Renting a house or apartment is generally the first step people take before purchasing a property. From tiny apartment studios to lavish custom-built homes, residential properties (that are available for lease) come in all shapes and sizes.
The Guide To Renting A House
Since I’ve recently been considering renting a house, I’ve asked my friend and real estate expert, Audrey Wardwell (Broker & Owner of 36 North Property Management), for her professional advice on renting a house.
To help the Inspirations & Celebrations readers learn the ins-and-outs of property rentals, featured here are her 7 top tips for renting a house or apartment. With Audrey’s expert insight, you’ll learn where to find your dream home, what you can actually afford (without feeling like the woman who lived in a shoe), and how to handle contract negotiations confidence.
About Audrey Wardwell of 36 North Property Management
As the real estate broker and owner of 36 North Property Management, Audrey Wardwell is known by clients for her expertise in real estate sales and property management. Her company offers nearly two decades of experience, providing knowledge and professionalism to clientele in the Salinas Valley and throughout the Monterey Peninsula. They specialize in single-family homes, condos, duplex units, large and small apartment complexes, and commercial buildings.
CLP: When searching for a rental property, how does a renter figure out what they can afford? What additional expenses should they budget for?
AW: When determining what you can afford to pay for a rental I would first look at what a landlord would require. Most landlords look for tenants to make 3X the monthly rent each month. For example lets say your gross monthly income is $4,500. Divide 4,500 by 3 and you get 1,500. Based on the above monthly income, I would recommend looking for a rental that is $1,500/month or less.
Once you find a rental that meets your affordability, it is good to also consider what utilities a landlord will require you to pay. If you’re renting a home, it’s typical for a landlord to expect the tenant to pay for all utilities. This would, in many cases, include; water (including landscaping), electricity, sewer, trash, and maintenance of the landscaping. Additional costs would be cable and internet, should you choose to utilize these services.
If you rent an apartment or condo, garbage, sewer, and commonly shared landscaping expenses are more typically paid for by the landlord. In some cases even water service is included. It is always good to confirm this with the landlord, as this is not always the case.
CLP: How does a renter determine if a property is priced fairly and/or a wise commitment?
AW: To determine if a property is priced fairly, I would take a look at comparable rentals in the area. A good thing to remember is that rent is negotiable. Your ability to negotiate has a lot to do with the additional criteria landlords look at outside of income, like credit, payment history, length of employment and previous rental references. Another very important factor is the current market. For example, the rental market on the Monterey Peninsula is very competitive. We have an average of 5 applicants for every property listed. Ultimately the landlord will give a property a price, but the potential renter sets the price by their willingness to pay the rent.
CLP: What types of esthetic improvements or decorating is a renter usually allowed to do to a property?
AW: Any improvements, changes, or repairs made to a property will need to be authorized in writing by the landlord before any work is done. If a landlord agrees to let you paint, for example, they may require that the walls be returned back to their original color when you move out.
CLP: What are the best ways to find great properties? Is Craigslist the only option for searches?
AW: Along with Craigslist, other options to find properties include Trulia, Zillow, HotPads, Apartments.com, Condo.com, and Rentbits.com. Another way is to drive around a neighborhood that you like, and look for “For Rent by owner” signs.
In regards to Craigslist, if you see a property where the rent is much less than what you would expect, it may be a scam. Many scammers are copying the rental information and photos from other adds, and offering the property in a new ad for much less than comparable rentals.
CLP: If a renter has to break a lease (either due to relocation or job change), how do they get out of the contract? What types of penalties could they face?
AW: Breaking a lease is always a difficult situation for both the tenant and landlord. If you absolutely need to break a lease, I would let your landlord know as soon as possible.
I would also recommend that you offer to let the landlord market the place immediately, accommodate any showings, and leave the property promptly once they have accepted another applicant. If the landlord agrees to break the lease, it would be typical for you to cover the cost of the advertising, possibly the agents time for showing the unit, and any days the property is unoccupied between your move out date and the date that the new tenant moves in. In the end, all of this also depends on how your agreement reads, so it is important to understand the agreement that you have entered into.
If you break the lease by vacating the property, and do not find another tenant to take your place, you would be responsible for the rent until a new tenant is found, and any additional fees associated with breaking the lease. Breaking a lease can result in negative effects to your credit score, and be very costly. I would highly recommend working with your landlord as much as possible to make it easy and fair for both parties.
CLP: What are the pros/cons of renting a house versus an apartment?
AW: Whether an apartment, or single family home, the right decision for you depends on your current needs, and your available funds. The main benefit in my eyes to an apartment is that you typically pay less in utilities, the landlord generally covers the garbage and sewer fees, and the property grounds are usually maintained by a professional landscaper. In some cases, you may have amenities not typical of most single family rentals, like a pool or a gym, which is a plus.
The cons to an apartment would be that you usually share a common wall, so both parties have to be sensitive to noise, and of course there is usually less privacy, as you have many neighbors in close proximity.
The benefits to a single family home is that the whole property is usually yours, which generally results to more privacy. I find that a single family home, in most cases, offers more storage and a larger lot and home size.
The main cons to a single family home are that you are usually responsible for all utilities and landscaping maintenance for the property.
CLP: Do you have any other expert advice for people that are interested in renting a house or apartment?
AW: When looking for a place to rent, I would recommend that you dress professionally when viewing or meeting the landlord, maintaining an appearance that is organized and clean. For example, I always walk potential renters out to their cars when possible, so that I can see how clean they keep them. This isn’t always an “end-all” indicator of how clean you’ll keep the place, but it does help to set an impression.
Also, if your credit score is below 650, I would recommend that you do what you can before you start looking for a place, to improve your score, or provide the potential landlord with explanations regarding what has contributed to the issue. My recommendation, to avoid any delays in the review of your application, would be that a prospective tenant review the application in its entirety before submission, ensuring that all appropriate areas have been filled out, and to provide any additional information necessary for their behalf. Letters of recommendations are definitely considered, and are great to include when looking for a place to rent, especially when you have a pet.
To search for residential properties in the Monterey Peninsula, or to learn more about renting a house or apartment, visit 36 North Property Management.