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Home Rental Guide

How to choose a compatible roommate

Finding a compatible roommate isn't as easy as you think. Not that many people are open about how they drink every night and how many friends they have over all the time. Therefore, the first thing you may want to consider is creating a detailed checklist of qualities you desire in your potential candidate.

For example, a non-smoker, someone who doesn't need to drink to have a good time, and who likes to cook. Right off the bat, you can assure yourself that 50% of the population will not reply to your ad. Second, write a detailed classified ad describing your home, personality and needs. If you are a vegetarian, you don't want to have a pig roast every weekend, therefore, you better make it clear from the beginning that you are sensitive to particular foods. Third, you must interview your candidates carefully. Take time during the interview, get some coffee or get a beer. You really can get a feel of someone during any of those two events. If they are at a bar with you and start ordering shots of tequila, that might be a sign of someone who loves the nightlife. Depending on your tastes, this may not be a good roommate. Lastly, trust your instincts. If the moment your candidate walks in you get a bad "vibe", that's an immediate no. Don't be sympathetic to anyone's problems, you're not looking to baby sit, you're looking for a roommate.

Questions to ask before you sign a lease

Grab your notepad and a pen because these are the questions which you should ask before you sign a lease agreement.

1) How much is the security deposit? This may seem obvious but you would be surprised how many people look surprised when they are asked for a security deposit.

2) Does the home allow pets? You might think that everyone loves dogs like you, but guess what, pets destroy homes!

3) Are there any rules that have the "do's and don'ts"? Again, if you have the rules, you can definitely make a wiser decision.

4) Who should you call if something breaks down? Some properties have property managers while others the owner takes care of things. This will be the most important question because you can bet your wallet that something will break.

5) Is the lawn maintenance handled? It is such a plus if you don't have to worry about the exterior, it's just one less thing to worry about.

6) Is there an end of lease cleaning fee? This one is so important. You can save yourself a lot of money if you keep the place as clean as possible and before the lease ends getting the carpets cleaned as well. If they send their own clean up crew, you're looking at several hundred dollars wasted.

These are just 6 questions which I feel can significantly help you before signing a lease. They might seem basic, but you need to get answers to these questions to make your lease the best experience.

Renting leverage

With thousands of homes for sale sitting stale, the only alternative for home owners is to try to rent it out until the market recovers. The only issue some of sellers are having is that the rent they are able to charge is less than the monthly mortgage payments. However, some money is better than none. How much leverage does a renter have? I have negotiated on an apartment listed for $1,600 a month down to $1,250. Depending on the situation and how desperate the owner is, you can find your rental for the right price.

Renters are victims of foreclosure too

As we already know, this housing slump is affecting everyone in different ways. Whether it is a homeowner going into foreclosure, mortgage brokers out of work, or home values dropping drastically, everyone is sharing the pain. Unfortunately, even renters, who obviously don't own a home and who pay their landlord on time, are the most recent victims.

There have been many situations recently that involve renters being kicked out of the home or condo they are renting because the property is going into foreclosure. Many times tenants don't even know the property they are renting is in foreclosure until someone hands them a notice of foreclosure or they find out from someone other than the landlord. It is an unfair situation, as there is very little protection for tenants. They end up losing their deposit and have to find a new place in an undisclosed amount of time.

Even if the tenants decide they want to buy the property being foreclosed, the banks tell them to make a bid after they have moved out. Some states in the Northeast have begun introducing legislation to protect renters from being evicted, but what are the hardest-hit areas like California, Arizona, Nevada, and Florida doing about it? If you are looking for a place to rent, visit, where you can search through thousands of rental listings in Florida for free.

Finding the RIGHT tenant

No matter how much research you do, or how sure you are of someone, there is no "perfect" way to pick a tenant. However, there are many things you can look for to having a successful tenant. The two most important aspects of a tenant are paying the rent on time, and caring for the property.

The best way to find out if the prospective tenant is going pay their rent on time is to run a credit check. Spend the twenty dollars because it would amaze you how you how many people tell you they are great when in reality they are a nightmare. The other aspect was the tenant taking care of your home. The best way to find out is to get references from previous landlords. This wont be 100% effective but it does provide more information than their word. These are two simple steps you can take to find the right tenant.

Where to find serious renters

Where your property is located will really dictate on what type of person you will get to rent your home. If you live around a college campus, you simply need to put a sign in front of your house and you will get all the leads you need. These types of renters are usually very serious and actually "qualified". If you don't have the luxury of living in a "hot" area, you might try using craigslist as an advertising means. From my experience, these types of renters aren't as serious or qualified as people who call from the signs.

The Truth about Blogs

Real Estate blogs have become a very popular way to increase traffic to your website. In a recent article in Realtor magazine, a woman was profiled who was able to bring 3,000 visitors a day to her website because her blog shows up first on Google. Blogs differ because they can either be personal or informative and can be about almost anything. Are individual (realtors) writing blogs to inform people about real estate? Are they writing because they want the whole world to know that they like ketchup on their hamburgers? Are they writing because they just want Google to rank them higher on search results?

