Renting can be a wise choice for many housing situations. Buying a home is a long term, somewhat permanent, big investment of time and money. Renting an apartment, condo, townhouse, or house is much easier. All you have to do is live in the home, take care of it, and pay on time. The rest of the responsibility falls on the landlord.While renting can seem like a short term obligation of 6 or 12 months at a time, there are some serious considerations to be made before you sign on the dotted line. Ignoring those considerations can put you at serious financial risk.
Photo by busbeytheelder via Flickr
Here are 7 things to check out before you sign your lease.
Your landlord is required to have insurance on the property you rent, but that insurance covers his property. Your property (bed, couch, and so on) inside of his property is your responsibility to insure. If your apartment building goes up in flames because your weird neighbor left the stove on, you will need renters insurance to replace your belongings. Going without renters insurance is a dumb financial move — it costs at most $20 per month. A small price to pay to be able to replace everything you own.
There is a fine balance to be maintained between cheap rent that is in the woods and expensive rent close to all your favorite spots. Be sure to balance the cost of your time sitting in traffic to do daily activities. It can make financial sense to move closer in to a city center if you will save a tremendous amount of time over a year.
You need to know how close the fire department and police stations are. You hope to never have a need for their services, but living in a zone with a 15 minute response time is a lot different than living in a zone with a 2 minute response time. When my wife and I were first married we lived across the highway from a big hospital. We got used to the ambulance noise and were comforted to know that we could literally limp to emergency care if needed.
This is always a tough one to truly figure out, but you can dig in to get the details. Consider noise not only from your neighbors, but also from the street. Take some time to walk around the complex and ask some of your potential new neighbors how much noise they hear in their apartment. Mixing thin walls with loud neighbors will ruin your sleep for the entire length of your lease. It is worth doing a little leg work to avoid it.
Who does the apartment cater to? College students or professionals? There’s nothing wrong living surrounded by college students except they tend to be louder and carry hours longer into the night. If you have a newborn child and are desperate to not wake her with outside noise, a college targeted apartment is probably not for you.
Normally maintenance is the responsibility of the landlord, but make sure to go through your lease carefully to make sure you understand what is and isn’t your responsibility. If you are renting a townhouse or a stand alone home, are you responsible for the landscaping and yard? Do you need to mow?
A lease is a legal contract that details out the who, what, when, and how of you renting a place to live. It is a very important document, and not one you should just skim through and sign on a whim. It may annoy the landlord or agent trying to get you to close the deal, but take as much as time as you need to feel comfortable with the lease. Once you’re locked in, it is nearly impossible to get out without paying fees for breaking your contract.
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