Signing A Lease

Once you’ve found a new home, there’s so much hassle to deal with. So. Much. Hassle. There is home renters insurance to sign up for, movers to call… and a lease to sign. Signing a lease is a pain, but it doesn’t have to be impossible.

Writing over at Acorns’ personal finance blog, Grow, writer Marianne Hayes has some excellent advice on what to look for when you sign a lease.

Acorns has even put together a video (below) which walks you through moving and setting up at a new home.

And here are some tips for signing a lease:

KNOW YOUR DEAL BREAKERS

As you look for a new place to live, think about what you want and don’t want… And, more importantly, what is negotiable for you and what is a deal-breaker.

This doesn’t just mean basics like whether to live by yourself or to live with roommates, or choosing a central neighborhood over an outlying neighborhood.

Figure out a list of two to four factors that are crucial for your next home, make those non-negotiable, and dispose with the rest; that’ll make you happier with the process.

OPTIMIZE YOUR HOUSING  BUDGET

In a perfect (well, close to perfect) world, you wouldn’t have to worry about anything beyond budgeting for rent. Unfortunately, the real world isn’t that perfect–and we usually have to take other things into account.

Each month, you will pay for utilities, incidental expenses like parking and homeowner’s insurance, and needed home repairs. That is in addition to your rent.

Your total budget for housing–including rent and all other expenses–should only be 33% of your monthly income. This also includes your apartment deposit, which you should divide by 12 and add to your expenses each month.

GET YOUR PAPERWORK IN ORDER

Landlords are infamous for requesting a lot of information from potential tenants before they sign. Make sure you have your credit report (or fees to pay your landlord to acquire your credit report), references from previous landlords and tenants, your last two pay returns, your last two pay stubs, and your last two bank statements handy. It’s an annoying process but one that’s unfortunately baked into the housing hunt.

READ YOUR LEASE

Once you’re ready for signing a lease, pay close attention to the language. Keep an eye out for any hidden fees, any odd wording regarding how rent is paid, any specific requests for apartment condition upon move-out, and any requirements regarding common areas in an apartment building or subdivision. Pay special attention to the lease’s rider–that’s often the part that is custom written by landlords and has the most specific information in it.