In 2004 blogs were informative and relevant to topics. In 2008, people just write them because they get traffic from search engines. If you're looking to rent a home, or buy a home, why would reading this blog help you? It simply wouldn't help.

Skills required for property manager

You must have an understanding of the real estate market if you would like to become a property manager. A manager has a long list of responsibilities. They must possess some knowledge of building components, such as electrical, plumbing, heating and air systems. They must maintain tenant relations in a manner that enhances the residents' good will while representing the owner's interests.

In order to ensure safety they must be aware of building and health codes and regulations for local, state, and national jurisdictions. Most importantly, they must understand and observe applicable laws, including federal laws relating to fair housing and theAmericans with Disabilities act. If you are looking to become a property manager, do your research and you might be succesful. Good Luck.

Renting towards a sale

Many of my customers are really feeling the effects of the recession. South Florida, which was led by heavy speculators who were looking to flip pre-constructed apartments, has led to double listings. You might be thinking, what is a double listing? It refers to a listing that is for sale or rent. You can put in the remarks section of a for sale listing that you are also willing to lease, however, people who are looking to rent aren't searching the database of for sale listings to find a rental. Therefore, sellers are forced to place their property for rent also, giving them in essence, two listings. The problem that I have seen arise from this has been getting the home rented and then blowing your chances to sell the home to a potential buyer because you have a tenant in your home for a year. This can be avoided if you establish a good relationship with your tenant and sign a shorter or more flexible lease with them. 

Crash Pad

Everyday you hear or read different strategies to successfully rent your house or apartment. I received an email today advertising "crash pads" where Airplane Captains or stewardess' can crash over night. This is not new because I have heard about this before, but now it seems to be more popular especially during these tough times.

Depending on your proximity to the airport, you may want to consider this creative approach to offset your costs. Even if you don't live near the airport, you can still advertise your place as a crash pad and maybe throw something in, like a free cab ride to and from the airport. If the airline employee enjoys his or her stay, then your place may become their favorite crash pad everytime they are in town. 

Competing against a few thousand

Driving around the downtown Miami area is still very impressive with the amount of apartment buildings. What scares me more than seeing these almost vacant buildings is seeing the ones that are currently being built. There are not that many differences between any of these apartments. Besides the view, or the floor they are on, these condos are all pretty much exactly the same. Therefore, if you are looking to get a tenant you must highlight any differences you may have that makes your condo stand out from your competition. Whether it is the quality of the windows, the floor, the proximity to landmarks, or extra amentities like a gym or pool, any little difference might be the deciding factor in getting someone to rent your apartment. I would also recommend placing the property for sale at the same time because you never know what might happen. 

Work smarter, not harder

Looking for a place to rent among hundreds that are listed can be quite the challenge. To begin with, most people start their search on line. In my opinion, this is the best way to start. Newspapers don't have the photos, and the appearance of the property is the most important aspect of any listing. Once you have identified the area you want to live you can begin to search for your rental. Whether it is two, three or four bedrooms, there are plenty of properties to pick from.

Once you have narrowed the number of properties you like, I would recommend getting the addresses and driving by them to make sure you are content with the property. Sometimes you might like the property based on the pictures but when you drive by you notice things which are not depicted on the listing that just won't do. Whether it is a restaurant, lack of parking or even a train, do the initial drive by before you call the listing agent to make the appointment. Once you have short listed your properties arrange a time to see the properties and you will see that all your work prior to making the appointment paid off. 

Just bring your tooth brush
In many rental listings there tends to be an extreme stretching of the truth. For example, "All you need is a tooth brush", this in one of my personal favorites. This basically means that the property is in excellent condition and ready to be lived in as soon as possible.

However, when you go see the property you realize that you have a lot of work ahead of you. You may need to paint the place, replace the carpet, change the light bulbs, fix the washer/dryer etc. This may not be worth it if it has to come out of your pocket, because after all it's not your property. The list can go on and on but I think you get the idea. Don't ever make a decision or provide any money without viewing the property first. Most likely, you will need a lot more than a toothbrush. 

Remarks on listings

Currently, on a significant number of properties for sale, you see remarks describing extreme distress. For example, you commonly see "seller motivated" or "bring all offers". You don't see this type of remark on rentals at all. I don't think I have ever seen an advertisement for a rental stating "landlord motivated" or "bring your best rent price". Obviously the rental market isn't hurting as much as residential sales, but none the less, the remarks should be describing the property. If the seller is motivated, why don't they just reduce the price to the point where they don't have to write such remarks? In the rental market they just place the property for rent at a reasonable price. Realtors might want to start thinking like this because they are wasting their time and their customer's time with such ridiculous remarks. 

