It’s easy to be drawn in by an enticing ad on ‘Craig’s List’, ‘Zillow’ or ‘Trulia’:
“Adorable 2 bedroom apartment in the quiet community of Elsinboro, NJ offers a newer kitchen, freshly painted throughout , washer/dryer, bonus closet storage and balcony deck overlooking a cornfield. $785 per month, no pets”
Yep, it sounds great……I bet you want to look at it, right?
But here’s the truth of the matter:
……way before you call, text or email to schedule an appointment there are several items of business for you to attend to.
#1 – CREDIT – If you don’t know your score, find out. You can go to your bank, freeannualcredit.com or creditkarma.com to obtain your credit report and score. Some landlords have a minimum requirement when it comes to credit, so it’s important to be informed. Besides, there just may be a mistake that will need to be corrected and it can take precious time to rectify.
#2 – MONEY – You will need the first month’s rent and in most cases, one-and-one-half’s rent as a security deposit…..now. Yes, NOW. Not in two months…..now. If this will be your first rental, you may need deposits for utilities, as well. If that is the case, you had better be prepared with an additional $500 to $700 for electric, gas or propane and cable accounts. In most cases, the deposits will be returned to you at the end of your first year of occupancy.
#3 – REFERENCES – You will need two to three good, solid references. Ask your boss, coworkers, friends, teachers, pastors, etc. This is not the time for your Mom to come to your rescue. Your references should definitely know you but not be related to you. Most importantly, secure a good reference from either your current landlord or your previous landlord, if you are able.
#4 – FREEDOM – Are you bound to a current lease? It really isn’t a good idea to begin looking for a new apartment if you have too many months left on your old lease. My advice is to start looking 45 to 60 days out. New rental units come into and out of the market on a weekly, if not a daily, basis. Don’t worry…..when you are ready, the unit will present itself.
#5 – KNOWLEDGE – What areas are acceptable to you? What is your monthly budget for the rent? How many bedrooms do you need? How long of a lease is ideal for you? A good Realtor can be a sounding board for you to discuss these things but please keep in mind, he/she will be unable to steer you to, or away from, any particular area. There are strict guidelines against ‘steering’ so it is your job to research crime rates, school systems or anything else that makes an area either desirable or undesirable to you.
These 5 items are the basics for you to consider before beginning your rental search. There are other things that may pop up, but if you have these Top 5 in order, you will be in an excellent position to act quickly should you locate a good potential rental unit. Rental units can go very quickly, so do yourself a favor and get prepared.
“Would you have references?”
“I’m awfully sorry but I haven’t. I just arrived in New York, and don’t know a soul. Except you.” I smiled but she didn’t smile back. She stood hesitating, and I said, “It’s true that I’m an escaped convict, an active counterfeiter, and occasional murderer. And I howl during the full of the moon. But I’m neat.” ~ Jack Finney, Time and Again