While you may be excited to move out of your old place and into a new rental, it's important not to let the excitement get in the way of your good judgment. No doubt about it, choosing a new place to live is serious business, especially since when you sign the lease you're entering into a legally binding contract that will stick with you for a long time. That said, there are three main things you need to do before signing your name on the dotted line:
Get to know your housing market
While all three steps are important, this first one is by far the most critical. By knowing your housing market, you'll have a good idea of how much your potential pad is worth per month. This is how you figure out whether $600 per month is a steal or a scam. Another great reason to know the housing market is to determine which areas are safe and accessible. If you don't have a car and you move to an area of town that doesn't have a bus stop for miles, you'll be in trouble. Also, it's a good idea to look up the crime rate statistics for the part of town you're considering living in. It doesn't matter how cheap the rent is if you're not safe in your own neighborhood. Knowing your housing market inside and out can save you a lot of money and trouble later on down the line.
Make a short list
Once you've narrowed down the neighborhoods that you wouldn't mind living in, start making appointments to meet with the landlord (or leasing agent) and tour the place. Take into account the space, the price and whether or not the company or person that you're renting from is reputable. To find out, do some researching online. Check reviews and check up on them with the Better Business Bureau. Do whatever you can'to get as much information as possible. Living out the life of your lease with a slumlord is terrible and you should take every precaution imaginable to void it at all costs.
Make a final selection
After you have found a couple of places that you're really excited about and have crossed the others off of your list, it's time to make your final choice. Factor in rent, location, parking and everything else you can'think of. If it helps, make a list of pros and cons. After you've chosen which place you're going with, you still have a bit more work to do. Before you sign anything, make sure you walk around every inch of your new digs and list every possible thing you can find that is wrong. If there's a crack in a wall somewhere, point it out. If a window screen is missing, make sure it's written down. While it may seem unnecessary and tedious, it's the only way to ensure that you get every penny that you deserve back from your security deposit.
Now that your course of action has been mapped out for you, it's important that you try to follow these steps as much as you can. Signing a lease and moving into a new place is a really big deal. If, for some reason, things turn sour with you and the property owner, you could find yourself dealing with small claims court or a black mark on your credit report.