You need a keen house-hunting strategy and tried-and-true tips to find the perfect rental home
Rental houses are great—tenants love the flexibility and stability a rental offers. Plus, who doesn’t love calling someone else to fix a leaky toilet or manage the lawn care?
But it can be challenging to find a worthwhile rental and dependable landlord, especially during the peak moving season. We’re here to help you find your best rental home yet, with seven tips that everyone can use.
1. Identify Your Housing Priorities
You won’t find a one-size-fits-all property during your rental house hunt, so it's up to you to rank your most important features. It can be tricky to narrow your must-haves, so give yourself time to think about the options that match your lifestyle.
Most renters consider these factors before they start their search:
Type of property: apartment, single-family, duplex, condo, townhouse
Local crime statistics
Monthly and total budget
Number of bedrooms and bathrooms
Commute to friends, family, and work
Access to amenities: shopping, dining, and entertainment
Home features: garage, outdoor space, storage
2. How to Find a Rental Home
Savvy renters snap up the best houses lighting fast. You’ll probably compete with multiple applicants, so it's a good idea to put the word out to your network that you're looking for a new rental two to three months in advance. Personal recommendations for rental properties and dependable landlords are the gold standard, so keep digging for leads.
You can also start your house hunt with these resources:
National real estate advertising platforms like Zillow, Realtor.com, and Trulia
The Multiple Listing Service (MLS)
Local outlets like Nextdoor and Craigslist
Local real estate agents who work with rental properties
Your personal social accounts
3. Prepare Yourself and Your Finances for Screening
Landlords want tenants who are easy to work with—reliable, trustworthy tenants who can afford the monthly rent payment. So before you submit your rental application, take a look at the information that your potential landlord will see when they dig into your background, and take the time to correct issues.
You should note that every landlord has their preferred ways to screen tenants. They may ask you to pay an application fee to cover the background check.
Your landlord could look at all or some of these resources:
4. Get to Know Your Local and State Tenant-Landlord Laws
The catch-all phrase, “every state is different,” is especially true for the landlord and tenant relationship. As a renter, it's important to know your rights and responsibilities.
Check online for information from local legal aid societies and city housing departments. They could have free landlord-tenant handbooks on their websites. You can also read more about tenant’s rights at:
Local property management companies
Local real estate agent’s websites
5. Keep a Keen Eye During a Walk Through
After a long housing search, you’re probably excited to check out your carefully chosen place and call it your own, but hold up for a minute—don’t let fresh paint and curb appeal keep you from checking out the details that could change your mind.
Here are key points to look for when touring a rental property:
Your neighbor’s habits including house upkeep, pets in the yard, and parking
Odors and stains from food, pets, mold, or mildew
Door frame sizes
General property and yard maintenance
Pre-existing damage to walls and floors
Ample water flow in showers, toilets, and sinks
Age of appliances
6. Read Your Lease and Ask Questions About the Details
If the rental unit passes your visual inspection, it's time to dig into the details of the lease.. A lease is highly customizable, and your landlord has probably written lease terms that protect their property. It's up to you to read the details, ask questions, and push back if you have concerns.
These are common topics addressed in a rental agreement:
Security deposit, monthly rental fees, due date, late payment charges
Possibility of roommates
Pet rent, fees, and deposits
Amount of landlord access
Reasons to break a lease and penalties
Whether or not you can operate a work-from-home business
Lawn care and home maintenance schedule
Decor and design updates and changes
7. Trust Your Instincts
Trust your gut and start looking for another rental if you get a not-so-great vibe from the house or the landlord. You’ll save yourself time, peace of mind, and possibly money.
Watch out for these red flags:
Uncommunicative landlord during the advertising phase
A landlord who doesn’t put the lease or promised fixes in writing
Evidence of water and pest damage