In the past several weeks, students around Colorado and the rest of the U.S. have been celebrating their graduation from high school, college and other programs in higher education. Many of them will be searching for apartments and homes to rent, and for a number of them it may be their first time renting.
The following are some tips for finding an apartment or home for rent, particularly if you have little to no experience with the search process.
Look like someone a landlord would want to rent to. It can be tricky to find a decent apartment, especially in places where the demand for rentals is high. In Denver and Boulder, for example, finding an apartment or home rental can be highly competitive, with rentals quickly snatched up. To give yourself an edge over other prospective tenants, you have to make a good impression. When you meet with prospective landlords or leasing agents, look responsible and well put together; dress neatly, speak in an articulate way, and have references prepared. The situation isn’t entirely dissimilar from a job interview.
Get your finances together. Before launching into your search, take an accounting of how much money you have, both in savings and in current income. This will help you determine what places you can afford; don’t forget that you may also be paying for certain utilities and other housing expenses. Just the act of leasing an apartment can require an application with a non-refundable fee, and, once you sign the lease, a security depost and a month’s worth of rent. In some cases, you may be asked to supply a guarantor or co-signor (e.g. a parent or another trusted individual who can give a landlord assurance that they’ll back you up in case you lack sufficient funds to pay rent). If you don’t have income yet, but are set to start a job, you can show your landlords your official job offer as proof that you’ll be steadily employed and able to pay rent.
Check your credit report. You may not have much on your credit report, but landlords and property managers are generally understanding of the fact that someone fresh out of college or high school might not have much in the way of a credit history. That said, do check out your credit report (which you can obtain for free) to see what’s on there and what your credit score is. If there are mistakes on it, get them addressed immediately. And to ensure that your credit score goes up or remains good, behave with fiscal responsibility; for instance, make any payments (for your credit card, or on a car) in a timely way.
Do your research carefully. Visit the neighborhoods you may want to rent in, and read about different properties so that you know what to expect in terms of monthly rent, utilities, and amenities. Always check into the reputation and background of the company or individual landlord you’re renting from, and have everything spelled out clearly on paper. Speak with current tenants if you can, and try to find reviews online regarding a given property. If you’re thinking of sharing an apartment with someone you don’t know, investigate their background thoroughly.
Give yourself enough time. Don’t leave the search for an apartment to the last minute, as you may get left with only inadequate options. The more in advance that you start your search typically the more options you will have available. At least thirty days in advance is a good rule of thumb but some start as early as 90 days in advance. In some predominately student rental markets like Boulder Colorado, leasing of student apartments starts nearly a year in advance. This is called preleasing or fall preleasing.
Enlist the help of professional apartment finders. With the help of professionals, you have a central resource that can help you easily sort through different rentals, conduct a targeted search, and quickly find one that’s suited for you. You will also avoid a lot of the potential problems associated with contacting anonymous rental advertisements on sites such as Craigslist.