Rental Market Samson Realty Northern VA Real Estate For Rent

Fore Rent: Renting a Place to Live

If purchasing a home is not practical or desirable, renting an apartment or house is the obvious alternative. If you haven't already targeted a neighborhood, ask friends or coworkers for suggestions. If you're moving because of a job change, the human resources department of your company may be able to provide some information. Visit potential neighborhoods and check out the features that are important to you (e.g., access to public transportation, shopping, etc.).

How easy it will be for you to find and rent an apartment depends primarily on the area where you choose to live. For example, in some major metropolitan areas (e.g., Los Angeles, New York), the price of real estate is high, so competition is fierce for reasonably priced rentals in clean, safe neighborhoods. In those areas, it could take time, legwork, and a little help from friends to find an acceptable rental. In high price/high competition areas, you could consider moving a little way out from the city-you're likely to have more choice at more affordable prices.

Use newspaper "For Rent" ads to get a sense of the market (e.g., availability, price) in your targeted neighborhood(s). These ads are a useful resource, but you may need to learn to read between the lines. For example, "cute" may mean small, "charming" may mean old, and" prestigious" may be code for expensive. If you use ads, call or show up early. Remember, a lot of other people are reading them, too.

Other resources include real estate agents and apartment-locating services. The usual charge for a real estate agent's service is the equivalent of one month's rent, which is sometimes, but not always, paid by the property owner. Find out who is responsible before making a commitment, and get it in writing.

If incentives are being offered to potential renters (e.g., one month's free rent) it's an indication that the rental market is soft; that is, property owners are in competition for renters. If you find this in your area, you may be able to bargain, either on the rent, or on extras like new paint, appliances, or carpet.

There are many Internet sites devoted to linking renters with property owners. Some of these sites are free - they're paid for by the advertising they promote; some may require you to "subscribe" - usually a small fee; and others may be sponsored by real estate agencies. If you have access to a computer, it may be worth a few hours of your time to see if there are Internet sites that target the geographic area you're interested in.

Affordability and Location

Exactly how much you have to spend to rent an acceptable apartment will depend on the rental market in your area. In general, try to spend no more than 25 percent of your monthly gross income on rent. For example, if you earn $30,000 per year, or $2,500 per month, you set your limit at $625 per month. If you spend a higher proportion of your salary on rent, you may find your budget comes up short in other important areas, like savings and entertainment.

Consider the following when checking out a neighborhood:

  • Distance from work
  • Traffic in the area
  • Safety of the neighborhood
  • Proximity to good schools, stores, services
  • Public transportation options
  • Parking availability or restrictions
  • Whether it is a good "fit" (e.g., if you have children, you'll probably want families with children nearby)

Protect Your Interests

Before you sign a lease, inspect the rental unit for physical damage and/or safety violations. Take photos (or make a videotape) of existing damage, date them, and get the landlord to sign them. Insist that safety violations be corrected before you move in, and ask that agreed-upon repairs be noted in the lease.

Some items to investigate/evaluate:

  • Smoke detectors - the recommended number, in good working order.
  • Locks - on all doors and windows (ask if the locks will be changed or if you can change them at your own expense).
  • Appliances - safe and in good working order.
  • Outdoor lighting - sufficient for safety and security.
  • Lead and/or radon hazards-has the unit been tested and found safe?

In apartment buildings, look at these additional items:

  • Emergency exit signs in hallways; emergency exit doors unlocked.
  • Mailboxes- in good repair, with a lock in accessible area.
  • Fire extinguishers in recommended places with current inspection tags.
  • Stairs well lighted, well maintained.
  • Elevators with current safety inspections.
  • Common facilities (e.g., laundry) well lighted, well maintained.

Find out about your prospective neighbors. Do they have children? Animals? Do you hear a lot of noise from other units? Do you hear loud music? If you think a neighbor's lifestyle may impact yours, now is the time to consider other options.

The Dotted Line

Once you've chosen a house or apartment, your landlord will ask you to sign a lease - a legally binding contract between a landlord and tenant. The lease must contain your name, the landlord's name, the address of the apartment, the amount of rent and the payment schedule. In addition, a lease may spell out the following:

  • The landlord's specific responsibility - if any - for maintenance (e.g., painting) and repairs.
  • Rules about pets.
  • Specific appliances included in the rental.
  • Who is responsible for each utility (e.g., water, electricity)?
  • Physical changes you are or are not permitted to make to the apartment (e.g., wallpaper).
  • Rules for terminating the lease early (e.g., subletting).
  • Amount of security deposit, if any, and terms and conditions for return of the deposit.

Read your lease carefully before you sign it. Find out exactly what you can expect from your landlord (e.g., regarding repairs) and get it in writing. Laws governing landlord/tenant requirements and relationships vary from state to state. If you have a dispute with your landlord, contact your state rental or housing agency to find out what remedies may be available to you. Never sign a lease if you are uncomfortable with any part of it.

The landlord will probably require a security deposit, usually the equivalent of one or two months' rent. A security deposit is intended to pay for damages to the apartment that occur while you are a tenant. A landlord may also be allowed to keep the security deposit if you fail to pay rent or leave before the end of your lease. Security deposits are refundable if you fulfill your lease agreement and leave your apartment in good repair.

Insurance protection. The owner will insure the building. To protect your personal property, though, you will need to buy a renter's policy. Your rental insurance policy will typically protect you against losses from:

  • Damage to your personal property from fire and/or wind
  • Theft
  • Personal liability if you are sued over accidental injury that occurs in your apartment
  • Living expenses if you are forced to live elsewhere while your apartment is being repaired

Policies may differ from state to state and among insurance companies. Consult an insurance representative to determine the type of policy appropriate for your situation.

Samson  |  About John Thompson  |  Samson Realty  |  VA Real Estate

John Thompson, REALTOR Associate - Samson Realty
14526 Lee Rd., Suite 100  -  Chantilly, VA 20151
Mobile: 703.606.0475  - Fax: 703.896.5037

Samson Realty Rental Properties - Landlord Representation - Tenant Representation

Real Estate Rental Market: As a service to the public and to promote future business or serve future clients I attempt to assist in one rental transaction per month. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of money in the rental real estate market for real estate agents. The time and effort helping a Landlord rent an investment property or helping a tenant find a rental condo, rental townhouse or rental home is just not adequately rewarded when time and effort are balanced against rental commissions. Northern VA Homes for rent, Rent to Own, Rent with Option to Buy. Samson Realty has recently launched a rental property management division and I look forward to future assistance from within Samson Realty's Property Management Office.

This Rental Page is made available as a public service to Landlords and Tenants of Northern Virginia including the following jurisdictions: Fairfax County, Arlington County, Loudoun County, Prince William County, Fauquier County, Alexandria City, Falls Church City and  Fairfax City. No warranties or representations are implied or intended and all information contained herein should be confirmed or verified by the reader.

Copyright 2005-2008 John Thompson - Samson Realty, LLC