How to Rent an Apartment for the First Time

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.

 

Consider Location

 

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.

 

Consider Security

 

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.

*Originally posted on JasonCohenPittsburgh.net

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Common Rental Terms Every Tenant Should Know

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 Included

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.

Pet-Friendly

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.

 

Application Fee

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.

 

*Originally posted on JasonCohenPittsburgh.net 

Top 7 Blogs for Real Estate Professionals

Jason Cohen is the founder and current leader of Jason Cohen Pittsburgh, an informal forum for real estate professionals in the city. Jason’s goal as a community figure is to ensure that real estate operatives of all skill levels have the tools and connections they need to find success in the real estate landscape. Here, Cohen points out just a few online resources that could prove invaluable to professionals in the field.

 

The Internet offers professionals in real estate a near-arsenal of online resources…if you know where to look. Scouring the web to pinpoint the most helpful resources is as tedious as it is unnecessary, thanks to Placester’s curated list of essential blogs for agents and brokers. Here’s what they’ve deemed the most beneficial blogs and forums for realtors and consultants alike.

 

Matrix

With his interesting insights and acute awareness of important subjects in the real estate market, Jonathan Miller provides a riveting account of the country’s financial status. He dissects national housing and fiscal reports and provides clear explanations on how the figures he lays out can impact current and future sales and mortgages. By wading into recent budgetary developments, Miller offers his insights as guideposts through the ever-changing financial landscaping.

 

BiggerPockets

Offering both commercial and residential agent standpoints, BiggerPockets covers a broad scope of real estate topics. From campaign ideas to marketing trends, BiggerPockets is a treasure trove of useful tidbits for professionals in real estate.

 

Speaking of Real Estate

Run by the National Association of Realtors™, Speaking of Real Estate offers a plethora of videos, real estate news, and pertinent market information. Their balanced blend of audiovisual and written content gives their blog an added appeal.

 

Eye on Housing

Rich with analyses, statistics, and data, Eye on Housing intends to keep agents and brokers up-to-date to ongoing trends, making this blog an indispensable asset. Complete with visual aids and data-laden illustrations, Eye on Housing is a rich resource for all real estate professionals.

 

Eight11

Tracy Weir strays from conventional blog norms with her tech-savvy insights and understandings. She believes that technological advances can aid real estate professionals in their business dealings – and intends to use her blog to prove her point. Every post underlines the message that understanding, utilizing, and leveraging technology can help agents get a leg up on their competitors. As Weir delves into the boundless world of real estate technology, she hopes to empower realtors to find success.

 

1000watt

Geared to the needs of fast-moving professionals, the straightforward and thought-provoking pieces found on 1000watt area enough to pique the interest of any quick-thinking real estate operative. With timely industry advice, personal stories, and news coverage, 1000watt invites listeners to broaden their horizons and tackle rewarding challenges.

 

Movoto

Equipped with civilian-friendly guides, Movoto does what other blogs don’t by veering away from mainstream data. Best schools,  neighborhoods, attractions, and safest areas are a few of the many topics covered within this forum.

Originally posted on JasonCohenPittsburgh.org

5 Updates Landlords Shouldn’t Make

Marble countertops, shiny tiled floors, and a brand-new patio: while they might be pretty, upgrades like these won’t help your bottom line. If you plan to invest and maintain a profitable rental property, you’ll need to strike a balance between updating the space and minding your budget.  By creating an appealing setting, you can make more of a profit by increasing the rent – however, if you stray from updates to full-scale renovation, you might end up dealing with a property that costs more than it earns. Here are a few renovations that investors shouldn’t make on a rental property.

  1. Adding a Swimming Pool

A pool may seem like an ideal addition to the backyard, but it won’t necessarily increase the value of the home. The feature can also take away space in the backyard for pets or children to play in on the property and make it seem unattractive to families who lack the time or resources to maintain it.

  1. Room Addition

According to loans.usnews.com, room additions don’t always pay off due to the high cost of the construction. Projects with a lower price tag – such as appliance updates and repainting – tend to have a better ROI for landlords.

  1. DIY Projects

From painting the walls to installing new sinks, DIY projects are cost-effective at a price; while they may seem cheap at the outset, they often look they were performed by someone who had a lack of experience and ultimately turn away would-be tenants. It’s necessary to leave the work to professionals to ensure that your money is an investment that pays off and attracts more tenants in the coming years.

  1. High-Maintenance Landscapes

According to Time Magazine, creating a beautiful garden benefits the aesthetics of a home – but it doesn’t justify increasing the rent that you charge. It can also require a significant amount of money for landscaping services to upkeep the property or the tenants may not want to spend their weekends pulling weeds and watering different areas of the yard. Stick to landscaping that is easy to maintain to ensure that you don’t waste your money if you’re renting out the house.

  1. Upgrading Everything

Many landlords make the mistake of upgrading everything and assuming that the home needs to have all new features or materials to attract good tenants. Overspending on upgrades can make the house appear too chic and regal for the local area, making it necessary to keep the upgrades to a minimum. Stick to adding new fixtures on the cabinets or new hardwood floors in the living room to make upgrades that are minimal, yet aesthetically effective.

 

*Originally posted on JasonCohenPittsburgh.net