We’re currently in the process of finding a new rental home and the whole process can be utterly mind-boggling. My friends who own their own homes assume that finding and renting a home is simple and straightforward. On the contrary, it’s incredibly laborious and extremely stressful. If you find yourself a first time renter, or if (like me) you’ve not had to look for a home for a number of years and need some tips to getting you started, then hopefully my 10 tips to finding a rental home will help.
1. Do Some Preliminary Research
It’s important to discover what you can expect to get for your money. I was amazed at the increase in rental prices in recent years. To ensure I get the most out of my money, I did an online search for all rental properties in my area. We need a 3 bedroom house, but I also took a look at 2 and 4 bedroom houses. This gave me a picture of what I could expect to pay and also, importantly, the standard I could expect.
2. Set a Budget and Stick to it
Once you have discovered what sort of properties are in your area, the standard and the rental price, create a budget and make sure you stick to it. Its easy to be tempted by properties that are slightly over your budget – know what you can afford and how much you are willing to pay.
3. Consider all Costs
If you find a property you like, get a quote for car and home insurance. Sometimes you can save money on insurance by paying a little extra in rent for a postcode with a lesser crime rate. For every home I have considered renting, I have ran a quick home and car insurance quote on a comparison site, such as Compare the Market. In the past, when we have had to choose between two properties, the quotes we obtained for insurance made the final decision for us.
Council tax is also an expense that is worth considering. Direct Gov have a handy feature on which you can check your Council tax band. Energy prices are also a hefty monthly expense. Advertised rental homes will often feature an energy score rating. Renting an energy efficient home will significantly reduce your monthly expenditure.
4. Search Property Websites Frequently
Rental properties (like mine) are in high demand. On a number of occasions, we found ourselves competing against 10 other families for a home. Sometimes getting in there early and expressing an interest first can bag you your dream home.
5. Set up Alerts
I am constantly checking property websites for new homes, however if I’m busy, I find alerts to my email address extremely useful. My preferred property website is Right Move. There is around a 30 minute delay in their email arriving notifying me of a new featured rental home after it appeared on their site. (Other websites I used could take a couple of hours to notify me of new properties). The alert system is easy to use and you can adjust the settings so you’re only notified of properties that are relevant to you.
6. Check Estate Agents’ Websites
Not all estates agents or letting agents use property websites, some advertise rental homes on their own websites. Check these frequently for newly added rental homes. It is even worth contacting the agent directly (especially smaller agents) to see if they have any forthcoming rental homes.
7. Drive Around the Local Area
Some landlords and agents still advertise their rental homes purely in the old fashioned way, by putting up a rental sign in the garden. In fact, I spotted a rental sign at a house recently in my local area, I had not seen the property online because it was advertised by an agency out of the area and thus didn’t appear in my searches.
8. Ask Friends and Family
Ask around to see if anyone knows of any available rental homes. A family member of mine has a friend who is a property developer and although I have not rented a property from him, he has found me a rental home in the past through his contacts. Ask on Facebook or other social media sites. Someone may have spotted a home you have missed.
9. Negotiate on Price
If you find a home and it’s over your monthly budget, contact the agency or landlord and make them an offer. If no-one else has expressed an interest in the property, they might take up your offer. Quite often landlords are willing to negotiate on price to get the right tenant. Make sure you sell yourself; when approaching the landlord/agency, tell them what would make you a good tenant. For instance, you have a family, you work, you already live in the area, you have rented your current home for a number of years and never missed a rent payment.
10. Check the Letting Agents’ Fees
Make sure you are fully aware of all the costs involved before taking a rental property. Landlords and agencies run credit checks to ensure you will make a good tenant, this is at a cost to the tenant. Credit checks can cost up to around £300 and if you have a guarantor, you will need to pay for their credit check too. Agencies also charge fees for drawing up tenancy agreements; this could set you back between £75 and £300. Other costs can include a bond (usually 5 weeks rent) in addition to a months’ rent in advance. I have also seen letting agencies charge odd little fees, such as £50 for a member of staff from the agency to hand the new tenant their keys.
During the course of your tenancy, you may also be charged fees, such as £50 to £200 to renew your tenancy. When ending the tenancy you may also be charged a fee (some agencies take a portion of your bond, e.g. £30 for an undisclosed reason). Others also charge up to £100 when you return your keys. (You will be notified of these when you sign your tenancy agreement). However, I am also aware of other letting agencies that do not charge their tenants these fees and like to keep the cost of moving into and out of a home to a minimum for the tenant.
Finding a new rental home can be just as stressful as eventually moving into your new property. If you have any other hints and tips, please share them in the comments below!