Be careful with scams

As the internet has become the most popular outlet to post your apartment for rent, it has also led to an increasing number of scams. With websites like "Craigslist" which allow consumers to contact consumers directly, the probability of getting scammed has become more prevalent. Be very careful when filling out a rental application which asks for your social security number, credit card info, or any other information which may put you at considerable risk. I am not saying that everyone is out there to scam you, but I am saying that you need to be very careful when providing your personal information. 

Rental Walk Through

When you first visit your new rental property, make sure that you do a thorough walk through. Inspect the property very carefully. If there is any damage, you not only want to get it fixed, but you also need to make sure that you are not blamed for it later. Address all the problems in the lease, either by agreeing to live with it, or by having the landlord fix the problem by a set date. Check all the common walls you may be sharing with adjoining apartments. The more walls in common, the greater the chance of noise. You want to make sure that you will be happy with noise level. Lastly, ask about the amenities. Are there enclosed parking spaces, storage, laundry facilities, pool, tennis, gym and other services? Do your homework and you will be a happy tenant.

Your landlord is not your enemy

Most tenants seem to feel that their landlord is their enemy when in reality it is quite the opposite. As a tenant you should take advantage of your landlord and establish a good relationship with them. The landlord is responsible for more than just collecting the monthly rent. They landlord has to make sure the trash is removed, the fire alarms work, the appliances work and that the unit is serviced with pest control. If there is ever any other problem, don't be afraid to call your landlord and ask them. Landlords are humans and most likely will be more than happy to assist you. Don't forget, be nice to your landlord and they will most likely be nice to you.

First, last and security deposit – moving expenses for renters

If you are planning on renting a property, you better have some cash saved up for the first month. The initial hit of renting could be quite steep. Usually 3 big charges come to mind: First month's rent, last month's rent (for the landlord to cover himself for the end of the contract), and a security deposit (for the landlord to make sure the property stays in the same condition it was rented out). There is literally no way to get out of this. The only possible avenue would be if the landlord and future tenant have a strong relationship and a lot of trust, then would some of those conditions not apply. But for 98% of the transactions, a future tenant will have to come up with some pretty significant money. Other move-in expenses would be a condominium or home owners association approval. There is always a fee for those, which would generally include a background check of the tenant and an application process.

If there is a lot of furniture, then movers would also form part of the equation. Plus maybe painting the place or acquiring new stuff, the list could be endless. In other words, if you are looking to save some money by renting a place instead of purchasing one, you still have to be prepared for that first month. Once you get through it then sailing should be a breeze and you should be able to save some significant money if the proper deal was found. Not to mention the fact that the last month of the renting period is already paid and if the property was kept in good condition, the full or partial amount of that security deposit will be given back. It almost feels like found money, a welcome gift to everybody I should say.

Renting a house – take care of it as if it were yours

Too many times I see inconsiderate tenants that pretty much destroy properties. What a nightmare that could be for a landlord. Everybody knows that is one of the downfalls of putting your place up for rent; but people, let's try to be reasonable and treat these properties with the respect they deserve. I have personal experience from all angles on this issue. As a tenant, I always tried to treat that house as if it was my very own. Not only will that make your living experience better on that place, but it will assure that you will get the full security deposit back. On the other hand I have also been a landlord and you just have to pray that a good tenant comes your way. Someone that will not turn your place upside down and hopefully someone that will pay on time. A background check, referrals and simple gut intuition will help a landlord get the right tenant.

As a real estate agent I always try to educate my future tenants on the fact that these properties will be their living space and they should be kept in immaculate condition. I just hope everybody does the same so that the landlord – tenant relationships could improve overall in the near future. Wouldn't that be a dream? Considerate tenants paying rent on time, treating properties like it they were their own; and also landlords that are willing to fix any problem that might come up during the leasing period. A perfect world is not so difficult if people just learn to treat things with a little bit more care and no so much thinking in terms of bottom line numbers. 

The advantages of renting

The first and most obvious advantage is that you have "fixed" costs. Besides the occasional power bill varying, you have no other expenses. The owner is in charge of fixing the appliances, painting the exterior, taxes, and insurance. Although you are not gaining equity when you rent a home, the advantage of renting is that you are not losing equity either. Lastly, there are no upfront costs when renting, you simply just move in and move out.

Flip Flop Real Estate

Four years ago it was easier to buy a home than it was to rent one. When someone rents a home there is usually a required security deposit as well as first and last months rent. If you take a $1,200 home, you are looking at $3,400 initial investment, assuming there was a $1,000 security deposit. However, in 2004-6, individuals were able to receive 100% loans, and to top it off, some didn't even have to verify income. It is these individuals, along with speculators who are getting crushed with the current bust. All you see now are people looking for rentals…..How times have changed.

 By Diane Tuman

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  • Last edited October 12 2012
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