I’ve been leasing properties for The Proud Crowd Realty over the past several months, particularly properties that are in the USC Patrol Zone. Most of my clients have been local and international students. Realizing that students have unique challenges, I’m offering 10 important tips for college students to follow before leasing:
Evaluate your budget and determine how much you are able to pay towards rent. This is the first important step in the leasing process. Your budget can determine the number of roommates you may need and the amount of apartments/houses available within your budget.
#2 Finding Roommates
Ask friends if they know anyone that needs a roommate or use resources such as Facebook student groups and Roomster. Meet with prospective roommates before selecting a place to determine if their habits and personality align with yours. Ask them about their budget to determine what options are available when you combine budgets. Don’t be shy about asking about credit and income since these are criteria that will be reviewed by a landlord. Find out if your prospective roommate smokes or has a pet too since some properties will have restrictions.
#3 Research Rental Properties
Use a Realtor to guide and help you or search directly on Apartments.com, Zillow, Trulia, HotPads, and Facebook groups. Typically, students use Facebook student groups the most as the listings target students who are in need of off-campus housing. However, using a Realtor will ensure that you the listing you find is legitimate and he or she can do much of the advance work, even previewing property for you to save you time. Realtors often get paid commission by the landlord but you can hire one yourself. Fees, oftentimes are flexible and vary.
#4 See the Rental Properties in Person
If you are in the area, tour the rental properties in person. This is how you’ll learn if there’s a loud dog next door or if the place has an odor. If you are an international student, ask your Realtor, a friend or family member to video call you during a tour and provide feedback on the space, neighborhood, and community. If you don’t have a Realtor or someone who can help with this, just ask the landlord or agent to send you a video or the place or schedule a video call with them. Remember that their first priority is renting the place and not necessarily with your needs in mind.
#5 Duration of Tenancy & Terms
Be sure to inform the property manager or landlord about how long you plan to live at the property as some landlords are looking for a minimum of a 1-year term lease. If this is important to you, ask them about flexibility with tenancy terms including if they will allow you to sub-lease.
#6 Determine the Best Fit for You
Ask yourself if any of the rentals you saw fit with what you are looking for within the rental you want. If the apartment fits your needs, apply for it as soon as possible and get all the requested documentation in quickly too. This will flag you as a serious applicant and will set you apart from the competition. See more about this in tip #7.
#7 Send the Application and Necessary Documents
Each property management company will have their own application requirements. You may be asked to provide them with a copy of your state ID/DL or passport, social security card, bank statements, paystubs, and financial aid letter. Make sure you and your potential roommates have everything ready and send the application and documents in as soon as possible, preferably the day when you saw the apartment or the day after. Follow up after you send everything to make sure they received it and have what they need to qualify you.
#8 Read the Lease Before You Sign
Go over the lease carefully with your Realtor, the landlord, or the leasing agent to make sure you understand what you’re signing. Note any questions and be sure to get them answered. As redundant as this sounds, you should never sign a legal document without taking the time to read and understand it.
#9 Note Condition of Rental
During your move-in inspection, take photographs of the unit of any damage (holes, cracks, etc.) to the unit that was caused before your move-in. A Realtor comes in handy during this phase because they can really help you document the condition of the unit. If your landlord completed a move-in inspection form for you, take the time to review and note anything that is not listed in there. Be aware that the move-in inspection is to note the condition of the rental, it does not guarantee that things will be repaired or fixed.
#10 Get Renter’s Insurance
This is a necessity! You should have renter’s insurance because the insurance will cover theft or damages to your belongings. Some policies may also cover damage that you caused in the apartment.
Lastly, should you be looking for a rental in Los Angeles in the near future, call me if you need help at (626) 701-2236 or email me email@example.com.
DRE # 02133915
Jordan Fucci is a Leasing Specialist at The Proud Crowd. She is extremely detailed and adept at negotiating tricky student leases. Jordan is also a recent USC Grad and is knowledgeable about property in and around the Greater Los Angeles area.