How to find a great rental

There are lots of reasons to choose renting over buying. When you rent, for example, you very rarely have to pay for repairs to your living space. The cost of maintenance and repairs is almost always included in your rental fee. Another very handy benefit to renting is that, in most spaces, at least some utilities are included in the rental cost. Most spaces will only make tenants pay for electricity, cable, internet and phone costs out of pocket.

This doesn’t mean, though, that all rental properties are the same. Far from it! We’ve all heard stories about renters who got taken advantage of by their landlords. We’ve heard about terrible neighbors and shoddy construction. Here are some things that you can do to make sure that you don’t find yourself in one of these predicaments.

#1. Do The Groundwork

We live in the Internet age now. This means that, in addition to finding rental spaces online, you can also find out what people thought of those rental spaces online. Never ever sign a lease or pay a deposit fee without first looking for independent reviews of the property you’re thinking of renting. Look for reviews of that property’s management company and owners. If a property has a ton of negative reviews and those reviews are all recent, you should probably move on to your next potential space.

#2. Never Rent Sight Unseen

Sometimes this can’t be helped–sometimes you just need a space to move into for a few months while you get settled somewhere and you’ll take whatever you can get. Most of the time, though, you are much better served by actually taking a tour of a space before you fill out an application (most landlords require this these days anyway). When you’re looking at a space, really look at it. Take the time to test the water pressure in the sinks and showers. Pay attention to the placement of outlets and closets. Check out any overhead lighting. Flush the toilet. Look out the windows.

Drive by the building or complex in the evenings, at night and over the weekend. Most tours happen during working hours so it’s easy for a landlord to claim that a space is quiet and calm. But if you drive by on the weekend and see that it’s a madhouse, that’s a good reason to consider renting somewhere else (unless you like a madhouse atmosphere).

#3. Nearby Suburbs Can Save You Money

Yes, you want to live smack dab in the middle of the city of your dreams. A lot of the time, though, that zipcode will come with a price. Try looking at nearby and easily commutable suburbs if you are on a budget. For example, if you are taking a job in Washington DC, consider living in nearby Bethesda. Bethesda offers an easy commute and a bunch of amenities. To use another example, if you want to take a job in Manhattan, consider living in one of the outer boroughs while you save money.

#4. Amenities Matter

One of the best things about living in a rental is being able to take advantage of amenities that would normally cost you an arm and a leg as a homeowner. For instance, if you love to exercise, you can look for a property that has a workout space or gym on site. A lot of apartment complexes have pools. A lot of the corporately owned apartment chains, like Bainbridge (which just opened some Bethesda Apartments), offer features that are often only found in hotels, like concierge services, package signing, and even an on-site bistro for residents who don’t feel like cooking. Figure out which amenities matter most to you and look for properties that offer them.

These are just some of the things that you should be doing when you are looking for a new apartment or rental. There are, of course, others. This is just the tip of the iceberg!

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