Renting apartment or home? Here is what experts say you need to know


Looking for an apartment or house to rent can be stressful.

Rental prices have rebounded well above their pandemic lows and are now among the major inflation pain points for American consumers, along with food and gas prices. Several factors have contributed to the rising rents, including low housing inventories. It is a vicious cycle: less inventory drives up home prices and results in more potential homebuyers opting to rent, which in turn drives up rental prices.

Take New York City as an example. Data provided by StreetEasy shows a dramatic rise in its housing market. As of February, Manhattan rents are up 36% year over year, with rents up over 15% in the outer boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens. But surging rent isn’t confined to metropolitan areas. Demand for single-family rental homes is soaring as rents gained a record 12.6% year over year in January, according to a recent report from CoreLogic.

The current real estate market dynamics make it all the more important to know your budget and have all your documents ready as the first steps when beginning a housing search.

Figuring out a housing budget

Rental application costs

Many landlords or property managers charge an application fee when you are interested in renting a property. This can be as low as $20 (where New York City caps the fee) but run as high as $50 in many places.

States, cities and apartment complexes can all have various requirements. Still, most rental applications require similar information for each applicant so they can verify your identity and your ability to pay rent. Information can include your personal contact information, Social Security number, current and previous addresses, employer information, and proof of income and credit reports. Having these documents ready can help get you approved faster.

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The fee should not be a deal breaker, but because the application process often includes a background check and credit report on a potential tenant, if there are multiple people being put on a lease the application fee may be assessed per individual. Any current credit reports you can offer in lieu of having a credit check done again could help to reduce the application fees.

“It’s always worth trying to negotiate with a landlord so you might be able to pull previous reports to avoid it,” says Jeff Andrews, a senior market analyst at Zumper, a rental listings platform. But he added, “It’s probably not worth getting into a huge battle over though because you have a bigger recurring expense to negotiate that would more impactful to whittle down. Rent.”

Real estate brokerage fee

Security deposits

Typically, landlords will ask new tenants for a security deposit, which is usually equivalent to a month’s rent, as well as the first month’s rent, before the tenant moves in. After a lease has ended, tenants should get their security deposit back, minus any costs to fix damage to the apartment. But there are a few basic steps to take at the time of rental to increase the chances that a security deposit is returned in full.

Documentation is your best friend, Andrews said. “First, make sure you are familiar with what the lease says about security deposits. If it’s not detailed, push the landlord for specifics to be put in the lease,” Andrews said. If a tenant owns a pet make sure that you are aware of the pet damages that you could be on the hook for.

Landlords often employ property managers or maintenance personnel to service anything that might break in the apartment. They do not want tenants attempting to make their own repairs. If something breaks, like a lighting fixture, refrigerator, or toilet it’s best to alert your landlord as soon as possible.

Andrews also recommends taking detailed photos of the condition of the apartment before and after moving in and out. “It’s also best to create a paper trail, so emailing the landlord or property manager with those pictures when you move will help you later if you’re having to prove that you did not damage the property,” he said.

Each lease will be different said Andrews so it is important to address any concerns with the landlord. If new a tenant owns pets make sure the terms are fleshed out as the landlord will probably want the tenant to convert any potential damages.

Your credit score and renting

First-time renter requirements

When someone is renting for the first time, landlords will often want a guarantor to sign the lease along with the tenant. A guarantor is an individual who guarantees a renter’s payment on a lease. If you are unable to find a guarantor, being able to prove ample savings and a strong credit score could convince the landlord to waive a guarantor. Renting from a smaller company or individual landlord may also work in your favor.

If you have been approved to move into a new building or home, the landlord or property manager will ask you to sign a lease. “Read your lease! It’s a legally binding document you are signing. Don’t be afraid of the legalise,” said Bera.

“Anything that looks shoddy, unprofessional, or incomplete is a huge red flag. The lease should be detailed and comprehensive,” Andrews said. He recommends reviewing every page within the lease. “I think it’s best to have a comprehensive understanding of the lease so you know what you’re getting into. Through that process, things that are fishy or disagreeable to you will come out,” he added.

Before you sign anything, read it at least twice. Penalties for late rent are common. There could be clauses in the lease that prevent you from subletting the apartment and specific time frames you must adhere to if you want to break the lease early. Some landlords will also include clauses about the number of guests tenants can have over and the duration of their stay. It can also help to have a friend reread the lease to make sure you didn’t miss anything. If you have a friend or family member who is a lawyer, even better.

Moving costs

If you are approved for a rental and have covered all the direct fees and expenses, don’t forget to factor in one more big-budget item: the cost of moving. Moving over state lines will be far more expensive than if you are just moving within a city. People should also decide how much service they will need. If you plan on doing the moving yourself or with roommates, it will be cheaper than hiring movers, but more physically demanding and time-consuming.

For people who plan on taking the do-it-yourself method, compare rates between different truck rental providers. Also, consider what supplies you will need — boxes, tape, moving blankets, pushcarts.

Sites like Moving.com can help your estimate how much it will cost you to move with a cost calculator. There are plenty of costs to consider, too, from fuel costs to the size of your move, moving supplies, and moving date. Weekend moves tend to be more expensive than mid-week moves. Moves that take place during peak moving season, typically April – September, can also be costlier.

If hiring movers, the weight of your belongings will affect the cost. For long-distance moves, it’s around $0.70 per pound of goods for every 1,000 miles, according to Joshua Green from My Moving Reviews. For shorter, local moves, he estimates it’s around $60 per hour.

When you hire movers, don’t forget to budget in a tip of around 15% to 20%.

Renters insurance



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