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8 things you wish you knew before renting

8 things you wish you knew before renting

By Sarah Lefebvre on Jul 16 2018

Moving out of home for the first time is very exciting!  The thought of having independence, the freedom to have friends over when you want and being able to leave your bedroom in any state you like, can feel extremely liberating. 
Here are 8 practical steps to help make your first move out of home a great one.

1. Set a realistic and accurate budget

Before you get carried away and get locked into a rental you can’t afford, it’s important to understand exactly how much you can afford.  First step is to sit down and work out your budget.  Look at your income and your regular expenses such as mobile phone, health insurance, eating out including your daily coffee, the costs to run your car and the commute to work.  How much do you spend on your weekend night life, clothes, gifts and food at work and how much do you want to save for that holiday or first home? 
Once you have a clear idea of how much you are earning and spending, you’ll have a good idea as to how much you can afford in rent each week / month.  But don’t forget to allow extra to cover the cost of utilities.
It is worth keeping in mind that some experts suggest that you shouldn’t spend more than 30% of your monthly income on rent.

2. Do a thorough inspection of the rental property

Making sure you visit the rental property before you sign a lease is vital. It's tempting to sign away as soon as a landlord says yes, but be patient. There could be issues that aren't visible in an online listing.  It is recommended to visit a property for a midweek viewing as well - weekends can be packed with rival tenants, whereas visiting on a Wednesday might see you leap to the front of the queue.
For a complete checklist on what to look for click here.

3. Carefully interview potential flat mates

If you are moving in with flat mates, it’s a good idea to sit down and have an honest talk about your routines and lifestyles.  If the potential flat mate is a morning person but you’re more a night owl, then perhaps it isn’t going to work.  Or you may find that your potential flat mate loves to throw spontaneous parties and have loads of friends around all the time, but you prefer your home to be a sanctuary for quiet time, then again perhaps this isn’t going to be the ideal place for you.  

Treat this process as an interview and try and find someone who has something in common with you.  Of course if you’re moving in with friends you already know a lot about them but talking about their routines is still important as everyone has their quirks.

4. Talk to friends about what you’ll need

If you’re living at home, you most probably have a fully kitted out place, but you’ll find you don’t need all of this when you are renting and certainly not when you start out.  Talk to your friends and family who are renting or have rented recently and write a list of items they say you’ll need, things they found to be a necessity.  Use this list as your starting point. 
It is also worth asking your family and friends if they have any items that they don’t need any more or ones they would be happy to lend you for a while. Items such as kitchen utensils, cooking equipment, an old table you could use as a coffee table.  This all adds up and can save you a fortune.
If you’re a young renter, you might find some of your friends are heading off overseas to backpack around the globe.  It’s worth asking if they have any furniture or household items they would be willing to sell to you cheaply or even better give to you…everything helps and it helps keep things out of land fill.

 5. Only buy the essentials

Some rentals are fully furnished, however the majority aren’t.  At a bare minimum you’ll need a bed, somewhere to put your clothes, a sofa or comfy chair, chair and table for eating on, or a stool if there is a bench.  All of this comes with a price tag.  The best advice here is to be conscious of the quality you are buying.  Better quality products will normally last you longer, therefore you won’t have replacement costs for a while. While you don’t need to spend a fortune, spending wisely and focusing on quality will be a good longer term decision.
Have a budget in mind and take someone with you who is already renting to help keep your spending in check. 

6. Getting paperwork in order

After looking at countless rental properties and moving all your stuff in, you probably just feel like kicking back on the couch and turning your brain off for as long as possible. The hard part’s over, after all - now it’s just a matter of settling in.

If only it were that easy! In fact, the first week or so of moving in to a new place is one of, if not the, most crucial period for a tenancy. By checking the following things off your list, you’ll be able to sleep easier for the remainder of your lease.
  1. Make sure you know & understand the terms of the lease agreement. If you are unsure of any or would like clarification, please ask your property manager.
  2. Keep a copy of any documents you sign
  3. Be sure that you’ve been given a property condition report, and that you fill it out accurately and sign it. The condition report outlines the state of the property room-by-room, including any fittings and fixtures. If filled in incorrectly, or not at all, you could be liable for damages that were never your fault. Be sure to return your copy of the report to your property manager promptly, usually within a time period of seven days in most states.
Depending on what state you live in, during your first few months you may receive a letter from your state rental authority to say your bond has been lodged and including your reference number.

7. Photo records

You may have already snapped up the rental property, but there’s more ‘snapping’ left to do. Along with having filled out the property condition report, it’s a good idea to take detailed photographs of the house or apartment, particularly the parts noted in the condition report. This way, you have some hard evidence of the condition of the property when you’ve moved in, and will help eliminate the possibility of he-said, she-said

8. Create a cleaning schedule

Last but not least…if you’re renting with others, creating a weekly cleaning schedule is a must.  In fact, according to a survey, flat mates get most annoyed if the people they are sharing with don’t clean up.  To ensure this doesn’t become an issue:
  • Create a weekly cleaning roster so everyone does their fair share.  Perhaps split the roster by common rooms; living room, kitchen, bathroom or by job; taking the garbage out, dusting, vacuuming, cleaning the toilet etc
  • A good idea is to create a house hold kitty and spend it on a cleaner once a week, a fortnight or month.  This will ensure your home gets a good clean up on a regular basis…plus there is nothing nicer than coming home to a sparkling clean home.
  • Keep mess to your own room - what you do in there is up to you. It’s also a good idea to keep your door closed so people don’t have to walk past and see the chaos in your room
  • Always clean up after yourself in communal areas
  • Don’t leave your things lying around in communal areas for weeks

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