Online apartment listings have become a popular and convenient way to search for a new home. Your ideal home may be a house, townhome or an apartment.
Large apartment listing websites generally allow you to narrow your search by the type of home you are interested in renting.
While online apartment listings offer several benefits and allow you to learn about more rentals than you possibly could driving around, that does not mean that these listings are always safe or easy.
Therefore, it is important to learn how to avoid common pitfalls and scams that prospective renters may fall for as well as the amenities, fees and other factors that should always be considered.
Once you are ready to fill out an application for a rental, it is worth learning when you should try to negotiate with a landlord and what aspects of a rental agreement that you may be able to negotiate. A successful negotiation could potentially save you hundreds or thousands of dollars.
Find Out How to Avoid Online Scams When Searching for an Apartment
Whenever you begin searching for a new apartment online, it is important to create a personal checklist to consider with each listing in order to avoid common scams and pitfalls.
By gathering as much information as possible about a rental and taking note of any odd situations or obvious red flags, you will likely be able to navigate safely through apartment listings and find a rental that suits you best.
- Who owns or is in charge of the rental property? When browsing an online apartment listing, information regarding a unit’s owner or an overseeing agency or broker should always be included within the listing or readily accessible.
- Never agree to rent a unit or property that does not include a rental agreement contract. Renting a property or unit without a rental agreement comes with considerable risk. In fact, without a rental agreement, you will not have any legal right to live within the property, should something go wrong. You will also not be afforded several state and local laws, such as laws keeping the landlord from entering a property without prior notice (except in the case of an emergency) as well as fair housing laws. Your rental agreement should include all details of fees, exceptions, negotiations, rules, etc. If it does not, it could become a case of your word against that of the property owner’s.
- Do not transfer money. The most common online rental scams will ask prospective renters to transfer money for a property that either does not exist or that the scammer does not actually own or have access to. For example, if you contact a landlord who asks you to submit your deposit and first month’s rent by mail, Paypal or Western Union, then this is a well-known scam.
If you are browsing through rental properties and a discount, move-in promotion, rental amount or any other aspect of the rental appears too good to be true, it probably is.
What to Consider When Browsing Online Apartment Listings
There are several amenities, fees and other factors that you should consider whenever browsing through an online apartment listing. Depending on what you are looking for in an apartment, these factors can help you to narrow down your search, find a rental that you can call home and help you to avoid any unexpected problems or annoyances later.
Rental amenities can vary widely from one unit or property to another. These amenities may also fluctuate the price that you can expect to pay for a rental within a specific community as well as affect your overall satisfaction of your new home.
Therefore, it is important to consider the type of amenities that are important to you before you begin your search. Try to create a list of “must-haves” and “wants” based upon the amenities that are important to you. A property may advertise several amenities, including:
- Updated or modernized appliances and/or units.
- Central air conditioning or window air conditioning.
- Laundry facilities within the unit or on the property grounds.
- Access to a fitness center or community swimming pool.
- Outdoor space, such as a patio or balcony.
- Free home services, such as cable or internet.
- Extra storage space.
- A community center or clubhouse.
It is also important to consider the amount of space that you are looking for, the number of bedrooms that you want or need and the number of bathrooms that you want or need.
Fees, big or small, add up and can increase the overall amount that you would need to pay each month on a rental unit or property. Therefore, it is important to learn about common fees included within a rental agreement, including:
- Rental amount.
- Security deposit.
- Monthly pet rent.
- Pet security deposit.
- Application fee.
- Additional fees, such as fees for added services or access to garage space.
Other Factors to Consider
Other factors should be considered besides amenities and fees. In addition to the features that a rental property includes and the cost you will be expected to pay, you should determine the answers to the following questions:
- Is the property in a convenient location, such as near your school or place of employment?
- Is the property in a safe neighborhood?
- Are pets allowed? If allowed, are there weight, breed or other applicable restrictions?
- Are any utilities included within your rent?
- Does the property have adequate parking? Is parking spaces assigned or first come first serve?
- Does the property have security cameras or any other type of security system in place?
- What is the average annual rent increase? Ask for information regarding rental prices for at least the last three years.
When to Negotiate a Rental Agreement
If you have a great rental history, if you are willing to sign a longer lease or if you are willing to pay some of your rent in advance, you should always try to negotiate a rental agreement. Successfully negotiating a rental agreement can help you save money on a property throughout your lease or allow an exception, such as an extra pet or a pet that might not typically be allowed on the property.
If a property has several units available or it has not been filled with a tenant for some time, the landlord or agency may be willing to negotiate with you, especially if you have a great rental history or you are willing to pay extra upfront.
Additionally, you may also be able to negotiate your move-in date as some properties may ask you to wait several weeks before you can move in. Negotiations can sometimes ensure that a property will be available sooner, should you need it to be.
Tips on Handling Money for Apartment Shopping
- Budget smart. Although crunching numbers is challenging, it is important to learn how much money we can actually spend. Consider the aforementioned fees and cost of other living factors to budget properly. One way to plan is to place these numbers in an Excel spreadsheet or on paper and calculate.
- Keep your credit in high standing. Most landlords will run your credit to see if you are dependable enough to pay rent. If you are looking for apartments and your credit is not in good standing, then improving may be the next step.
- Account for common living expenses. When looking for an apartment, it is important to ask if there are several fees or deposits you must make as a tenant. But you must also consider what you will pay for once you move to your new apartment. Consider whether you must pay for a parking permit, groceries and how far certain stores are from your apartment.