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Understanding the Timeline

Step 1: Understand What You Can Afford

  • Check Your Credit

    Get a copy of your credit report a few months before you begin looking for a rental to ensure the report’s accuracy, correct any mistakes, and get a sense of how your score may affect your ability to secure a rental.

  • Understand Your Finances

    Get very familiar with your finances – your income, debts, savings, and monthly expenditures. This will help you assess how much you may be able to afford for housing. When looking at how much you will need to move in, remember to account for the security deposit and other possible expenses.

Tools to get started

  CreditSmart®: Module 1  Your Credit and Why it is Important

  CreditSmart®: Module 2 Managing Your Money

 Worksheet: Budget

Step 2: Know What You Want

  • Prioritize

    Write down everything you want in your ideal rental. Where do you want to live – the city, the suburbs, or a more rural area? How many bedrooms and bathrooms? How close to work or school? Balcony? Pool? Pet friendly? Free parking? Prioritize you list so you can be clear on what’s most important if you need to make trade-offs.

  • Single-Family, Condo or Other?

    Determine the type of home you want for your lifestyle and budget – single-family home, townhome, apartment, or condo? Do you need the privacy and yard that comes with single-family living? Or do you prefer the community amenities that may come with apartments or condos?

Step 3: Search

  • Start Online

    Starting with an online search is a good way to help you hone in on a few neighborhoods. You’ll get a sense of rental rates in an area, as well as the location of services such as grocery stores, restaurants, and parks.

  • Hit the Pavement

    Visit your desired neighborhoods in person. Hang out. Walk the streets. Drive the commute during the times you expect to drive. Look for rental signs or, if you have a smartphone, use an app that shows all the rentals in proximity to your location. If you find a property where you might like to rent, talk to neighbors about what it’s like to live there.

Step 4: Visit Properties

  • Make Appointments

    Make arrangements to tour places you are interested in. Saturdays are the busiest day for showings, so plan a weekday visit if you can. Take notes on the pros and cons of each rental home you look at.

  • Ask Questions!

    Have your list of questions ready to ask each landlord. Are utilities included? Is the home wired for cable and Internet? When will the property be available? Will it be painted before you move in? Who is responsible for minor repairs or maintenance? Are pets allowed?

Tools to get started

  Blog: America's Sweethearts - The Top 10

 Did you know that the most common street name in the U.S. is 2nd or Second Street, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Step 5: Apply

  • Have Your Documents Ready

    It’s likely that you’ll need to have several documents ready when applying for the rental. Having copies on hand when you visit the unit can help save time and demonstrates your readiness to rent.

  • Have Your Application Fee Ready

    When you find that perfect rental, be prepared to fill out a loan application and pay an application fee. Landlords will use the application and fee to pull your credit history, and sometimes do a background check. Being prepared for this step when you are looking at rentals will allow you to move quickly on a highly desirable property.

Step 6: Negotiate and Sign

  • Negotiate

    Negotiate any special terms before you sign the lease. In addition to negotiating the rent, you may be able to arrange for the security deposit to be paid over a few months instead of all at once. Make sure anything you negotiate is captured in writing and signed by both parties.

  • Do a Walk-Through

    Do a walk-through inspection of the rental with the landlord before you sign the lease. Have the landlord document any damage or wear and tear that you see in the unit.

  • Read and Sign the Lease

    Take time to read the lease carefully, line-by-line, as it is a legally binding contract. If you have questions, ask the landlord or a trusted advisor.

  • Have Your Money Ready

    You’ll need to have money ready to give your landlord when signing the Lease or Rental Agreement.

Tools to get started

  Blog: Five Quick Tips About Apartment Leases

  CreditSmart®: Module 10: Planning for Your Future

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