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Residential leases are sometimes seen as inconvenient because they typically only last one year and moving is often a hassle. But a more thorough search can help prevent too-frequent moves.

Want to find the right rental and settle in for the long term? In order to scope out the perfect residence and become a longstanding occupant, you should develop a renting strategy. Here are some steps to help you improve your search for a rental home.

Pay close attention to exterior features before making final decisions about a rental property.

Pay close attention to exterior features before making final decisions about a rental property.

Set priorities

Before beginning your search, decide what kind of rental best fits your needs. Renters with pets, for example, should consider leasing from private owners rather than multi-family property managers.

Finance writer Michelle Schroeder gauged practicality before deciding which lease to sign.

“We knew we wanted a house so that we could have a dog. I was a naive 18 year old, but luckily a family member was looking for a reliable renter,” she said.

You should also pay close attention to amenities and exterior features before making final decisions. Rand Owens, vice president of marketing at Happy Inspector, says high rises and rentals in noisy environments, or rentals with close proximity to freeways or train tracks were all eliminated from his search.

Consider budgets

Calculate your rental budget by bearing in mind size requirements and locations preferences. Additional amenities — including updated appliances and granite countertops — cost extra, but may be worth the added comfort.

While you should spend enough on a rental to be happy, don’t put yourself in a financial bind just to live in a luxurious abode.

“I think the most important factor is affordability. No one likes to live in a place where they can barely afford the rent struggling to just get by,” says live-in landlord Mike Choi.

Compare properties

Make sure you are getting a fair arrangement by comparing your prospective apartment with other properties on the market. Financial consultant Mark Ferguson advises to allocate ample time for research.

“I would start looking well before I needed a place to live. The more time you have to prepare, the better place you will get. Many times I was rushed and forced into whatever was available,” he said.

Sean Bryant of One Smart Dollar said he started pursuing a home two months before his planned move date which has prevented him from having any regrets about his rental choices. Starting early gives renters the chance to weigh out all opportunities.

Remember, two comparable properties can vary substantially in price depending on their respective locations, so don’t assume smaller, more expensive apartments are necessarily bad deals.

tug of war

Always negotiate a lease, but be realistic.

Negotiate contracts

Always attempt to get the most out of your lease. For example, a lessee may be able to receive a designated parking spot or storage space at no additional cost.

Be frugal and realistic at the same time. The experts of The Rental Resource stress the importance of being informed about the current rental market and the advantages or disadvantages for landlords based on the market.

“Negotiate, yes, but only slightly. Good rentals don’t have much of a discount available because there is plenty of demand,” the organization advises.

Demanding candidates can be a red flag for property management companies, and you don’t want to drive them to consider more easygoing applicants.

Attend walk-throughs

Don’t be shy about checking out potential apartments before locking them down. Michelle Sherman of the National Apartment Association encourages caution prior to signing a lease.

“I went through not one, but two walk-throughs of my apartment before I signed my lease. The leasing agent wanted to make sure that I was 100 percent comfortable with the apartment,” she said.

Note any damages that could potentially cause stress. Neglected repairs are huge inconveniences — especially when they involve expected amenities that are included in the cost of rent.

While staying aware of your requirements, try to keep an open mind. Renters can usually exhaust all options by allowing sufficient time between initial searches and probable move dates.

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About the Author

Jennifer Riner writes about rentals, home improvement and design for Zillow Blog.

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