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 

Jason Cohen Pittsburgh - Hand Tips for First Time Landlords

Handy Tips for First-Time Landlords

Jason Cohen has been an active investor within the Pittsburgh real estate community for nearly a decade. While he began his industry efforts by purchasing and renovating cheap residential buildings in high-potential neighborhoods, he has since expanded his investments to large-scale commercial and residential properties in vibrant neighborhoods. Here, Jason Cohen provides a few tips to new landlords.  

 

You’ve finally done it. You’ve purchased the building, touched up the paint, laid the carpet, and put your first investment property up for rent. But as the inquiries come in, you realize that the easy part is over – now, you have to deal effectively with your tenants. Jason Cohen Pittsburgh is an advising group operating in the city; as such, its veteran members have heard their fair share of first-time rental horror stories. It’s common for a first-time investor to be so caught up in the buy and the renovation process that they find themselves at a loss when they need to communicate professionally with the people living in their units. Unfortunately for landlords, the work doesn’t end when the contractors leave. Below, Jason Cohen, head of Jason Cohen Pittsburgh lists a few tips for aspiring landlords to take note of before opening their doors to tenants.

 

Be Assertive

Everyone has an off month now and again. Sometimes, a tenant can’t make a payment on the day it comes due – and in some cases, that’s okay. Landlords should be empathetic and understanding if a tenant faces tragedy or finds himself in a temporary financial crunch, so long as the tenant communicates the situation. If, however, the tenant chooses to go dark and refuse to pay the agreed-upon rental sum, landlords need to act assertively. You need the rent they owe you to keep up the building and make a profit. Being overly understanding to an elusive or underpaying tenant will only result in your missing needed funds. Be assertive! Don’t be afraid of pursuing a delinquent tenant for the money they owe you.

 

Check Credit and References

Never rent to someone who doesn’t have a job or has a credit score of under 600. Those without the means to pay rent or a history of regular repayment will inevitably leave you waiting for payments that may never come. Screen your potential tenants closely to ensure that they will be responsible, reliable occupants who will care for your unit and pay on time.

 

Make Smart Renovations

Don’t install marble countertops if your unit is in a low-income neighborhood. In all likelihood, those that inquire about your unit will be looking to pay a rent in line with those offered in nearby homes; if you try to cover a fancy renovation by asking a significantly higher rent, your prospective tenants will walk. Be smart, and don’t risk renovations that offer little return!

 

Be Organized

Organization is key to any successful business venture. After all, how will you know you made a profit if you have no documentation of the fact? Ensure your success by keeping organized and detailed records!

 

For more tips, advice, and real estate content, please visit Jason’s site at JasonCohenPittsburgh.org.

The Animal Rescue League Wildlife Center and Jason Cohen Pittsburgh

Animal Rescue League Shelter & Wildlife Center Image: animalrescue.org

Animal Rescue League Shelter & Wildlife Center
Image: animalrescue.org

 

Jason Cohen, a member of the real estate consulting group Jason Cohen Pittsburgh, has successfully invested in a range of properties in the greater Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, area and beyond. Outside of the professional arena, he and his company support multiple community outreach organizations and charitable nonprofits, including the Animal Rescue League.

From its Pittsburgh headquarters, the Animal Rescue League has protected animal welfare and public health for more than a century. In addition to providing shelter and veterinary services for companion animals such as dogs and cats, the League supports a fully licensed wildlife rehabilitation clinic.

The Animal Rescue League Wildlife Center is located on Verona Road in Verona, Pennsylvania, where it cares for and medically treats a wide range of sick, injured, and/or orphaned native Pennsylvania wildlife. When animals are well enough to return to the wild, the Center does so in a responsible and humane manner.

The Wildlife Center currently admits close to 4,000 animals on an annual basis. Its staff members draw upon more than 23 years of combined rehabilitation experience and maintain a successful release rate that is nearly twice the national average.