Conducting a Housing Search

Useful Tips
Looking for a home or apartment can be an overwhelming task. Useful tips to think about when searching for a place to live follow.

Know how much you can afford

Your rent or mortgage payment needs to allow you to buy other monthly necessities, such as:
  • Utilities
  • Phone
  • Food
  • Medical
  • Car payments
  • Insurance
  • Gas/ oil
  • Child care
  • Credit card bills
  • Similar expenses

Even if your rent or mortgage will be subsidized you still must be able to afford your other expenses.

Decide where you want to live
How far will you have to travel to and from work, medical or other appointments, and grocery shopping? Is public transportation available if needed? Drive through the area to see what it’s like.

Know what size apartment or house you will need
Think not only in terms of number of bedrooms, but also number of bathrooms and space necessary for all your belongings.

Be Ready to Discuss Your Credit History, Rental History, and Income
Do you know your credit score and credit history? (You can get free credit reports from the credit bureaus once a year). Poor previous rental histories can prevent you from being accepted for housing.

Landlords do not have to rent to you if they believe you won’t pay the rent on a regular, timely basis. If you have ever been evicted, or have a criminal record, a letter from your current landlord stating that your rent has been current and no criminal activity has been reported since you became a resident, and other references may help.

Bring income verification for all family members who will be on the lease.

Ask Questions Before Paying an Application Fee
Talk with the landlord about credit requirements to be considered a tenant. If you have problem credit, think carefully before paying application fees if there seems to be little chance that you will be accepted as a tenant.

Inspect the Unit Before You Sign a Lease
Make sure that the residence is clean, safe, and that the water, heat, air conditioning, lights and plumbing all work. Inspect windows and doors, appliances, walls, ceilings, electrical outlets, closets and floors to make sure there are no holes or other hazards. Ask the landlord to put in writing his/her plans for any required maintenance or repairs noticed in the walkthrough.

Review the Lease Carefully Before Signing
The lease commits you to paying a large portion of your monthly earnings for a long period of time. Ask questions on the parts of the lease you don’t understand. There are no stupid questions!