One of the silver linings in this tough economy has been that the cost of rental housing has been very affordable nationwide. The bad news is that this seems to be fading quickly. Recent statistics are showing double digit increases in rentals nationwide. Of course, prices seem to be going up on everything right now so this is no surprise. Whether it is the cost of food, gas, clothing, inflation is taking hold. The Federal Reserve has been artificially propping up the economy for at least three years by increasing the money supply. This is really starting to show up in consumer prices across the board.
I have written previously that in many areas it has been a better option to rent rather than to purchase a home, but that may not be the case much longer. Landlords are raising rents and seem to be having no trouble doing so based on the increasing demand. In this article I will be addressing some strategies that you can use to find the best deals on rentals in your area.
How To Avoid Being Scammed While Shopping For A Rental Home
Before I even get into the process of finding a good deal on a rental, I want to warn you that this is one area that is fraught with scams. One commonly reported tactic is a scam artist advertising a rental property online and then collecting multiple rental deposits only to disappear with the money. What the victims don't realize until it is too late is that the scammer does not even own the property they are collecting deposits on.
To be sure that you are, in fact, dealing with the owner simply go online to the property records website for your county and look up the property record. Make sure that the person you are dealing with is either the owner or a licensed real estate agent representing the property. It would not be unreasonable for you to ask for a photo ID from the individual to make sure that you are dealing with the actual owner. Obviously, it would be easy for anyone to obtain the owner's name from the public records so you can't trust someone unless you see some form of official identification with that name on it.
Believe it or not, many of these scams are facilitated without the prospective renter ever seeing the property. The scammer will typically agree to meet you at a local restaurant and have some excuse why they can't open up the property for your inspection. This is a big tip off that you are on the verge of being scammed.
Dealing With Realtors
When I have rented homes in the past, I have done so mostly with licensed real estate agents. This may not be the least expensive way to go in every case but affords you a layer of protection since licensed real estate agents are closely regulated. The reason it may cost somewhat more is that the Realtor management fee will make the landlord's expenses about 15 percent higher. I have found, however, that owners that use licensed agents tend to be more professional in their dealings. They are typically seasoned real estate investors and will be prepared to deal with maintenance and repair issues as they come up. In an arrangement such as this you will pay your monthly rent to the licensed agents office. Most of the time this means you can request a printed receipt and even obtain an historical rental payment history (which can be really handy when attempting to qualify for a mortgage).
A great way to start shopping is to use the website Realtor.com. First, select from the pull down menu 'rentals.' Next, you can input the area you are searching, number of bedrooms, bathrooms, etc... You can then set the results to show from lowest to highest and you will see a great list of options to consider. One side benefit of doing a search like this, even if you end up dealing with an owner directly, is that it really gives you a sense of what rental rates are in your area.
Dealing With Owners Directly
The biggest thing to look out for are homes that are up for rent that may be at some point in the foreclosure process. We get tons of e mails at ChristianMoney.com from individuals that learn only too late that a rental home they just moved into is being foreclosed. Most counties have online legal filings that allow you to do a quick search using the address and/or the name of the owner to see if there are any legal filings that are foreclosure related. In most states, the first document to be filed is a Lis Pendis (Latin for 'suit pending'). I can not emphasize enough how important this is. If you don't feel that you are able to do this research on your own, go into your county courthouse and ask for assistance from a clerk. Be sure to get a lease agreement in writing whether you are working with an owner directly or a license real estate agent.
If you live in an area where rents are on the rise, it may make sense to attempt to get a longer term lease or at least an option to extend the lease at the current rate beyond just one year. In some areas rent is going up at a rate of 10 percent or more per year. If you represent a good quality tenant for a landlord (meaning you have decent credit and employment) you may be easily able to get a an option to extend. You may also be able to get additional concessions such as lawn service included, etc...
Running Your Own Ad
In some cases it may make sense to simply run an ad listing what you are looking for and your e mail address and see what offers you may uncover from owners responding to your ad. I have used this tactic many times when looking to buy real estate and it works very well. I would not suggest that you list your phone number in such an ad as sifting these offers via e mail is much more efficient.
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