I remember when we were house hunting for our first rental home. I was a newly married woman of only six months. The only times I had looked for a place I was either with my dad or my husband. In true military wife style, at the ripe age of 22 I was looking for a place while the husband was off at training. Luckily, we were only moving an hour away. Still, I was overwhelmed and honestly had no idea what I was doing.
Fast forward five years and I have learned a lot both on the landlord and tenant side of house hunting. As a landlord, I have never forgotten what it means to be a tenant. At the same time, I have been in the other guy’s shoes too.
The key I have found after walking in both sets of shoes is to be as educated as possible when it comes to house hunting. Here are 10 tips I have learned over the years.
Learn From These Tips When House Hunting
1. Read the lease thoroughly – Make sure you read the entire lease and understand every single item.
2. Don’t agree to anything in a lease that you are not willing to comply with 100% – If there is anything in the lease that you are unwilling to uphold, make sure you take it out before you sign the lease. For example, if you are unwilling to pay a $100 deductible or notify the landlord when you are gone for more than 10 days, make sure you have that removed from the lease.
3. Expect to be held to everything in the lease – Expect your landlord to hold you to everything in the lease in the way it is written. Remember, if it is in writing then that is what matters. For example, if the lease says you have to get their permission for visitors who are staying for more than seven days and your mother comes to visit for four weeks, the landlord has every right to impose the consequences in the lease. So make sure you don’t agree to anything you are not willing to comply with.
4. Negotiate before you sign the lease; not after – As a landlord, nothing drive me nuts more than a tenant who tries to negotiate after the lease is signed. Honestly, I will rarely agree to anything if the lease has already been signed. If you are unhappy or want to change anything, negotiate ahead of time. That includes issues with animals, new carpet, etc.
5. Drive around the neighborhood during different times – Drive around the neighborhood at all times of the day to make sure you are happy with the area. Once you move in, you may have to put up with loud neighbors, unsafe neighbors, etc.
6. Check the utility costs – One of the biggest things I hear from tenants is their surprise at utility costs. After living in three different states, I can tell you bills are drastically different depending on the location. My Virginia Beach electricity bill was half the price of my California one for the same size unit. So call the utility companies to get an idea of costs before making an decision.
7. Triple check the assigned schools – Prevent surprises by checking to find the assigned school for your area. Make sure you follow up with the school to make sure you are districted to the right school.
8. Check the commute time – I have learned the hard way that traffic makes commute times much longer than normal. My old job in Virginia Beach could be anywhere from a 20-minute to over-an-hour commute.
9. House is as-is – Remember when you are renting, unless otherwise stated, the house is as-is. So if you are not happy with the carpets or paint or want something changed, make sure you negotiate BEFORE you sign anything, not after you take possession. After that time it is usually too late.
10. First come, first served – Remember for most places it is first come first served regarding signing the lease. So if you find the perfect house get right on submitting the application, lease, and deposit. Until you have a ratified lease and a cashed check, the deal isn’t done.
Have you learned anything the hard way? What are your tips and tricks for house hunting?0