Being a homeowner is a big responsibility, costing you more money, time, and resources. Especially for those who live in a big city where rent payments can be less expensive than mortgage payments. As a renter, you don’t have to worry about property taxes, home maintenance and upkeep, insurance, or repairs. In fact, you are legally entitled to some of those things thanks to landlord-tenant laws.
Still, apartment living is not a one-size-fits all for renters, especially as you get older and your family might be growing. Some folks require more space – which is why renting a single family home is appealing.
A single family home is “a structure maintained and used as a single dwelling unit.” It can be a house, townhouse, or another type of building. Renting a single-family home has some unique advantages to look for amidst your property search:
No wall-sharing: When you rent a single-family home, you won’t have to share common walls or a roof with any other home or property.
Your own foundation: You can rent a home built on its own plot of land.
More privacy: When you rent a single-family home, you'll have your own private entrance and direct access to a street. This is as opposed to an apartment, which has shared hallways, entrances, common areas, and exits.
Your own utilities: Another perk of a single-family home is being the sole person responsible for your property’s utilities. This applies to heating, electricity, water, or any other essential service.
Your own kitchen: Single-family homes usually have a kitchen larger size than what a studio or one bedroom would offer. Also the kitchen is located inside your home, rather down the hall. So you won’t have to worry about chatting with a stranger while you cook your dinner!
Now that you know what a single-family home is, and the benefits of renting one, here are our steps as to how to find the single family rental home that suits your needs.
This may seem like a given, but the most important thing is to first and foremost check your credit score. For better or for worse, a credit report will determine where you can afford to live and what landlords will be willing to screen you as an applicant. You can find your credit score on sites such as CreditKarma, Experian, and AnnualCreditReport.com.
If your credit score isn’t the strongest, or if you don’t have any credit history, it’s not the end of the world. You can still rent with the help of a guarantor, or you may be able to sway your landlord in the following ways:
a letter from your employer demonstrating your standing as an employee
a letter of recommendation from a former landlord
pay stubs and bank account statements
These are all important things a landlord will take into consideration during a tenant screening and when running a background check and a credit check. A landlord may have many potential tenants, so it’s important to make yourself stand out (in a good way).
In real estate, the common saying is: location, location, location – but a close second should be price, price, price. It might help to have a visual outlook on how things appear in a spreadsheet to figure out if you can afford to rent a single-family home, which can typically cost you more than an apartment. A great rule of thumb is the 50/30/20 rule: budget 50% for your needs (including rent), 20% for your savings, and 30% for your wants. Also, always make sure to factor renters insurance into your budget.
Once you’ve completed these three steps, you’ll be ready to start looking. You can find some fantastic places on Zillow, Craigslist, Trulia, Facebook Marketplace, and Realtor.com and keep an eye out for any properties with open houses or virtual tours available.
Try and find as much you can about who is putting up the listing. Is it a real estate agent listing it, the owner themselves, or maybe someone posting on behalf of a property management company? Try identifying as much of the contact information as you can for the listing (email, phone number, etc), so that you can reach out with ease.
ProTip: If something feels too good to be true, it probably is. Always be mindful of how to spot a rental scam and be sure to peruse listings with a watchful eye. Rental scams can happen to the best of us.
When it comes to actually scoping out your potential new home, seeing is believing. Think of yourself as a detective looking to solve a case and be sure to scan every nook and cranny. Here are some suggestions of things to keep a watchful eye for:
What is the layout of the space? Does it have enough privacy?
Is there enough room in the living room to entertain guests?
How many outlets are there? Will you need to invest in power strips?
Are there signs of water damage or mold?
What is the storage situation like? Is there a hall closet, basement, or attic you can use?
Does the kitchen have an ample amount of counter space?
Keep a lookout for the ceiling – are there any signs of leaks?
Does it have air conditioning or heating? Will the property owner change the air filters?
Are there smoke detectors? If so, do they work?
Is there an in-unit washer and dryer? If not, how far is the nearest laundromat?
If at all possible, try to travel to and from your place of work (or even from spots you frequently visit, if your office is remote) during rush hour. This can make a huge difference in a prospective place if your commute is long.
Once you’ve checked off all the boxes, it’s time to get a sense of a few important questions. Be sure to ask the broker or property manager these questions before filling out the rental application:
How much is needed for a security deposit? Is there an application fee? Can I use Rhino?
Assess how long the landlord intends to rent – is this a property they intend to live in down the line? How long are they looking to host a tenant for?
Is there an HOA (Homeowners Association) in the neighborhood?
What is the move-in date?
What is the guest policy?
What is the roommate policy?
What is the maintenance policy?
Are you allowed to decorate or re-paint a room?
Are you expected to mail or drop off a check, or can you pay your rent online?
Are there late fees, if so, when do they start accruing? How much money will you be expected to shell out if you pay a month’s rent late?
How much notice is given if you want to move out, or extend the lease agreement?
After you’ve gotten some clarity from the questions above, then it’s up to you if you want to fill out a rental application and sign a lease agreement.
In short, a single family home is its own private unit and is considerably different from an apartment building. Making sure your credit score and budget are in check are a must, and always make sure to ask as many questions as possible from the moment you tour the place up until the lease signing.
To save when you move into a single-family home, you can ask the property manager if they offer Rhino. Rhino offers security deposit insurance, which can save you thousands on move-in costs upfront. Rhino is offered for single-family homes as well as luxury apartments, so no matter what kind of home you’re looking for, you can skip the security deposit and move more affordably.