So I’ve mentioned in a few posts about me looking for a new place to move into. I have no experience in deciding if a home is in good shape or not. After getting approved for the duplex I thought everything was going to be smooth sailing from here on out. I guess I was naïve to think that if someone was going to rent out a property they would make sure everything was in working order before they allowed someone to live in it. Luckily for me, my girlfriend’s parents happened to come up and visit us the weekend before we signed the lease.
Her father deals in real estate so he has all the experience I’m lacking. When we walked into the duplex he immediately started combing through everything. As he went through the places we made a list of over 15 problems that needed to be fixed before we could move it. Some were minor, like one of the electrical outlets was missing a cover. Then we found some major issues, like where the plumbing in the bathroom leaks into the wall. I would like to give the owners of this property the benefit of doubt that maybe they didn’t notice the leaks (but I’m sure they had). The things that really blew my mind were the tricks the landlords had used to hide major issues. For instance, instead of replacing the bathtub they decided to paint it. Well it looks ok at first, but after a while the paint peels away (sneaky, sneaky). Also, they painted the ceiling to make it look nicer; however, to cut costs they didn’t use primer and the whole ceiling was starting to peel off. After seeing what type of people we were dealing with, I knew we couldn’t move in.
I wrote this blog post because I want to pass on the lessons I’ve learned to others so you don’t make the same mistake I almost made. Here are the main things:
1) Take Your Time And Look Through EVERYTHING– When we first found this place the only thing we looked at was the floor plan. It’s so important to look at all the little things to make sure everything works. Check things like the toilet, the shower, the fridge, the stove, the furnace/water heater, the air vents/filter, and especially look for water damage.
2) Don’t Be Shy, Talk To The Neighbors– We talked to the guy living next door to the duplex, and he filled us in on some very important information. He told us the roofers that built the roofs in this neighborhood were cut rate and did a terrible job. We also found out that the area was really windy and the siding of the houses tends to fly off. We wouldn’t have known about any of this if we hadn’t been open to chatting with the neighbors.
3) Never Trust the Landlord– It’s sad. The older I get the more I realize you can’t trust anyone (except a select few) when it comes to money. Never assume the landlord will have made sure everything is in working order before you move in.
4) Ask For Repairs Before You Sign The Lease– There are two main reasons it’s important to catch all these issues before you sign the lease. A) Their might be too many problems and you don’t even want to move in anymore (like in my case). B) You have way more leverage to get them to fix things before you’re already locked in to the lease. If you tell them you won’t move in until everything is fixed you will have a better chance at getting them to do it quickly.
5) Do All This Before You Fill Out The Application– We didn’t do a good job at checking the duplex before we filled out the application. If we had, we wouldn’t have wanted it and saved ourselves the non-refundable application fee.
Does anyone else have more advice for people that are looking to rent?
March 28, 2012 at 5:55 PM
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March 28, 2012 at 6:09 PM
Well written, Chris! I am sorry you lost your application fee, but consider the lesson a paid seminar… .:-)
Jay The Baker
March 28, 2012 at 10:17 PM
Hi Chris, Thanks for visiting the PCA blog and liking the post on Abundance. I wish you success in finding a place to rent and in your field of finance. Be sure to check the area when it has rained as this will give you an idea of how the water will drain or build up. My Best, Jay
March 29, 2012 at 9:04 PM
It may sound like a silly little thing but it can make a difference if you’re looking to rent a place long term: check baseboards, look at walls and check kitchen cupboards. Any funny bowing in these areas can be signs that the home is built on soft ground. Soft ground can lead to cracks and severe water damage. Also check the floor around/behind the stove. If that is extremely dirty it could be a sign that the previous tenants didn’t put a lot of care into the unit. If the tenants didn’t put care into the unit, there could be issues that the landlord isn’t aware of…the unreported issues could cause things like plumbing to not operate correctly or even cause health problems.
March 29, 2012 at 9:51 PM
I think those are very important things. We found water damage from checking those areas. Thank you for the advice!
March 30, 2012 at 6:56 AM
I think it’s also important to read over the entire lease agreement before you sign anything. You should ask for clarification on any points you aren’t clear about. This prevents any surprises down the road, like when you get a pet and are caught off guard at the monthly pet fee you didn’t know about!
March 30, 2012 at 10:28 AM
Definately! I hate going over leases, but it’s important. I think the pet fees are funny. We had to give them an extra deposit and they charge us a monthly fee. We literally have to pay rent for our dog. Next they’ll charge a per child fee!
March 31, 2012 at 3:21 PM
Chris, first thanks for liking my post on our maintenance call. From my perspective, and this applies to both buying and renting, especially in a converted house, look out for(very) substandard wiring and it’s often hidden as well. Some thing are minor and some not, and sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.
In fact, a couple of times I’ve looked at electrical installs that a home inspector passed and refused to work on it unless we rewired the whole house. There are some people out there who, to give them the benefit of the doubt, couldn’t wire a doorbell properly but, think they can rework a whole house.
I can remember telling one client that it wasn’t a question of if, but when in the next two months her house was going to burn down.
March 31, 2012 at 3:57 PM
I see that same attitude with flooring. They think they can just slap it down and everything will look great. They have a lot to learn!
March 31, 2012 at 4:17 PM
That they have.
April 1, 2012 at 7:24 PM
Thanks for visiting my site Chris. I think you have a pretty impressive blog here. Good work.
April 4, 2012 at 8:59 PM
Thank you Mark, I appreciate the comment.
April 3, 2012 at 5:31 AM
Great tips. We’re moving to State College, PA from San Antonio, TX and looking through Craigslist and other classified ads can be nervous. My husband is moving to PA 2 months earlier to ensure we’re getting a good solid place.
April 3, 2012 at 11:42 AM
Make sure he checks everything! Home surprises usually aren’t good ones!
April 3, 2012 at 12:03 PM
First of all, let me comment on the great and most useful blog you have produced. I have read through a couple of posts and find that this information is both valuable and helpful and I am especially attuned to this one about landlords and renters because I have been there and done that.
First, let me suggest that no one ever lease or rent an apartment without brushing up on what is known as “Tenant’s Rights Laws” for the area in which you live. A lot of landlords get by with doing the very least they can for the greatest return.
Second point I wish to make is this: Never allow your monthly rental payments to exceed a third (33.33%) of your gross monthly income.
Make sure you know who is responsible for payment of utilities on the apartment and, before you sign a lease of any kind, go down to the local property and tax office and make sure there are no pending, progressive or recently adjudicated legal actions against either the owner or the property itself. This might save you paying money in advance and then losing it if the city or the state suddenly condemns the property for some code violation which the owner might be responsible for.
Thanks again, Chris for the great info and thanks for visiting my blog.
April 4, 2012 at 9:01 PM
Thanks for the advice. I’ve never read the tenant’s rights laws. That’s something i’m interested in.
April 3, 2012 at 5:36 PM
Reblogged this on lisparc.
April 4, 2012 at 9:01 PM
Thanks for the re-blog!