So, my young adult son decided he was ready to be financially independent and move out of our home into his own place. He and two of his friends are musicians, so their dream was to rent a house with a space for jamming. They asked for my help.
As a real estate broker, my immediate go to is the MLS. But as you likely well know, there is very little available for rent right now and even less in these boy’s price point of up to $2100 per month. We quickly exhausted all four of the MLS options then expanded to Craig’s List and Zillow.
Craig’s List used to be my go to for low to moderately priced rentals. Not any more! What I discovered there was a mine field of scams! NOTE: Zillow.com seems to be much better rental resource these days.
Here are a few examples of what I saw on Craig’s list:
–“3-bedroom house in Northbrook only $699 per month!” –This house was actually listed for rent for $2175 per month on the MLS. This listing had been cloned and modified by the scammer. Often these scams tell you to send them your first month’s rent and security deposit by mail or direct deposit. DON’T do it.
–“The first deal fell through. You are next in line…It’s yours if you fill out this Credit Report….
-There was also an owner who told my son that he was a baby for working with his mother. He should come alone with his friends if he wanted to see the place. What was that about??
Certainly there are many trustworthy landlords out there. In fact, most of those you meet. Clearly there are also folks out there willing to take advantage of prospective renters. So, here are some Tips for Renters looking for your dream rental (or any rental for that matter) in this tight market…
First be careful…
- Always go see the property. Meet the agent representing the property. Ask to schedule a time to meet the landlord. If you have the opportunity, talk to the tenants. Ask them how it’s been living there. Does the landlord respond right away if you have a problem? Did s/he fulfill her/his responsibilities (i.e. snow removal, landscaping,…)
- If it sounds too good to be true, it most likely is too good to be true! Do your homework. If you have been out shopping you should have an accurate sense of what the going rents are. I don’t know of any 3-bed room homes renting for under $1000 per month on the North Shore.
- Be on guard. If you get an email response read it carefully. Remember, you aren’t obligated to respond. Is it a generic response that doesn’t mention the specific property? How well is it written? If in doubt don’t respond!
- Don’t click any links sent to you via email to fill out a “report” BEFORE you’ve seen the rental, meet the owner or manager, ask all your questions and fill out an application to rent.
- Don’t pay any money in advance before doing your due diligence on the situation. Don’t give out your bank account number.
- Seriously consider using a professional real estate agent to represent you. It shouldn’t cost you anything and could save you thousands. S/He may also know of places that aren’t listed yet.
Other things to know about today’s market is that some properties rent super fast and are competitive –multiple applicants for the same space. Thus:
–Rental rates are often negotiable. If you come across a rental that has been on the market for a while or has obvious problems that YOU can live with, you can always try to pay a lower monthly rate. On the other hand…
–You may have to respond quickly and possibly offering slightly more than the asking rent for a popular or very well priced rental. If this is the case and you still have questions or want to meet the landlord, even if you have been selected to rent the apartment or house, BEFORE signing the lease get all of your questions answered and have someone review the lease who is experienced with residential leasing.
–Be prepared if you don’t have a credit score or a good credit score (usually over 650) or haven’t been working at your job very long. In these cases you may need a financially able relative to co-sign the lease for you. Note: everyone on the lease is responsible individually for paying the rent if need be. In my case, I asked all the parents to co-sign just to share this responsibility more equally.
–Anticipate that the renters combined income should be greater than 3x the rental rate. So for a $2100 monthly rental rate, the sum of the three boys income had to exceed $6300/month. Again, if you don’t meet this criteria, be prepared to offer a co-signer(s) with excellent credit and financial ability. Note: They will have to fill out an application and also pay for a credit report.
–Be aware of the shift to “fees” in lieu of Security Deposits. More and more landlords are charging non-refundable fees up front, instead of or in addition to Security Deposits. These fees can have many names including “Move-In,” “Move Out,” or “Administrative” Fees. They are basically all the same thing: non-refundable fees owed upfront. There is no standard price, but $395 per adult seemed pretty common. There can also be non-refundable pet fees, monthly additional pet rent and pet security deposits. So read all the fine print!
–As more and more rental units come on the market (and they are), prices should come down and special offers negotiated. For example the 13th month free on a 13 month lease. Before jumping on these deal, do your homework! Make sure that these are truly favorable for you.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Need further assistance? Contact us!
Leader Team & Real Estate Broker, The Marissa Hopkins Team