You’ve found the perfect apartment or house to rent, and you’re ready to sign on the dotted line and move into your dream home. Not so fast! Before you sign the lease, make sure you’ve calculated all your living costs, including unexpected expenses, so that you aren’t blindsided with bills you didn’t plan for.
The only thing worse than not moving into that dream space would be losing it because you can’t afford to live there anymore. Here are the expenses you need to consider.
In addition to your rent, you’ll have a variety of add-on expenses, depending on the lease agreement. This section might include water, sewer, trash removal and heating and cooling costs. Many landlords cover items such as water and sewer because if these bills aren’t paid in some localities, a lien may be placed on the property.
Ask before you sign whether or not trash pickup is included. It typically is in apartments, but not as often in homes and smaller units. It’s rare for a rental to include your heating and cooling. If any of these items aren’t included, ask for a typical range per month so that you know what to expect.
Not all rentals, especially if in the city, come with free parking. You’ll need to either make a decision to park on the street — which is challenging when events are going on and may make your car less safe — or pay for parking, which adds to your monthly expenses.
Ask your potential landlord what the deal is when you’re touring, and look up street parking rules (if applicable) to learn more about permits, street cleaning, and winter snow removal. You may even try to use this information to negotiate the overall cost of your rent or parking fees.
That one-bedroom that was $700 per month becomes $775 per month when you factor in the cost to pay for a nearby parking lot space. Trust me, I know the pain — it’s a sacrifice I ended up making to live in a downtown center.
Keep in mind that you’ll need renter’s insurance to cover your personal belongings. While most rentals do have insurance to cover the structure itself, it won’t cover the items you own. You must secure a separate policy. Rates will vary depending on the area where you live and how much coverage you need.
The average cost of renter’s insurance varies by state, but nationwide is about $187 per year. While that isn’t a huge amount of money, if you’re on an extremely tight budget, it could make or break you.
- Unplanned Expenses
Don’t forget to budget in a miscellaneous or emergency fund. Things will happen that you didn’t plan for. Perhaps you got a parking ticket because you didn’t realize you couldn’t park in that spot (I made this mistake too many times when I first moved). Maybe your car needed a repair unexpectedly.
A good rule of thumb for those getting their first apartment is to first save up a $1,000 to $2,000 emergency fund. This amount should cover most minor repair bills or the little things that happen that you didn’t plan for. Of course, you’ll also need all the typical deposits and first and last month’s rent on hand as well as money to pay deposits for utilities.
If you have a pet or plan to get one, you should know that most apartments charge a pet deposit and small monthly fee to cover any damage potentially caused by that pet. Occasionally, you’ll find a rental that doesn’t charge this fee, but it’s rare.
You should also budget for damages your pet might cause. For example, if your cat claws up the carpet, you’ll want to get it repaired so that you don’t have to live with frayed carpeting the entire time you rent. Plus, it will be cheaper for you to make the repair than trust the landlord to fix the problem for a reasonable fee.
- Flakey Roommates
Perhaps you’re ready to move out, but you need a roommate in order to afford living on your own. The problem is that some roommates are flaky and don’t pay their share of the bills in a timely manner or sometimes ever.
If your name is on the lease, you should protect your living situation by having the other person sign an agreement. If they don’t pay their share, you may have to ask them to leave so that you can get a roommate who will share the bills. Prepare for this scenario by setting aside extra funds to cover your roommate’s portion for a couple of months if needed.
Before You Sign the Lease
These issues are all factors to consider before you sign the lease and take the leap into paying for that place you’ve always dreamed of. Renting can be a positive experience or a horrendous one, and planning ahead helps smooth the edges to make it as good as possible.