1. House hunting and apartment hunting are two completely different animals and require different approaches. In apartments there is always another one available next week. In homes, each one is unique, and once rented it disappears. That’s why being prepared is especially important when you need a home. That’s particularly true of high-end or well-located homes.
2. Remember, you cannot open the door to view the place without a REALTOR or the owner present. Thank goodness for the MLS (multiple listing service) I should be using to find you the perfect home. Choose the areas of the city you’d like to live in, then search the database for available homes in your price range. You should remove about 80% of the houses for one reason or another just by doing this. The rest will focus on you and your real estate agents.
3. Unlike apartments, houses will require substantial deposits and do not accept checks or cash. They will want certified funds (money order, cashier’s check), so you may need to budget. Contrary to popular belief, most homes are owned by people like you and me, not big investors. They are looking for people who pay on time and don’t trash the place. Can you blame them? For one, they can be demanding, but unlike many apartments, they are often realistic in their expectations. Each homeowner will have different requirements, and as a rule of thumb, the better the location, the more closely they will look at your overall credit score. REALTORS must work with the requirements of each individual property owner, as well as comply with the law.
4. Very few REALTORS rent, mainly because the commissions are so low and there is a lot more work involved compared to renting apartments or selling houses. So when you find one that specializes in leasing, it’s a huge plus in your search for a new home. Please understand that they are not tour guides. It is very important that you are prepared. Houses rent very quickly, especially nice or well-located properties. It gets very competitive. So when we look at:
1. Have all parties (lease signers) to the property look at the same time.
2. Have your funds ready and be prepared to make a decision.
When should I start looking?
Remember, apartments and houses require different strategies. You should start by looking at the different houses available to you online no earlier than 30 days before you want to move. This will give you an idea of what is available in a given area. BUT there’s no point in searching because unlike apartments, landlords won’t hold a house for you for more than a week or so. What you see today will be gone in a month. It’s best to seriously consider places (to physically search) to rent only about two weeks before you intend to move. That is why you must be prepared with your deposits and you must be ready to make a decision. The vast majority of people prefer to live in a house or duplex rather than an apartment. That’s what makes it so competitive.
Management companies manage most properties and are normally closed on weekends. Of course, you can search on weekends, but you may not be able to do anything regarding the application. Sometimes that’s a good thing, it gives you a break to think. If you’re from out of town, make sure you give yourself plenty of time.
Always have a backup of “stuff happens”, agents forget to remove the MLS listing, leases on view, owner changes their mind about moving out. Like I said, it’s not like looking at apartments. Again, one more reason, being prepared is vitally important.
What about my pets?
Many people move into a house so that the dog has a garden. However, many owners do not accept pets in their home. The MLS will generally detail pet policies and deposits are typically between $300 and $500. Sometimes they let you split it. They generally like smaller animals under 25 pounds, but this can vary quite a bit. And because it’s so individualized, you can depend on your credit and, of course, a credible case from your agent. If you have a pet, there’s no point looking for homes that won’t accept it. You don’t want to commit a lot of your cash and waste a week only to be denied because you didn’t mention your dog.
Why you should use a REALTOR to find your next home.
1. While it’s true, driving around looking for houses to rent or sell may be a national pastime, understand that many of them are occupied. If the garage is closed and the shades drawn, you may not be able to tell. Looking out someone’s bedroom window is usually a very bad idea and if they have a big dog… well… I know I wouldn’t want to be on that bus.
2. You can’t open the door and if you cancel the sign, then you’re still on… another agent show, (“I’ll be right over, let me pick up the kids from school and leave this movie at Blockbuster”) It’s infinitely easier and obviously smarter to have a dedicated person there and capable of opening each and every door today for you.
3. The MLS has practically all the rental properties in your city. By searching and doing your homework online beforehand and talking to your REALTOR, you can eliminate 80% of the properties that don’t work for you. That will save you hours of mindless driving. and above all, eliminate the problem of losing the street where the perfect house for you is located.
The system a real estate agent uses to find you the perfect home is robust, efficient, and will save you a lot of time, money, and frustration. Plus it’s fun and interesting! However, it requires a lot of work on the part of real estate agents. Please be considerate of your REALTOR. They work only on commission.