Property Grunt

Monday, May 16, 2005

Rental Survival Guide: You can't always get what you want but you just might find you get what you need

The Grunt is presenting his long awaited rental survival guide to the masses. I will try and do my best to present my knowledge to you but there is alot to cover. And I have a noisy neighbor next door. There should be a law that prevents black women from singing Britney Spears songs.

The best time to rent is during the winter due to the cold and holidays which keeps renters away and makes it a horrible time for brokers and landlords especially for owners of vacant units which is the reason why there are more OPs on the market and landlords are more flexible in negotiating rent in certain areas of the city.

The reversal is true for the spring and summer when Landlords and brokers are deluged with prospective tenants. The OPs are usually pulled away and Renters are at the mercy of a market that is overpriced and unforgiving to those who have bad credit and lack the resources to come up with 3 months rent.

Before you start ripping apart the New York times and pounding the craigslist beat, before you even think of figuring out where you want to live I want you to get a piece of paper, make that many pieces of paper and ask yourself the following questions.

Your financial situation

First of all what are you willing to spend? That means looking at your salary or whatever source of income that will cover your housing expenses. That will serve as your benchmark.

After you get that number the next question you should ask yourself is how much can you go over that benchmark? That's right. You heard me. How much are you willing to go over that budget? Because what will most likely happen is that you will find your perfect apartment and it will be out of your price range and you will have to make a decision whether to take a hit or walk away.

What is your credit situation?

I know of only one landlord who does not do credit checks and he has a near 100% rate of success in getting qualified tenants. This is due in part that this landlord was raised in this business and is a bona fide genius. I am not kidding. He could probably do the SATs in his sleep.

All landlords will want to look at your financial history because it will determine how responsible you are in paying the rent. Every time a landlord rents out an apartment they are gambling on whether they will be getting a paycheck or not. Credit reports are a good indication of how good of a tenant you will be. You can now get a free credit report through any of these providers. I can't vouch for these companies but the best thing to do is ask around.

What if you have bad credit? I will address that in my next entry.

What do you want vs. what do you need?

This is a vital question because this will determine how costly your new home will be. Of course we often get confused in determining what we want or need. The best way to determine this is to prepare a list describing your dream apartment. I mean go all out. Put down the gym, the doorman, everything. Now each attribute that you put in is going to cost you money. Your job is to figure that attributes you want to keep and what do you want to eliminate. Remember the more you have the more costly it will be for you. A one bedroom in a building with an elevator, doorman and gym is going to be a helluva alot more expensive than a one bedroom in a walkup without a doorman and gym.

Do you have any pets?

Cats don't count since they are usually quiet but if you have a dog that will probably eliminate alot of your choices because most landlords do not like dogs in their buildings because of the damage they can cause to the property and if a dog attacks a tenant in a building then you are talking about a lawsuit.

When you answer these questions you will be able to formulate a better game plan. Bear in mind that you may have to change it at any notice.

In my next entry I will talk about the broker. Friend or Foe?