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Hunting for a Rental Home

Hunting for a rental home can be overwhelming. There are many places to go, people to see, and decisions to make. It’s just trying to find a place, not even moving in and getting settled, and there are already so many things you need to do?

If you take a deliberate approach to the process, you can get through it a lot more easily. It’s not going to be simple or easy, but it will at least be a lot less of a hassle for you than going in unprepared.

Knowing what you want and need

If you start searching not knowing what you’re looking for, you can't expect it to be easy. Before you even start seriously searching, you need to know what you’re looking for.

If you’re pressed for time, this can be something simple: how long you need the lease for, what kind of place (house, apartment, condo) you need, and where you’re looking to live can be enough of an answer.

If you have more time, go much deeper. Brainstorm everything you might want, separate needs and wants, and prioritize everything. Reach out to someone in the area if you know anyone there, as they can both help you get started and do some favors for you later on.

Regardless of how much preparation you can do, just narrowing down what you’re looking for can make a huge difference in keeping the hunt from getting to be too much.

Understand your restrictions

Just how much can you spend on rent each month? Do you need to stay in a certain area because of your job or family? These can make it difficult to find just the right house, but these restrictions can actually help you make a decision. If you need to stay in a certain area for work or family, don’t look at homes outside that area. They’ll limit what you can go after, but treat it as permission to turn down things that don’t fit those criteria, and it’ll help the hunt go much more smoothly.

Now is the time to put all of that information into practice. Using your wants, needs, and restrictions, start looking for places that fit as much of that as you possibly can. Look in the right neighborhoods, start to schedule visits, and visit as many as you can. If you’re looking for a place somewhere you don’t live, get someone who does live there to help if you can.

If you’re looking at a lot of places, you’re not going to remember everything. As soon as you start hunting, keep a file on everywhere that you’ve looked at. Save the original listing you found, any papers the property manager gives you, pictures of the unit from your visit, and any other thoughts you might not remember. Make sure to look closely at any of the places you visit, especially for little things that might not be immediately obvious from a listing. You’ll want to notice if somewhere has less than full-size appliances or awkwardly shaped/sized rooms, which could be a big issue later on.

Above all, really be critical about anywhere you visit. You’re going to be living there, and you want to know any of the flaws sooner than later. Don’t be afraid to ask questions when you have any, and keep an eye out for anything that feels like avoiding or dodging the question.

Last, watch out for the difference between the shiny and the necessary. A kitchen with granite countertops may be nice, but not if the apartment is too small or in the wrong area. Keep an eye out for shiny objects that you might get distracted by, rather than paying attention to what really matters.

Deciding on a place

So, you’ve seen a number of places, have a file on each of them, and need to make a choice. The first thing is finding the balance between jumping at an opportunity and taking your time to make the right decision. At the least, sleep on the decision. Wait until the next day before signing up for anything. The extra time helps to make sure that you’re looking at what matters in a place, and not just those shiny things.

If you have more time, compare all of the places you’re looking at to your list of needs and wants. With well thought out and carefully prioritized criteria, making the decision should be pretty easy. If you’re having trouble, think more about what you really need or do more research. If you’re trying to decide between different places to live, do a virtual (or real) tour of the neighborhood, plotting out your drive to work, where the nearest grocery store is, or other things that will affect your day to day life.

Once you’ve found a reason to choose one place over another, then apply for that place. If a couple are contenders, then you can apply to multiple places and go with the best that accepts you. If that happens, congratulations! The hunt is over, and now moving, the real hard part, starts.

Hunting for a rental home is exhausting and confusing, but with some preparation, you can make it go a lot more smoothly.

Categories: Renters

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About the Author
Steffi Cook

Steffi Cook is the head of content for Rentals.com. When she’s not writing or editing, you can find her on the tennis court, hiking in the mountains or trying a new restaurant.