Renting your first property can be just as intimidating as it is exciting. There are a lot of common mistakes you may make when renting your first property. A lot of mistakes first-time renters make come down to rushing a decision, since many first-time renters need to find a property to live in by a set time period, such as the end of a college semester.
Even if you have a sizeable deadline, it is easy to panic or make an early decision simply because you do not want to end up having no place to live by the end of your deadline.
There are other issues you should be aware of besides time constraints while searching for your first rental property. Once you are aware of them, most of the issues with renting property are very easy to navigate. Many potential problems are solved simply by doing a little bit of research or negotiating with your potential landlord.
Renting a Property You Cannot Reasonably Afford
It may seem like an obvious mistake to avoid, but one of the most common problems new renters face is picking a property they cannot reasonably afford. This issue can manifest in a few different ways. The first issue is if you are only focused on the rental price. You may find a great apartment that is a little more expensive than you would like but is still technically within your price range. However, you cannot just look at the base rental price of a property.
You need to factor in other expenses, such as utilities and your grocery costs. Even if you have the foresight to check utilities cost, you should keep in mind the utilities cost may change depending on the season. For example, your heating bill will increase during the winter, while your electric bill will increase over the summer if you are running an air conditioner.
Another potential issue with pricing is assuming you will be able to cover high rental costs with a roommate. If you already have someone who has agreed to be a roommate, this will not be an issue.
However, some renters make the mistake of finding a great property they do not want to pass up and assume they will be able to find a roommate afterwards who can help with rental costs. Even if the property seems too good to pass up, you may not end up finding a roommate, leaving you with an extremely expensive rental cost.
To avoid this problem, you should:
- Make a list of all expenses and income.
- Make a list of surplus money you will have to spend on rent and utilities.
- Get a practical idea of your price range.
Picking the Wrong Roommates
It is very common to rent your first property with at least one roommate. Having a roommate is a great way to cut down on costs when you are going into the real world for the first time. However, it is very easy to pick the wrong type of roommate. Your first instinct will likely be to room with one of your friends. You may get along very well with someone, but that does not mean you two will be compatible roommates. Your roommate should certainly be someone you get along with, but there are other factors to consider as well.
A good roommate is someone who is willing to share responsibilities around the apartment. You do not want to end up with a messy roommate who leaves you with all of the cleaning. You may also want to avoid a roommate who has the opposite schedule of you.
You should feel comfortable setting rules with your chosen roommate, such as deciding when guests are allowed over or if there are set hours where you both agree to keep noise levels down. Even if you are not concerned with issues, when attempting to find a good roommate, it is important you ask a potential candidate about these issues as he or she may have certain expectations of you.
To avoid ending up with a bad roommate, do this:
- If the potential roommate is a friend, spend a week with him or her to see if you are a match.
- Get references if the roommate is not a friend.
- Ask why the new roommate is leaving his or her current living situation.
- Make sure the new roommate has a way to pay rent.
Failure to Make an Accurate Budget
If you have never lived alone, it is easy to overlook how expensive it can be to furnish a home, as well as purchase day to day necessities. Typically, renters will focus on the most expensive costs, such as buying a couch or television for the living room. However, buying pots and pans for the kitchen or basic utensils may be overlooked. Individually, purchasing these smaller items is not very expensive, but if you buy all of them in one trip, the costs can quickly add up, especially when you also have to worry about larger expenses and your initial rent.
One of the ways you can prepare for these costs is with simple money-saving strategies. For example, go through each room of your current home and make a list of the items you will want in your new home. When making your list, try to be as specific as possible. List each individual item instead of grouping items into generalized categories, like utensils or bathroom supplies. Once you have your list, start shopping around to see how much it will cost to initially furnish your new home, as well as how much it will cost to restock items like paper towels and dish detergent.
When making an accurate budget:
- Make a list of needs by room (be detailed).
- Ask yourself how much it will cost to restock perishable paper goods.
- Consider which of these items on your list you can buy secondhand or get for free.
Avoiding Rental Scams
A lot of services can be performed from a computer. Online services are very convenient, but there are also many scammers using the marketplace. Looking up a property listing online is a great way to view rental properties in multiple areas and assess whether or not you want to take a closer look at a property. However, you should never make any type of payments online until you have met with the landlord in person and visited the property. Scammers will take pictures of other rental properties and put them online for a relatively low rent. Once you contact the scammer, he or she will ask you to make your initial security deposit or last month’s rent. Once you pay the scammer, he or she will run off with your money and never contact you again.
It becomes harder to avoid these scams if you are renting a property outside of the state you currently reside. In these situations, you still have to make the time to view the property to ensure it is actually a real listing. If there is no way to reasonably visit the property beforehand, consider working with a real estate agent or a property management company in the area who can view the property on your behalf and ensure you are not being scammed.