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Q&A Tuesday: Advice for first-time renters?

My husband and I will be selling our home soon and relocating for his job. We plan to rent until we know for sure if the new position will be permanent. Neither one of us has ever rented. Do you have any advice or tips for first-time renters? We have two small children so we envision a house or condo.

Would you recommend a storage unit for items not used everyday or a home with enough storage to accommodate those items? We would appreciate any advice you can give us. Thank you! -Beth

Hi, Beth!

A lot of people give renting a bad rap, but personally, I think renting can be a great financial move [1] if you are just moving to a new city, aren’t in a position to put a large down payment on a home, or only plan to live in the same area for around two years or less. We rented for the first seven and a half years of marriage [2]and my husband and I both have no regrets about our decision to do so.

Here are a few things I’d encourage you to consider as a first-time renter:

1) Make Sure You Have a Good Landlord

Whether you’re renting an apartment, house, duplex, or condo, your landlord can either make or break your renting experience. We’ve had great landlords and we’ve had really pathetic landlords (one who made many false promises and took over a year to deal with issues).

When you’re considering a potential house or condo, do a search online to see if there is any information on the landlord or property management company. If we had thought to do this in one of our housing situations, it would have saved enormous headache.

If you’re renting an apartment or condo and there are on-site property managers, make sure you feel like they genuinely have your best interests at heart. They are the go-between for landlord and tenant, so if they truly care about their tenants, you’ll likely end up with much quicker service if your hot water tank breaks or your plumbing is clogged.

2) Consider Your Surroundings

For us, this was especially imperative because we had young children. You might love the house, apartment, or condo, but if there’s no place for your children to go out and play, it can become very difficult — especially if you’re squeezed into a cracker box house.

If possible, drive by the house, condo, or apartment at night and during the day to get a feel for what the neighbors and neighborhood is typically like. Also, ask your landlord or property manager what their policy is on loud or obnoxious neighbors. You definitely don’t want someone blaring their music in a room right next to yours at 3 a.m. in the morning if you have young children trying to sleep!

3) Look at the Fine Print on the Lease

Make sure you know the exact terms of your lease. For instance, some leases have strict rules about how many children or pets you can have. If you are planning on having another baby or getting a new pet anytime soon, they could require you to move out because you no longer abide by their rules.

Also, look at the details of what is and isn’t your responsibility as a tenant. What utilities do they pay for? What is their typical process if something breaks? Can you get out of your lease, if need be? What shape do they expect the house or condo to be in after you move out (we forgot to ask this once and ended up getting a few crazy things deducted from our security deposit that they didn’t tell us we needed to make sure and take care of before we moved out)?

4) Downsize Your Belongings

If you’re going to be downsizing in home, it’s the perfect opportunity to take a good, hard look at everything you own and see what you can get rid of. The price of storage units can add up pretty quickly, so it will save you money to just get rid of items you no longer love and/or use at least every few weeks.

Not only will this make your move simpler since you’ll have less stuff to pack and relocate, but de-cluttering your home will help you streamline your life [3] and improve your productivity.

What are your best tips and suggestions for first-timer renters to consider?