How to Spot the Perfect Rental Property
A rental property is one of those unique things in real estate that often catches people off guard. After all, you're looking for a temporary space which offers you everything you'd probably be looking for in a forever home.
Whether you're apartment hunting, looking for a townhome or are interested in finding an investment property, you'll likely spend hours searching available properties online and trying to figure out which ones fit your needs. If you're seeking an investment property, you'll be going one step further by trying to deduce which properties would offer you, and your future tenants, the most value.
But where do you actually start when looking for a rental property, and how to spot the right one?
Start with the details
One of the first things people search for when looking at rental property listings is the number of bedrooms and bathrooms. It doesn't make sense, for example, to look at properties with a "one bedroom + den" if you need two full bedrooms. The same can be said for bathrooms; if you need more than just an en suite, ensure any search criteria you're using to look for properties is clear and to the point. If you need two full bathrooms, don't just look at homes with "1.5 bath."
Another popular search criterion is the walkability score of the property. To put it simply, "walkability" is a score given to neighbourhoods to denote how close they are to various amenities, such as schools, public transit, recreational facilities, grocery stores and more. The walkability score of a property/its neighbourhood will be important, but especially for those who need close access to highways or public transit, for commuting purposes.
Ask: Does this rental property have everything I need (outside of my wants)?
Don't forget about the amenities
The layout, square footage and number of beds/baths is, of course, quite important for any home hunter, but we can't forget about the amenities!
Basic amenities include things like air conditioning, onsite or in-suite laundry, heating and more. Beyond those basics, you may also consider looking for property and space updates. Has the kitchen been upgraded recently? Does the home or space need new flooring? If it's an apartment building, is there an onsite workout facility?
While these aren't necessarily "must haves," it doesn't hurt to bear in mind what you'd like to have access to, or the features you'd need the space to have. This can include things like parking and storage, as well.
Ask: Which features or amenities can I live without, and which ones can I not live without?
Photos, photos, photos
Regardless of the property description and technical details, what are the photos for the rental listing like?
My advice when looking at listings online is to always ensure you are looking at ones which not only include high-quality photos, but recent ones - and lots of them. I'm not saying a rental listing has to have professional-grade photography, however, there's no excuse for any property listing to not have good photos, and enough of them, at that!
Look for rental listings which have photos of both the interior and exterior of the home, including photos of any amenities (this is especially important if you're looking at apartments or condominiums). The photos should give a clear impression of what the space/property looks like, the amenities it comes with, any surrounding areas (like backyards or shared rec facilities) as well as the bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchen/dining area.
Ask: Does this rental listing have enough quality photos which show me the entire property?
To avoid wasting time by contacting numerous listings for more information about properties, search for specific information about costs in each listing. For example, rental listings should include clear, described cost information such as:
- Parking costs - is onsite parking extra? paid per month? paid annually?
- One-time fees - are there any costs you may have to pay upfront for (even just once)?
- Pets - is there an additional fee to have pets on the property?
- Rent - what is the monthly rent?
- Utilities - how much are they per month, and are they included in the rent?
Ask: Is the rental listing transparent with costs and, if not, which information is left out that you'll need to contact the landlord for
Those (somewhat) pesky policies
Whether it's an apartment building, freehold property, or townhome, most renters have policies in place to protect their properties/spaces. While that's smart of them, these policies could be potential deal breakers for you.
You may want to keep a close eye on, for instance, any policies or rules laid out in the rental listing which mention pets (are they allowed?), how many people can live on the property (is there a max number?), how many cars can legally fit in the allotted spaces (is there street or guest parking available, too?). Most importantly, you should be looking for the lease length as well as the lease terms.
Don't be afraid to ask for all policies and lease/rental terms prior to even viewing the property in person; if any of the terms are deal breakers for you, you'll know before you view the property and will therefore save yourself a lot of time.
Ask: Do the lease terms work for me and are they fair?