Renting Your First Home? Read Our Checklist First!
Taking that step and living independently as an adult for the first time is exciting, of that there’s no doubt. Even if you’ve been to university it’s not the same as it’s generally still a protected environment with some degree of parental support.
But once you have a ‘proper’ job and think you’re ready to make your own way with no safety net, it’s a heady feeling to start browsing the ‘to let’ adverts and imagining a home of your own.
Just remember to keep your head out of the clouds when it comes to the practicalities. Whether you’re planning to live alone or share with a friend, keep these points in mind:
- Be realistic about your budget.
This is the most important thing to remember as it will affect how comfortably you live. You need to have enough money to pay not just your rent but your bills, as well as to buy food and other sundries. If you’re paying more than 30% of your income just on rent, you’re likely to struggle to meet all the other costs and will inevitably have to cut down on any luxuries.
Make a list of all the other regular outgoings you’ll have, along with estimated costs. Utilities – electricity, gas and water – are the obvious ones, plus there’s likely to be council tax. You’ll probably want internet and a telephone, and what about television – can you live without Sky Sports or the movie channels? At the very least, you’ll need a television licence. If you’ve got a mobile phone or subscribe to Netflix or any other services, you’ll need to take that into account too.
- How will you get from A to B?
If you have your own car or motorbike, then the costs of that – insurance, fuel etc – will be part of your budget. Is there parking, on or off-street? Will you have to pay for a permit?
If you’re relying on public transport to get to work, into town or for a night out, make sure your new home is close enough to bus stops, the train station or the nearest taxi rank for your needs. That dream place might lose its sheen if you’ve got a 40-minute walk in the rain twice a day during the winter.
- What will your moving-in costs be?
Make sure you’re aware of any advance charges – you can expect to pay a security bond and at least one month’s rent upfront. Find out if there are any fees to pay for your rental application or credit checks.
If it’s a furnished property, check what’s included and whether you need to provide items like crockery and cooking utensils yourself. If it’s unfurnished, then the list becomes a whole lot longer. If you don’t have friends or relatives with spare furniture to put your way, then auction houses, online classified adverts and local social media buy-and-sell sites are good places to source reasonably-priced, quality second-hand items
- Will you need a guarantor?
If you’re moving into your first place, then chances are you will need someone to co-sign your rental agreement. This is someone who vouches for your commitment by also signing the contract and agreeing to take legal responsibility for your rent if you are unable to pay it. If your income is below a certain level or you have a poor credit history then this may also be required.
If you think this might apply to you then find someone in advance who is willing to sign - this is likely to be a parent or another close relative.
- Take out contents insurance.
Even if you are renting somewhere furnished and there is some insurance in place, it’s still wise to buy your own policy to protect your personal items. Your phone, iPad and laptop are all worth a considerable sum, not to mention a games console if you have one, DVDs, clothes, books and other possessions. Our belongings are always more valuable than we think and it’s wise to be protected against anything that might mean they need replacing.
- Thinking of a house-share?
Even if you’re planning to move in with your best friend in the world, you need to make sure there are ground-rules in place. Chances are only one of you can be the official tenant, so you’ll need a second agreement between the two of you to make sure financial obligations are clear.
It’s a good idea to set up a separate, joint bank account into which you can each pay your share of the rent, any bills and money for shared household items like cleaning products and food basics.
Don’t just assume you’ll be able to work out it all out between you – agree on how you’ll tackle chores and rules for keeping shared space tidy or having overnight guests. Even the best of friends can fall out when one never does the washing-up so pre-empt problems by discussing them first.
Don’t forget your letting agent can be a valuable source of advice. It’s in their interests to make sure you’re happy with your chosen new home so ask questions and make the most of their expertise to find the right property for you.