.
Who pays the utilites? Usually the tenant pays the utilities. Depending on the type of unit you are renting, they could include gas, electric and water.
Who is responsible for the HOA or Condo fees? Usually the landlord pays for those. You often get the benefit of those fees though. If there is a pool, tennis courts or tot lots, you'll get to use them.
What is a repair deductible? Not every landlord charges a repair deductible but if there is one, you, the tenant, are required to pay a portion of the cost of repairs while you are living in the property. For example, the repair deductible is $50 and the dishwasher breaks down. You call the landlord who in turn calls the appliance repairman. The cost to fix the dishwasher is $200. You will be responsible for the first $50 and the landlord will pay the rest.
What is prorated rent? The rent is usually collected on the 1st of the month. If you move in, lets say, on the 20th, you will need to pay prorated rent for 10 or 11 days depending on the month,in order to get back into a normal cycle. Every agent is different regarding when they collect the upfront rent. You will need to ask that question of the listing company.
How do I search for homes to rent? You can go on Craigslist or Realtor.com or any of the sites out there and call each owner or real estate agent to set up 10 appointments or you can call one agent and have them do all of the legwork. A good agent will tell you whether there are repair deductibles and whethere pets are allowed etc.
If you have any questions about what I've covered here or something I haven't covered, please feel free to contact me.
And now for my disclaimer.....I help people with their real estate needs in Northern Virginia and this is a basic overview of renting here. If you've got questions, about renting in other parts of the country, please let me know and I'll be happy to direct you to an agent who can help answer your questions.