Today in the UK, nearly a fifth of all households are occupied by private tenants as soaring house prices, a lack of council properties, and stagnating wages hit hard. As rental payments have increased, one of the best ways to keep a handle on your finances is to find a new rental property that costs a bit less. But doing so isn't exactly an easy task.
If you make up one of the four-and-a-half million households currently renting, but want to swap to a new property and reduce your costs, how can you do so in the cheapest and most stress-free way possible, and how can you predict just how much the move will cost? Read on to learn more….
Draw up a budget
Before you start looking for a new home, find out how much you can spend on rent, utilities, bills, and other fees. Take your regular income, subtract your average monthly costs, and factor in any deposit amounts or fees that might be levelled against you by landlords or estate agents as you move through the process.
You should constantly reference your budget as you complete the necessary steps to finding a new home. If you don't, you might end up moving into a property you can't afford, or could be hit by charges that might ruin your best-laid plans.
Know the market
When you first start looking for a new rental property, make sure you have a good idea of the average prices in the area you're wanting to live in. It's also a good idea to check out the crime statistics, transport links, and if you have children, the number and quality of local schools.
The more you know about a particular area, the more likely you will be to find – or negotiate – a great deal, and will ensure that you experience no unwelcome surprises after you've signed the contract and moved in.
Be a savvy property hunter
There are all sorts of means with which you can find a new rental home. Property websites, estate agent windows, apps – there are a huge number of options, so spend an afternoon checking the various avenues and see what your options are.
Using a letting agent is an easy option, but when talking with them about what you want from your new home, be completely clear in saying what you do and don't want, offering as much feedback as possible after the viewings take place.
When you're drawing up a list of properties and viewing them, don't settle on the first property you find. Try and pack as many potential homes as you can view into a two day window – you don't want to waste time as someone else might snap up your chosen property – and make lots of notes during the viewings, taking a few snaps on your phone too. Act in an upstanding, polite and professional way – the landlord wants to know they are signing a tenant they can entrust their property with, after all.
Ask the agent or landlord what the deposit, charges, and fees will be, and inspect every square inch of the property – any imperfections and breakages will help you haggle. It also makes sense to test if your phone gets a signal, if the kitchen is roomy enough for food preparation, and if the electrics and plumbing are in good order.
Sit down and pore through your notes, making sure you're fully aware of the prices, pros, and cons of all of the properties on offer, and you should be in a position to make a totally informed decision.
Find out what's provided
Many properties come with furnishings included. However, you should find out exactly what will be present in your new home when you move in. It goes without saying that a fair amount of the items within the property will be owned by the existing tenants, although you should never second-guess – or else you may be forced to pay a large sum for new furniture when you move in, or live in a rather bare home!
Scour the contract
It might seem boring, but you don't want to be hit by any nasty surprises that might lie within the contract. If you're unsure of anything that's contained within the document, seek independent legal advice before signing. It also pays to make sure that any agreements between you and the landlord are reflected in the contract.
Some landlords may use the contract as a way to scrape back deposit funds from you when you eventually move on. Stipulations that call for daily cleaning, constant maintenance and so forth are not on, and should be brought up with the landlord or letting agent.
Get your deposit back
As you pack up your things and get ready for moving day, it is essential that you take all possible action to make your soon-to-be ex-property look just as it did when you moved in. If you took pictures on moving day, use these as a reference – and if you didn't, then simply scrub.
Give the house a deep clean in every room, removing all non-inventoried items and rubbish. Any damage on the walls should be plastered and painted over, and all items on the inventory should be in good condition – replace items if they're broken. After the entire house is spick and span, take pictures of every part of the house, just in case your landlord or agency decides to charge you for damage anyway.
When you move in
When moving your items into your new home, either by car or by moving van, the first thing you should do is ask your landlord where important things such as the thermostat, stopcock, energy metres, fuse box, and aerial sockets are. Also ask them who the current energy, internet, and water providers are, taking meter readings and sending these to the existing providers to ensure you don't get charged for the previous tenants' usage.
Next, take photos of the entire property and ensure that all of the items on the inventory are present and accounted for. Then, contact any companies that are likely to send you mail and let them know that you have changed address. If you're not sure of any particular organisations that you need to contact, ask the Royal Mail to redirect your mail for a few months and contact the providers whose mail is sent to you.
If you're in need of furniture, check with family and friends to see if they have any items lying around that you could potentially have, and check out sites such as Freecycle, where users can find free furnishings in their area. Charity shops and second-hand furniture stores are also useful resources for those that are looking to save and don't want to spend on new items. Need electrical devices and appliances? Head for the sales and discount retailers. Soon you'll be all moved in, without breaking the bank.