6 Things to Look For When Renting

Always weigh the pros and cons before jumping into a high-risk investment.

Currently, my fiancé and I are searching for a new place to rent within our city. Over the past 5 years we have been together, I have moved 5 times without him, he has moved 4 times without me, and we have moved 2 times together. That’s an average of 2.2 moves per year. You heard right.

2.2x a year we loaded all of our furniture, clothing, and sports gear into a truck and unloaded (sorry to all of my family members who have had to help). Moving that often is something nobody wants. As I’m sure you can understand, we are interested in finding a place that we can stay for a minimum of 2 years as the city we currently live in is a renter’s market, and buying isn’t a great option for us right now.

As of now, we pay a very small amount of money per month towards rent ($450 each), which has significantly helped me pay down my debt as quickly as possible. Now that I am closer to debt free living, and we are also closer to becoming a married couple, it is time to kick the roommates (whom I love very dearly) aside, and live together just the two of us, again.

As for what you should look for when renting, take it from the expert mover:

1) Cost As I’m sure you’ve been told by many people, you should only spend 35% of your annual income on living expenses. For example – if you make $50k/year, you should spend roughly $17,500 per year on your housing costs. Personally, I think if you’re renting – it should be even less. Considering you don’t have additional costs of property taxes, renovation fees, and any other unexpected issues, renting is a great way to keep your spend under control and save for other goals. My fiancé and I will try to spend 20% (each) of our annual income on rent. To put things in perspective, the average cost of a rental property that we are interested in is $1400/month.

2) Location Location is a key point to consider when looking for a potential rental property. This affects your financial budget in numerous ways. Consider the distance from your workplace, public transit, and other amenities that you may need such as grocery stores, banks, and any other place you hit up regularly. Another way that location can affect living expenses is demand of area. If you are looking for something in the heart of the city, located in the trendiest neighbourhood, or central to everything and everyone, add another $500-1000 to that monthly bill. If the location is in a high-cost area, but will decrease your parking and transportation costs, it might be worthwhile. A piece of advice? Always weigh the pros and cons before jumping into a high-risk investment.

3) Safety When speaking about safety, not only am I speaking to the neighbourhood you choose, and the surrounding areas crime rate, but I am also speaking to the rental property itself. Before moving into a home, make sure that you inspect the property for any problem issues such as mold, exposed wires, smoke detectors, and anything else that is key to your safety. Landlords are required by law to ensure those types of issues are handled, so don’t be afraid to ask.

4) Appearance Something that is tricky for so many is appearance of the rental property both internally and externally. I think one thing to note is how important is this really? Is the cost of a property affected by its overall “beauty”? Absolutely. Every landlord is going to think their property is the best – and they will try to sell it within the write-up. Before agreeing to sign anything, be sure you view the property in person first. Pictures say a thousand words and all of them could be wrong. This may be common sense but I’ve heard some horror stories. Make sure you negotiate price if it’s not worth what they think. As it is a renters market, you have the option to make things lean a bit more in your favor.

5) Experienced Landlord I think this is something many people don’t even consider when renting a property. It is important that your landlord is knowledgeable in their duties, gets along with you, and is also conscious of doing background checks and references. By living somewhere with an experienced landlord, you will save yourself a big headache and also save them a headache as well. Building a good relationship with your landlord could potentially save you money you never thought possible. Networking is valuable in more ways than one.

6) Utilities As for the smaller expenses that come along with rental properties, utilities are always something that should be negotiated. If the landlord is comfortable hosting those costs, it would be more beneficial for you to rent a property with those included (in most cases). I personally find that it is a lot easier for a tenant if they only have to worry about the one cost per month, and think it’s extremely fair to ask the landlord their thoughts towards this. However, some people may want those costs to themselves if they think they could save money – but again, it is to be negotiated none the less. Don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as you deem possible.

As for my fiancé and I, we are currently looking for a 1 bedroom apartment or condo, with a den if possible, all utilities included (except internet/cable), and in a location that is close to both of our offices. We aren’t in any rush to find a place as we want it to fall in line with what we want in hopes that we could stay for a long period of time. However, if something comes up – we won’t hesitate to snatch it up before it’s gone! The Calgary market can be fierce like that.

What are some other tips you find make renting easier? Are you currently renting or do you own? Let me know in the comments!