There are certain benefits to renting an apartment instead of buying a home, including free maintenance, access to communal facilities and no long-term commitment. However, it’s important for prospective tenants to choose the right apartment. The following tips can help first-time renters select the best apartment for their needs.
Set a Budget
Prospective tenants should first set a budget by determining exactly how much they can afford to pay in rent each month. According to Quicken, a good rule of thumb is to pay no more than 25 percent of income before tax on rent. If a tenant earns $3,000 per month, for example, his or her monthly rent should be no higher than $750. However, this estimate is a suggestion, not a hard-and-fast rule; if a tenant has other significant monthly expenses, they might be better off choosing an apartment that costs well under 25% of their total income.
The location of an apartment will affect the cost of rent, accessibility to other businesses and the tenant’s daily commute. Apartments outside of the city are usually cheaper than those within the city, but this can also make daily commutes longer. Therefore, prospective tenants should choose an apartment that’s within a reasonable driving distance from their place of work.
Look at Multiple Apartments
When searching for their first apartment, prospective tenants should look at least five properties. Even if one apartment offers all the right amenities and is within the tenant’s budget, others may offers better features at an even lower price. The only way a prospective tenant will know, however, is by considering multiple properties.
How secure is the apartment complex? Prospective tenants should consider security features like perimeter fencing, gates, video surveillance, patrols and alarm systems.
What About a Roommate?
To help offset the cost of living in an apartment, prospective tenants should consider getting a roommate. Assuming it’s allowed, this can reduce the cost of reduce the cost of rent by up to 50 percent. If a tenant decided to get a roommate, though, he or she should carefully vet the person to ensure they are capable of paying their share of the rent and utilities.
Review the Lease Agreement
Arguably, one of the most important steps in renting an apartment for the first time is reviewing the lease agreement. This is the legally binding document that explains the terms of rental. When reviewing the lease agreement, prospective tenants should look at the duration, security deposit and the fee for breaking the lease.
Property descriptions can be difficult to muddle through, especially for first-time or young applicants. When it comes to apartment rentals, there are a number of terms that get thrown around; here, I provide a few handy definitions and explanations to help newcomers acclimate to the vocabulary.
“Utilities” is a blanket term that typically refers to basics such as electricity, water, and sewer and trash services. However, the term can sometimes include extra expenses such as heat, snow removal, cable, and Internet – although a tenant should never assume that any in the latter list are covered. Often, a landlord will specify which utilities are included in the rent and which are left to the tenant to pay. If the landlord doesn’t specify which expenses are folded into rent and which aren’t, be sure to ask for clarification before signing a lease. Note that in some cases, the landlord will agree to cover a specific bill up to a certain dollar amount and leave the tenant responsible for the remaining balance.
When a landlord lists a home or apartment as “pet-friendly,” they aren’t guaranteeing a home for all types of animals. For example, a landlord might be willing to consider a bird or cat, but turn away someone with a large dog. In all cases, the tenant should assume that only well-behaved pets will be welcome. Check to see if a pet deposit or pet rent is required in addition to the usual security deposit to cover any damage the pet may have caused.
Amenities and Amenity Fees
Amenities refer to the perks of residing in the home or apartment – say, a large deck for entertaining, or wood-burning fireplace. Amenity fees generally appear in upscale buildings that offer an unusually high number of benefits to residents, such as a swimming pool or an on-site gym equipment. Check the fine print of your lease for information on what’s included and assess whether the cost is worth the benefits.
Landlords will often run a criminal background check on applicants through an online service such as BeenVerified. The fees for these services are then passed on to the applicant. Note that the application fee might also serve as a sort of initial refundable deposit on the property. If so, the landlord might just be holding it until the background check is complete – but you should always ask the landlord rather than assuming one way or the other.
Furnished vs. Unfurnished
If an advertisement lists the space as “furnished,” this could mean only that the rental includes a single bed and a table and chairs, or that every room is fully decked out and complete with curtains. If this is a concern, ask for details and the landlord’s expectations before setting up a time to view the property.
About Jason Cohen Pittsburgh
Jason Cohen is a real estate investor in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He created Jason Cohen Pittsburgh, a group of real estate enthusiasts committed to helping others invest in real estate, and he has thrived in the area since 2002.
As Jason’s career has grown and flourished, so has Pittsburgh itself — transforming from an industrial “rust belt” city into a major cultural center abundant with high-end multi-family rental properties. Jason has seamlessly handled the dynamic nature of Pittsburgh and of the real estate industry in general. A research-driven professional, he consistently enables smart and profitable investments in the area, helping to transform modest properties into high-end rentals in Pittsburgh’s hottest neighborhoods.
Jason Cohen first entered the world of real estate shortly after his graduation from the University of Texas. He started out by investing in distressed properties in Pennsylvania. After some experience working full-time for a real estate company, he decided to pave his own path in the industry. He has worked as an independent real estate agent and developed the Jason Cohen Pittsburgh team ever since. The team consists of highly qualified investors, property managers, leasing agents, and contractors.
Over the course of his career Jason has become highly proficient in acquisitions, joint ventures and partnerships, multifamily real estate investments, asset repositioning, real estate management, real estate brokerage, and new construction. He has excelled in high-level investment strategies, but is also no stranger to “ground work” when it comes to the industry. He is well-versed in each step of Jason Cohen Pittsburgh’s unique system: researching local areas and investing in properties, performing renovations to transform these properties from dilapidated eyesores into high-end units, and ultimately repositioning the properties for maximum profit in renting and selling.
Jason Cohen Pittsburgh is the group of choice for anyone who needs advice, analysis and due diligence, and general expertise in matters of investing, whether they are short-term or long-term. Jason Cohen Pittsburgh has dealt with properties in a variety of neighborhoods throughout parts of Pittsburgh, including the South Side, Oakland, Shadyside, Squirrel Hill, Mt. Lebanon, and Regent Square. Each and every one of these locations, paired with Jason’s overall knowledge of real estate investing, has allowed him to play a part in restoring Pittsburgh’s place as one of the most popular cities in the United States.
This blog will share news, updates, and insights regarding Pittsburgh and its real estate market from the perspective of Jason Cohen Pittsburgh. Stay tuned!