If you’re moving to a new town or section of your city, living in rental homes instead of buying property can give you a preview of the area. You can drive by, spend time in, and even walk through neighborhoods but it’s not until you actually live there that you know what it’s really like. By signing a year lease, you’ll know whether this is where you want to put down roots. First, you have to find rentals that are close to where you’d like to buy. Next, you’ll need to see what it’s like to commute to and from work or school. Finally, you’ll get to find out what the scene is actually like, up close and personal.

Finding rental homes that fit your budget and align with your desires is step number one. Typically, you shouldn’t plan to pay more for rent than one-quarter to one-third of your monthly take home pay. For example, if you make $2,000/month, you should only look at places that cost $500 to $660 per month. If you opt for a more expensive place, you’ll be sorry. You’ll also need to consider the amenities you desire. Do you need a yard for the kids and dog? Does the idea of sharing one bathroom with your family members make you break into a cold sweat? Then find a place that fits your needs and is in the location you’d like to settle in.

Commute time isn’t something to brush off. If you decide you’ll move to rental homes in a lovely area where a long commute is part of the package, you will want to see how this actually works for you. You might think it would be no problem because your car is fuel-efficient and you’ll listen to books on CD every day to improve your literary repertoire. Thinking about it and actually doing it are definitely two different things. Test the waters before becoming a homeowner with a lengthy commute.

You can find out what the crime statistics are in an area by searching online and from your local police station. Unfortunately, these statistics can be misleading. On paper, an area you’re considering may seem safe enough but after living there a while you may learn differently. The statistics you find may be outdated or cover too wide of an expanse to give an accurate view. After living there for a few months, you may see a constant stream of police cars and yellow caution tape on your street, both of which may tell you a different story.

Living in rental homes can be a great way of previewing an area before you buy. It’s always better to test the waters before diving in. You have a better chance of living happily ever after in a potential neighborhood if you rent first before making a commitment to ownership.

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