Use this Checklist When Searching for a Rental

Fri, Aug 18, 2017 @ 08:08 AM Danielle Keech Renting/Buying a Home

We all know that renting a home isn’t the same as buying one; it’s far more temporary. And while it does call for careful consideration, your search for a rental property doesn’t need to be exhaustive.

The key to finding a rental, especially on a short time frame, is not to overthink it!

Use this 3-step checklist to find a rental home.

1) Research the area.

Although your time there is temporary, you need to be sure you’re looking in the right area.

Not only should your home be in a safe area, but it should be somewhere you feel comfortable. Every neighborhood has its own culture, so find the one that’s right for you.

Utilize resources like Military Town Advisor and MILLIE. Read reviews left by your military family peers to learn which areas they loved and which ones they avoided during their time at your shared duty station.

With their reviews in mind, decide if you want to live close to base or further away. Depending on what your priorities are and limit your search to that one specific area.

2) Establish a budget.

You BAH (Basic Housing Allowance) likely changed from your last duty station. Look up what your new allowance is so you can budget before looking at rental properties.

Budgeting requires more than knowing what your government allowance is, though. You need to ask yourself if you want to live under BAH to save money, spend exactly your BAH, or if you’re okay with spending over in order to have your ideal house in the right area. 

Also consider utilities. What’s the average cost of electricity, gas, water, and internet, and how do these bills fit into your budget? Will they cause you to go over your BAH?

3) Start searching.

Now that you’ve established your search criteria, it’s time to turn to your online real estate sources.

Use sites like MilitaryByOwner to find a rental that meets your location and budget needs. Don't forget to utilize the dvanced search features that will keep you from sifting through countless unsuitable properties.

Find a property you like? Contact them right away. Depending on where you're moving to, rentals can be leased quickly. And as much as we like to think it’s not a reality, landlords and property owners sometimes forget to take down their listing once it’s leased.

As example of this three-step process, I’ll share our latest PCS move. With orders from Florida to California, I started researching the area. I realized that if we wanted to live near base--where most of our friends lived--we were going to need to significantly downsize to stay within BAH. Then we started hearing that the area wasn’t flawless, in fact, there were more places to avoid than there were to live. So we broadened our search.

We found a town inland, about 40 minutes from base, and continued our research there. We aren’t big beach people, so paying through the nose to live near it was not our priority. The new town we found had it all. Very nice area, shopping, hiking, and the biggest plus, wineries!  Not only did the area suit us far better than the more popular one, but our budget would go way farther. Living inland would allow us to have a single family home with a yard and still be way under budget.

After we solidified our decision to live inland, we started looking around for rental properties. But being located outside a major city, we realized that we were now dealing with a more competitive real estate market. Whereas before, landlords would bend over backward to show us a house, now we were just one family in a million.

Once we established our criteria of location, budget, and availability, there was a narrow selection of suitable properties--one of which worked out perfectly.

Just like buying a home, finding a rental property can get complicated and stressful. It's easy to get caught up on features (a pool, garage, garden tub, stainless steel appliances, flooring, and paint color), but at the end of the day focus on the basics, like area, budget, and availability, and you will have no trouble finding a new rental property.  

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