Whether you are new to renting or have been leasing properties for years, the process of finding great homes for rent can be incredibly time-consuming. One-third of all Americans rent their homes, including college students, families, and seniors. Fortunately, you can find homes for rent that fit all budgets and types of households. The key to finding a great piece of property without stressing yourself out too much is to make your search smarter and more efficient. Read on for some tips on how to do just that.

Determine Your Budget

Before you even begin your search, create a budget and take a hard look at what you can really afford to spend. The general rule is that you should never spend more than 30 percent of your take-home income on housing costs. You'll also need to factor in any debt you may have, as well as commuting costs, groceries, savings, and other expenses. Many landlords have income limits, so make sure to ask about that. Keep in mind that you will also need to budget for utilities, so it's critical to ask your landlord about what will be included in your rent.

Create a Wish List of Features

You probably have a count in mind for bedrooms and bathrooms, but it's great to also draw up a "nice to have" list. Is it important to you that you have a patio, deck, or great outdoor space for entertaining? Do you want a fireplace or fancy bathroom, or can you make it with just a shower?

If you are into cooking, you will want to consider what kind of stove and kitchen amenities you will need. It is also a good idea to start thinking of compromises that you're willing to make. For example, would you be willing to give up some square footage for a great location? Is a roommate a good compromise for a high-end apartment?

Choose a Rental Type

Consider exactly the type of property that will work best for your family and lifestyle. Houses for rent are not the only option – you can also consider townhomes, apartment units in high-rise buildings, and accessory units in single-family homes. A lot of this will depend on how long of a lease term you¡¯re after and how much space you'll need. Use these factors to decide whether a sublet or renting directly from an owner or corporate housing company would be better for you.

Go Through the Application and Approval Process

There are some things you should expect in the application process. Landlords will typically ask you to fill out an application that allows them to run a background check on you and request that you supply information in the form of references, pay stubs, and more. You'll then have to negotiate the terms of your lease. With careful negotiation, you may be able to work out perks like a month of free rent or reduced parking. Now all that's left is to put in your deposit!

Going through the rental process does not have to be difficult. Follow some of the tips above and it will be a breeze!

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