It's January. For some of us, this means it's time for a change. That change might be a new apartment or house for rent. Here are my top five tips for renters this year.
1. Your Landlord is Your Best Ally
Everyone loves to hate on their landlord. You have to pay them all sorts of money, and for what? An apartment you don't really like where something always seems to be broken.
GET OUT OF THIS MINDSET IMMEDIATELY
Your landlord can be your best asset when you are living in an apartment. Most often, the landlord is an employee of the owner. They may collect the money, but it all goes to the owner. Often repairs are not governed by the landlord but the owner. Your landlord knows exactly how much an apartment has to rent for in order for the owner to be happy. If they are good at their job, they also know when new units are going to be available in your building, when units are opening in neighboring buildings and how much they will cost. If they work for a larger property management company, they will have the inside track on new, availabilities in your PM company's holdings as well as how to have repairs done quicker than expected.
Landlords network way more often than you think. They also care about you more than you think. A building is like a family, your landlord wants to be your friend. Don't create situations where they have to confront you and send them a card every now an then. I know it can be scary to talk to people, but get over it. Buddy up to your landlord, take 'em out for a drink. You won't regret it.
2. If You Don't Have to Move, Don't Move
How bad is your place, really? Often times, when I'm helping a renter move across town, they end up settling for a place that only meets 70% of their search criteria. 70%, people! I know this is an anecdotal, but here is my point: If you aren't being kicked out or price-jacked, your current place may not be as bad as you think.
3. Search Early, Search Often
It's possible to start searching too early. Six months is WAY to early to start looking for a place. If you are on a month to month lease, and you're think about maybe moving in a couple of months, bookmark some apartment searching websites and check them once a week. The great deal you are looking for might be available now. If it's not, starting a casual search early will help you know a good deal when you see it. You might have to adjust your budget or location in order to get that view apartment with hardwoods and a washer/dryer combo. It's better to find out now than to wait until you've given your 20 days notice.
4. Apartment Hunt = Interview
This is probably old news but it's still headline news. You should really treat your apartment hunt like a job interview. There are going to be multiple people vying for the space you want. Don't look at this as a burden, look it as a challenge. Here are ways you can make sure you're ready.
· Prepare all your data before you show up. Know the neighborhood. Google Maps can get you pretty far in this area. Figure out the great places to eat, where the library is, as well as how many coffee shops are on your commute to work. Looking this up ahead of time will allow you to make an informed opinion on the spot.
· Appearance is important. Landlords are judging you the moment you say "hello." Because of equal opportunity housing laws (Know Your Rights) they can't keep you from applying. They can't even keep from renting to you if you meet all the criteria, but they will take you more seriously if you put some thought into your attire. Throw on some buttons and comb your hair, it's not that hard, and you will stand out above 90% of the competition. Viewing apartments is not a stroll through the farmer’s market; it's an interview for your new home. Treat it as such.
5. Don't Read The News
I contemplated starting with this point. It's more important that you would think at first glance. Take it from someone who reads (almost) every news article regarding renting in the Northwest, no article will tell you where you are going to live next. Some, like this one, will give you actual tips that you can use. Most will tell you that the market is super hot and way to expensive or that rents are going up 130%. You already know that it's an expensive/hot market. Not every apartment is going up 130%. If you dwell on this negative thinking, you won't be happy in any apartment you choose. Stay positive, your unicorn dream apartment may not really exist but with a positive attitude, you'll find a Clydesdale apartment that you can put a party hat on.
5a. If All Else Fails, Hire Rent Guru (Shameless Plug)
I'm a licensed Washington State Realtor here to help you with your search.