Rental Run Around

I was in a tough spot. I’d had to move out of a place I was living for various reasons, and was bunking with a friend and her family until I could find somewhere else to live. Thankfully, as long as I was looking, they didn’t care how long I took, but I wanted to inconvenience them as little as possible.

I wasn’t employed yet, but I knew what I wanted to do and what I needed to do. So, before I even started to do anything, I made two lists: A list of things that had to happen and a list of things that I’d like to happen, but wouldn’t be deal breakers. You should always do this! Your expectations will help you make a good decision. Here’s what my lists looked like:

The apartment must:

  • Be within 5 miles of my church. I volunteer frequently at my church, so I wanted to cut down on gas costs.
  • Be in a safe part of town.
  • Cost $500 or less a month
  • Have a washer/dryer hookup or be really close to a laundromat
  • Be flexible with rental dates (I’d lived in a college town previously, where most places have set dates you can move in and out with little to no flexibility).

The apartment could, but doesn’t have to:

  • Be on the first floor (I have bad knees)
  • Allow pets
  • Include heat, water, sewer, and trash in the rent

I spent 4 days researching, writing emails, and calling people about potential rentals. Most people don’t know exactly where to look for rentals, so if you’re stuck, here’s some things you can do:

  • If there’s a college or university in your town, check out their website. A lot of times, they have rental guides that the students can use.
  • Drive around town and see if there are signs about apartments for rent.
  • Do research on Google to see if there are any apartment complexes or townhouses for rent.
  • Craigslist. Be careful with this, especially because some people who use this just want to get a couple bucks out of you.
  • Call local real estate agencies; many of them have rentals available or work with people who do.
  • Talk to your friends and family; some of them may know people who have rentals.

After I did all of these things, I looked at dozens of apartments. I have never driven so much in 2 days. Ironically, the place I ended up picking was an accidental find; I’d been driving by a house, saw a sign about an apartment for rent, and called the number. It hit everything on both of my lists except allowing pets, including trash in the rent, and being under $500 a month. Why did I compromise? Because I’m from PA and heat was included. The extra $25 a month I now pay is worth the fact that I don’t have to pay for my heat. When you talk to someone about your potential rental, make sure that you ask questions to find out these things! For example:

  • How much is rent? What is included?
  • When can I move in?
  • How much parking is there? Is it off street?
  • How long is my lease for? (some do monthly, some do every 6 months, some do yearly)
  • Do you allow animals?
  • What are my expectations?
  • How much is the security deposit?
  • Who takes care of turning on water and electric? What companies are there?
  • How much do my utilities average?

I was blessed with finding almost exactly what I wanted so quickly. Needless to say, that may not be the case for everyone. But, if you hold to your expectations and you’re patient, you should be able to find something at least close to what you want. I did!

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