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Ask McEnearney: What do I need to know before renting a home?

This week’s Q&A column, sponsored and written by McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria, is a bit of a departure from our usual format. To learn more about this article and relevant Alexandria market news, contact us at 703-549-9292. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: What do I need to know before renting a home?

Answer: Previously we reviewed the Blueprint for a Renter Bill of Rights, the Federal Government’s recommendations for how to make rental housing more equitable and expand renters’ rights when it comes to rent increases, lease terms, and evictions. This week we’ll take a look at the rental market from the Realtor® perspective.

McEnearney Associates recently convened a “Masterclass” with several of our top agents who have made a name for themselves as rental experts — both for tenants and landlords — as well as staff from our Property Management team. It was a lively discussion and we’re sharing some of the tips and processes that Lauren Budik (McLean), Ann Duff (Alexandria), and Sarah Picot (Arlington) believe will make the rental process more efficient and less stressful for everyone involved.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for our recommendations for Landlords.

For Tenants 

DON’T: Start your search too early. We understand, it’s exciting to imagine your next home and see all the options out there. But if you are looking to move in May and want to start looking in January, you will be spinning your wheels. Most leases require a 60-day notice to vacate, and the landlord will look to turn them over quickly. Most landlords will not hold a property if you’re not ready to make a move on their terms.

DO: Understand that most leasing documents are standardized and will have to be completed before or during the rental search. Expect to sign a representation agreement that spells out the responsibilities of both you and your agent, review, and sign disclosures about the property, and understand that leases are standard forms used by most landlords and brokerages in the area. Changing boilerplate clauses or asking for too many changes in terms likely won’t be possible.

DON’T: Hide or be shy about sharing credit issues. Financial setbacks happen and the best way to work around them is to let your agent know if there are credit dings that could affect your rental application. Your agent will help to strategize on the best approach, such as offering to pre-pay several months of rent in advance. A letter explaining how your credit was affected and what you’ve done to repair it can go a long way in assuring a cooperative landlord that past issues have been resolved.

DO: Have a good amount of cash ready for securing a property. Between the first month’s rent, security deposits, pet fees, building move-in/move-out fees, and other moving costs, you may need an outlay of several thousand dollars just to secure a lease. Make sure you’ve set a reasonable budget and saved your money for those immediate payments.

DO: Work with a Realtor®! You’ve heard it before: inventory is extremely tight and great properties go quickly. Having a leasing agent working with you in your housing search ensures that you get access to listed properties quickly (and safely), that your application will be submitted correctly with the proper documentation. Helping clients find the right home is what Realtors® do every day so use their expertise to your advantage in this competitive market!

If you would like a question answered in our weekly column or to set up an appointment with one of our Associates, please email: [email protected] or call 703.549.9292.

McEnearney Associates Realtors®, 109 S. Pitt Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. Equal Housing Opportunity. #WeAreAlexandria

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