8 Commandments for Renters
A follow up to the popular Buyer's Bible. This is for all the renters out there. Keep these commandments close and you'll get to live where you want without paying an arm and a leg for it.
I. Thou shalt know thy credit and keep it clean. One of the biggest factors considered by landlords is a potential tenants ability to pay. This is most easily measured by credit score. A FICO score over 600 should be desired by all but the fussiest landlords. If you're under 500, find someone who won't pull credit to rent to you or stay where you are. In between 500 and 600 is a crap shoot. Some landlords will like you and some won't let you in the door.
II. Thou shalt not keep pets. Pets are one of a landlords bigger concerns. Pet deposits range from $250-500 and up and are generally non-refundable. This means that Fido, Scrappy or little Meow-Meow is costing you an extra $20-50/mo. I know you love your pets, but please, please, please wait until you own a home to turn your place into a Animal Shelter substation. Curiously, most renters have pets (70-80% in my experience) and most rentals (60-70%) do not allow them. Pets put you in greater competition for good rentals.
III. Thou shalt provide your real estate agent with an application, credit and pay stubs. PRIOR to showings. Personally, I'm done showing homes to people with bad credit, no job, etc. I've learned that if you're not willing to provide info now, you probably aren't serious about finding a new home.
IV. Thou shalt pay thy bills on time. Bad scores can be overcome if your credit history reveals a foreclosure, bankruptcy or short sale. But not if you stopped paying everything. If you're not going to pay any bills, nobody wants you in their house.
V. Thou shalt act decisively. Rentals in Plainfield, Shorewood, Minooka, Channahon, Joliet and New Lenox average about 30 days on the MLS before they get rented. Probably pretty similar stats throughout the country. Don't wait a week to decide because there is high demand for good rental homes and the one you want will be gone.
VI. Thou shalt respect thy agent's time. And that of everyone else involved. Be honest. If you're going to work with an agent, let them know what you're doing. I know you're looking on Craigslist and everywhere else you can find rental listings. Tell me if you've found one. I don't work for free (at least I don't want to and I do everything I can not to). All I'm saying is, tell me if we're done working together.
VII. Thou shalt know thy limits. The general rule for rentals is that income needs to be 3x the rent. A $1,000/mo rental requires about $3,000/mo income and so on. Stay within this range and you'll be ok. You also need enough money set aside to pay for the security deposit and 1st month's rent.
VIII. I am your agent and thou shalt not worship other agents. Do not work with multiple agents at the same time. We don't get paid unless you close on a home and we don't like working and having someone else get paid. As soon as you start viewing homes, you should commit to one agent.