Earlier this summer, we asked whether America was becoming a nation of renters. Statistics would seem to bear that out: Construction of single-family homes grew by 9.4 percent in June, the Wall Street Journal reported, but construction of multi-family homes with at least two units increased at triple that rate. Developers wouldn't be putting up apartment buildings unless they believed the demand for rentals would far outpace the need for new homes.
If more of us are going to be living in rental units, we need to get savvier about how to hunt for the right apartment. Daniel Hedaya, whose company, Platinum Properties, manages more than $150 million worth of , offers these six tips to help prospective renters find the place that fits their needs and budget.
1. Come prepared.
• Bring all necessary paperwork.
• Include bank statements and a letter of or pay stubs to show prospective landlords.
• Provide a reference letter from a previous landlord, and make sure it acknowledges that you made timely payments and took proper care of the residence.
2. Know what you want -- or at least have an idea.
• Be specific about what you're looking for.
• Come up with a list of must-haves and include details (e.g., central air conditioning, laundry hookup, garage, fitness center, pet friendly, etc.).
• Prioritize locations and consider how much time it will take for you to commute to work and to the places that you frequent on weekends.
• Consider how much it will cost to (i.e. cost of gas or public transportation).
3. Bring along the roommate.
• Have a candid and communicative relationship with your roommate.
• Come up with a consolidated list of must-haves.
• Make sure you both understand the terms of the lease.
• Discuss finances and the splitting of any and all bills (i.e. electricity, cable, internet and phone).
4. Use a broker – finding a good home is like finding a needle in a haystack.
• Brokers have specialized knowledge of the most exclusive apartments and of the best available.
• Brokers pre-screen homes, saving you time; this eliminates wasting energy on residences that don't meet your criteria or that you won't like.
• Brokers can find homes that are more value for your money.
5. Visit properties.
• Look at as many properties as it takes.
• Don't visit more than four in one day or they will begin to blend together.
• Bring along your list of must-haves as a kind of checklist.
• Make sure to do a final walk-through.
6. Seal the deal.
• Have your finances in order.
• Examine your lease in detail, don't just sign it; bring it home and take the necessary time to understand your lease.
• Find out what cosmetic changes can and cannot be made to the apartment.
• Be financially prepared.
Find apartments for rent in your area at AOL Real Estate.
Find more help with rentals in these AOL Real Estate guides:
Rental Brokers: How They Can Work for You
How to Negotiate Rent
Foreclosure: What it Means for the Renter
Roommate Agreements and Breaking Up When Things Go Badly