For many, renting is a necessary stepping stone on the path to homeownership. Embark on the journey wisely with these rent-smart tips, courtesy of NeighborWorks America.
1. Be on alert for rental scams. Scammers often advertise rentals that don’t exist or aren’t available (“phantom” rentals) to trick prospective tenants into sending them money. Signs you may have encountered a scam include a person telling you to wire money, or send a security deposit and/or first month’s rent before you’ve met or signed a lease. To report a scam, contact local law enforcement and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
2. Get your finances in shape. Nearly half of renters are spending more than 30 percent of their incomes on rent, according to Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. Strengthening your credit can help save you from overspending. A good credit score is important because most landlords use a credit check to vet potential renters. Consider financial counseling to help build up your creditworthiness.
3. Know your options. Depending on your area, you may have the option to rent directly from a landlord or from a managed property. Weigh the pros and cons of both—you can easily get in touch with a property manager for maintenance issues, for example, but landlords may have flexibility when it comes to rent.
4. Obtain renter’s insurance. Renter’s insurance protects the valuables inside your home, whether you’re living in an apartment or renting a house. If there were an incident like a fire or water leak, the landlord’s insurance will cover the building itself, but you would still need to replace your own property if it were damaged.
5. Research moving companies. Moving schemes are common, especially in larger cities. Conducting research before hiring a mover is essential. Look for online reviews, check out social media, and ask your family or friends for a recommendation. Be sure to get estimates from a few moving companies to compare prices.