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Tips to Avoid First-time Renters’ Mistakes

It’s your first time finding your own place! Isn’t it exciting? Or is it more terrifying? Either way, you’re going to have to be careful. There are many first-time renters' mistakes that you could easily fall prey to in your enthusiasm or anxiety. Here are some mistakes to be careful to avoid here at the beginning of this next chapter of your life.

Rushing to a decision

Yes, you want to get this over with. Hunting for a place is exhausting and stressful, but you’re going to be living there for a while. Most leases are a year and it’s a lot of work to move to a new place. If you rush to a decision, you might just find yourself right back here in another year. Take the time to make a good decision now and save yourself from that fate.

Not having a budget

How much is it going to cost to move? You have to take the time to go see homes, pay application fees, put down a deposit and many other little costs before you've even loaded up a truck. Make sure that you’ve set aside enough money to be able to pay for these things and know how much is too much for you to be able to pay.

Skimming over the lease

Read every word of the lease. Yes, it’s going to take a long time, but you’re legally bound by this document. Make sure you understand everything in it. Get help from someone if you’re having trouble understanding it. If you just skim it, you won’t know what is and isn’t allowed at your new place and may end up in a fair amount of trouble somewhere down the line.

Not doing a proper walkthrough

When you move in, you’re probably given a form to fill out about the current state of your new home. Walk around and document the shape everything is in. If possible, get the landlord or property manager to walk through the place with you. Take pictures of anything that’s not in perfect shape and send it to them to document exactly what state everything was in when you moved in. This will be a great help if there’s a dispute with the security deposit later on down the line.

Not having renters insurance

No, this isn’t required by every landlord, but you should have it anyway. Most renter’s insurance costs about $20 a month and can protect you and the value of everything in your home. Your landlord’s insurance only covers what they own. Everything you own is covered by your insurance, so make sure you get it.

Treating the home badly

You want to get your security deposit back, right? Then treat the place well. Report maintenance issues as they come up, stay away from activities that are likely to cause damage, and just generally take care of the place. You may not own it, but you can be held responsible for the damage you cause.

Mistaking wants for needs

What you want out of a home and what you need to have are two different things. If you put too much emphasis on wants or too little on needs, you can find yourself living in a place with a lot of superficial appeal but doesn’t give you what you really need in a home.

Not shopping around

Even if the first place you see is everything you could want, don’t stop there. There could always be a better place or a better deal. Shopping around takes time, but since you’re going to be living there, it’s more than worth the time it takes.

Forgetting about security

What are crime rates in the area like? Are there security features such as alarms available to you? If you’re in a multifamily or apartment building, how difficult is it for someone who doesn’t live there to get in? Ask these questions so you don’t accidentally find yourself living somewhere you don’t feel safe.

Falling for rental scams

There's a large market in scamming renters who are just looking for a home. Don't fall for these. Never send anyone money before you’ve had a chance to visit a place and take a look around. Don’t send any rent money or a deposit before you’ve signed a lease. In general, be cautious about anything where you’ve not actually met someone face to face before they ask for money.

Not checking out the neighbors/neighborhood

Your new home is going to be about a lot more than just the building. Have you found a place with the right neighborhood for you? Drive or walk around it to get a feel for the place. Try and talk to some of your potential neighbors and see what they’re like. If you don’t like the neighbors or neighborhood, then even having the best place isn’t going to be the best experience.

Finding your first place is a lot to take in. Keep these in mind as you look, however, and you’ll be a lot less likely to make a big mistake you’ll regret later.

Have any other tips to avoid first-time renters' mistakes? Let us know in the comments!

Categories: Renters

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About the Author
Zac Kandell Headshot

Zac Kandell is a freelance writer based in Atlanta. In addition to contributing to Rentals.com, Zac has previously written for Apartment Guide and AT&T. During his spare time, he enjoys reading comics and spending way too much time listening to podcasts.