We all know that one part of the scary movie: the beautiful, innocent girl walks slowly and hesitantly into that dark house, alone and unarmed. “Don’t go in there! What are you doing?!” everyone screams at the television. That theatrical “third wall” has never been quite so unnerving. She’s about to make a terrible mistake, and all you can do is watch (and shove popcorn in your mouth).
Yeah, sometimes this is exactly how we feel when we see innocent renters fall into common pitfalls, scams, and oversights. Because whatever your reason for renting, we’re sure, “losing hard-earned cash” and “getting swindled” aren’t among them.
But don’t fear! In order to keep you from walking into that dark house all alone, we’ve created a list of the most common rental mistakes that can end in a “scary” situation.
(We’ve also included a few killer homes for rent on the current market that we think you’ll just die over. Also, can we make Halloween puns all year, please?)
Mistake #1: Renting Sight Unseen
If you're moving to San Antonio, it might be tempting to browse online listings and jump on the property without actually visiting it in person. After all, you wouldn’t want anyone to snatch it up before you get the chance, right?! Well, though time is of the essence when dealing with properties, it's best to spend a few days or a long weekend visiting potential rentals. With countless websites offering photos of properties for rent, it’s easy to forget that a photo is not always an accurate representation of the home. In fact, sometimes these photos can be outdated or downright deceiving. A unit may look fantastic online, yet completely different in person. Not to mention, there are some things that a photo can’t tell you- like how the place smells. And let’s face it, there are some scary odors you just can't get rid of.
Aside from the appearance of the property, visiting a rental you are interested in can also give you a feel for the community, another important consideration you can't assess from photos. It’s essential to check out the surroundings of the property, both during the day and the night. You’ll want to know if the community and the neighbors are quiet and if the community is well maintained. Even the slightest uncomfortable feeling should send you running to the next available property.
25022 Cambridge WL: $1,550
Mistake #2: Forgetting To Check the Details.
In the excitement of finding a place you love, it's easy to focus on the bigger picture and gloss over the details. But factors such as a long commute to work or malfunctioning appliances that never get fixed can frustrate you on a daily basis. Keep in mind that a 15-minute showing of the property will not convey all the details you need. While we often hope to fall in love with a rental property quickly, it’s important to take the time to ask questions about the home you will be living in.
24716 Buck Creek: $2,045
Problems with a rental home (coupled with landlord problems) can be downright wretched. Some landlords care about their properties and their tenants. They are quick to take calls, fix leaking toilets and send out pest control to deal with a bug issue. Unfortunately, other landlords see their tenants as just another cash source and treat them as such. Therefore, you will want to do some detective work before you sign a rental agreement. Do a Google search, ask if you can contact previous tenants, and check with the Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been made against the landlord or property management company. You will also want to know how they respond to maintenance requests, problems that arise, and unforeseen issues. Because the way a landlord handles a property varies so widely, knowing the answers to these kinds of questions is extremely important. After all, the last thing you want is to be in a long-term fight with your landlord for the duration of your rental.
Other questions you might ask involve neighbors of the property. Who better to tell you about the community or the property than the people that have already lived there? You may want to ask them if they enjoy living there, if there are any noise issues, or if there is anything unusual about the place. The answers to these questions could really impact your decision!
In addition to asking questions, do a test run of your morning commute before you sign a lease. Sometimes renters forget that the commute they experience when seeing the property in the middle of the day is not the same commute they will experience in rush hour traffic, and unfortunately, a nightmare of a commute is not grounds for terminating a lease.
Mistake #3: Failing To Get Everything In Writing
As with most financial transactions, if anything is agreed upon, make sure it's documented in writing and becomes part of your rental agreement. Similarly, if something in the lease seems wrong, ask for it to be amended. Leases are legal documents and are binding for both parties, hence the importance of having accurate information and terms on it. By appointing a licensed real estate agent to help you with the transaction, these legal documents are more likely to be filled out correctly (and with your best interest in mind!).
7701 Wurzbach Rd: $1,075
Feel like there are circumstances that should allow you to break your lease? Make sure that information becomes part of your lease prior to signing it. If at any point during the transaction you begin to think that something should be in writing, put it in writing.
After you sign the lease on the property, try to keep your communication with the landlord in writing as much as possible. If you find that you are communicating in other ways, make sure to keep a written log of any other communication so you can refer back to it if there is ever a problem. Remember, renting property is a contractual business relationship, and therefore you should treat it like one!
Mistake #4: Allowing Yourself To Be Enticed By Staging
Real estate experts know that staging works, and depending on the rental property, staging may include adding “fancy” upgrades like hardwood floors and granite countertops to serve as a facelift. While these are great, it's best not to be too fixated on these small details. Aesthetic amenities like flooring, countertops, and fixtures, while nice, will quickly lose their appeal if the property fails to meet your needs in other fundamental ways. Not to mention, properties in less desirable locations or less desirable condition often get the best cosmetic upgrades in an attempt to entice renters. A good tip to follow is that if you wouldn't live in the home without the fancy upgrades, don’t move in just because it does.
21507 Dion Village: $1,795
Mistake #5: Overstretching Your Budget
One of the first things renters do before they start looking for rental property is to assess how much they can spend on rent. While financial experts recommend you spend no more than 30% of your post-tax income on housing, you may want to spend even less, depending on your personal goals and other financial obligations you may have. For example, if you make $48,000 a year (after taxes!), it is advised that you spend no more than $1,200 a month on housing. Considering San Antonio’s affordable rental market, this is not too hard of a task. But no matter what price you decide on, stick to it while searching. Although there will always be places that are nicer than what you have budgeted for, do not (under any circumstances) go look at those places. Not only will you be enticed to spend more than what you budgeted for, the places that are actually in your price range will appear much less appealing in comparison.
Mistake #6: Ignoring Existing Damage
The majority of rental leases include a damage deposit that the landlord holds in order to pay for any damage the tenant may cause during the duration of their stay on the property. Generally, the renter will receive a checklist of items within the property that they can record the condition of before they move in. While moving into a new place often has a lot of moving parts, it is necessary to take the time to fill out this form and document any damages that were already there before you moved in. Make sure to give this form to your landlord immediately to ensure you aren’t charged for those damages when your lease is up. Not doing so can add up to a frightening expense when it is time to move out.
Mistake #7: Falling for Rental Scams
Possibly one of the most important reasons to check out a property in person is that in today’s world of Internet scammers, renters who don’t do their due diligence can fall prey to rental scams. Rental scams are everywhere these days: Craigslist, Zillow, and more have all had users that fall victim to a scam, being duped out of hundreds, even thousands, of dollars. In these situations, it is not uncommon for the “landlord” to tell the potential renter that they are out of the country, requesting a check in the mail in exchange for the keys. Unfortunately, when it's time to get those keys and move in, the “landlord” is long gone. To avoid this situation, be sure to get into the rental property and meet either the person who's renting it or a licensed real estate agent. You’ll be glad you did.
Tired of renting but don't know if you are prepared to buy a home? Talk to a lender about your mortgage possibilities! Or if you just want to store up your knowledge of the homebuying process for the future, download our free (and exclusive) San Antonio Buyer’s Guide!