Four Things to Keep in Mind While Searching For a New Rental

Searching for a new apartment or other rental unit can be a truly daunting task, especially if it’s something that you haven’t had to take on before. Surfing through Craigslist post after Trulia listing without finding that true place you could call “home” might get a little disheartening, but having a few guidelines can help you zero in and sort out more promising leads over others.

Here are a few things to keep in consideration while you are in the middle of your search online.

1. Make sure listings are well-written and clear

While searching through Craigslist, there are a multitude of questionably written listings that may include an attractive looking home or location. It isn’t to say that all poorly written listings are void of promise, but it is best to be cautious when taking a look at these. A good apartment listing should be transparent about information such as who owns the property, who handles the utilities, as well as a good selection of photos.

The listing should also provide a comprehensive list of contact information, including both a phone number and email address. Essentially, you shouldn’t have to ask for the basics about the apartment – it should be there at the ready on the listing.

Also be cautious of listings that appear spammy in nature, or appear to show up almost everyday in listings, such as this:

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Apart from the details in some of these listings, they are all obviously from the same source. Stick to posts that stand on their own, and don’t come in bundles such as this.

2. When looking at places, see that they have smoke and carbon monoxide detection

Landlords/property managers should be providing both smoke and carbon monoxide detection in the units that they manage. When looking at a place, make it a point to look around and ask if the unit currently has working detectors. Depending on which state you live in, it is required that landlords provide carbon monoxide detectors. 26 states require such detection. You have the right to know about such protections, as it is essential to your safety.

3. Avoid properties with non-negotiable lease terms

These aren’t terribly common in rentals owned by an individual, but if you find a listing that has non-negotiable lease terms, it’s probably best to stay away from it. You should always have the ability to discuss lease terms with the landlord. 12-month leases will be the most common, and it’ll likely be the initial term that you’ll be presented with.

If the apartment that you are looking at truly has all of the features that you are searching for and you know that you’ll enjoy living there, the landlord will likely be open to hearing about your desire to have an 18 or 24-month lease. The less time they have to spend finding new tenants, the happier they will be.

4. Research the area

This is something you’d likely be inclined to do anyway, but there are several means of getting good information about the safety of the neighborhoods that you’re considering living in. Two great (and free) resources are SpotCrime and Trulia. SpotCrime gives regularly updated information about crimes that have happen in an area, down to the precise location.

In Trulia, you can use the map feature to get a sense of the level of safety within the neighborhood. Simply type in the address of the apartment you’re looking at (or zoom in within the town or city), and switch to “MAP”, as seen below.

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One the map feature is activated, look in the top left menu of the map and click “Crime”:

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This will give a color-coded map that highlights recent crimes within the area.

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