Monthly Archives: March 2015

Ready to Sign Your First Lease? Pay Attention to These Things…

Moving into an apartment or house is exciting, especially if you’re doing it for the first time. Before you move in, you will generally be required to sign a lease, which is a formal and binding contract between you and a landlord. You should be aware of certain details before you sign such a document in order to be sure you are making the best possible decision.

Read the Lease—All of It

If you’re tempted to just skim through the terms of the lease and sign quickly, you should resist that impulse and read every word of the document. All leases are not created equal, and a potential landlord may not be concerned about whether you’ve read everything before you sign. Once you sign your name on that lease, you are legally required to meet its terms until the contract expires, so it’s in your best interest to know exactly what you’re responsible for doing.

The property owner should be willing to answer any questions you may have about the terms and conditions of the lease. However, if you don’t understand all of the terms of the contract, you may want to show the lease to someone else who can help you make sense of it. A relative or friend with experience in such matters is more likely to have your best interests at heart than a prospective landlord will be. If a landlord or property manager isn’t willing to allow you the time you need to read a lease, you should probably look elsewhere. If you want to take a copy of the lease home to read it at your convenience, a potential landlord should be okay with that, too.

Fees and Additional Charges

While every aspect of a lease is legally binding and therefore relevant, you will want to look at some specific details very closely. Be sure to scrutinize the lease for fees that a property manager may neglect to mention. Such fees might include charges for inspecting and cleaning your place once you move out (even if you clean it yourself, a landlord may choose to hire a professional to clean the carpets, for example). Look closely at the fees a landlord charges if you’re late paying the rent, and be certain that you are willing to pay such fees before you sign. If you have pets, be sure you ask about a pet deposit, and look at the lease to ensure that the pet deposit listed there reflects what the landlord has told you. Read the clause about security deposits and ask questions if necessary.

Examine the Clause Regarding Lease Termination

You may love the place that you’re moving into now, but that can change if you have obnoxious neighbors or the property is in a state of disrepair. Read the clause on lease termination carefully. Whether your lease renews monthly, semiannually, or yearly, you will probably be required to give a certain amount of notice before moving out, so be certain you know how much notice is required.

Inspect the Property

Don’t forget to inspect the property and the general area before you commit to the lease. Take dated photos of everything when you walk through the property. If anything is damaged, put the details in writing (and be sure your landlord signs it). Look outside to ensure that the property has adequate parking space for tenants. (Now’s a good time to scope out where your future guests can park, too!)

Moving into a new place can be a great experience. Take some time to explore the place you are considering. Read every detail of the lease, and don’t sign it if you don’t understand it or if you disagree with its terms. Good luck!

The Best Real Estate Apps for Renting & Buying

There once was a time when buying and renting property was strictly between the client and a real estate agent. These days, however, people have the advantage of access to the variety of online tools and websites dedicated to house hunting. The increasing ubiquity of mobile devices such as smartphones and the consequent explosion of apps has gifted house hunters with an even greater treasure trove of tools. Here are some of the best apps available for those in the market for renting and buying.

Zillow Apps

One of the best real estate packs for both Android and iOS users is Zillow. First: the grandfather of all real estate search apps, Zillow Real Estate, which was first released in 2009, offers info on over 100 million homes and apartments for sale and rent. Included are properties that are nearing or have already been foreclosed on. It utilizes the GPS location services of the device and users can also save filters, get estimates on properties, and calculate mortgage/rental rates. For those wishing only to look at rental properties, try out Zillow Rentals, which lets you contact the landlord directly through the app. The Mortgage Calculator & Mortgage Rates app is perfect for handling the financial calculations and gives customized quotes.


Trulia is one of the great apps out there for real estate. It offers a smooth and streamlined interface that makes it easy to use whether the user is looking for rentals or to buy. There’s a useful Layers feature that lets you see heat maps, local boundaries, amenities, and schools, giving the browser a virtual tour of the area without having to move. Other useful filters include square footage, price range, rooms, and location. Both iOS and Android users can take advantage of Trulia.

PadMapper Apartment Search

Another app for filter lovers is PadMapper. Those in the renting game will especially find the searches for full-term leases, roomshares, no fee or rental by owner only, and pets options extremely helpful. Accompanied by the online site, this app is great for narrowing the search down to exactly what the user wants. The app, however, isn’t always updated super quickly, and you may have to contact many locations to make up for the lag. PadMapper is compatible with iOS and Android devices.

This app by Move, Inc. is primarily a listing of agents, so for-sale-by-owner properties won’t be found here. However, the app is updated quickly and is extremely accurate. There are options for both renters and buyers as well as a set of standard property search filters. Some of the best features include the ability to specify the area you wish to search in, the constant updates, and the price labels that appear on the map. The app is available for both iOS and Android and works in perfect combination with the website.

If you’re in the market for a new place to live, whether you’re renting or buying, consider doing some hunting on your own using one of these real estate apps. They’ll help you gather information on what’s available, what you’re likely to spend, and more. And if you find that you’re in over your head, you can always go the old fashioned route and call a real estate agent for help. Happy hunting!