You probably think first of an apartment when it comes to renting a place to live. But it’s also possible to rent a single-family home. Let’s consider the differences between apartments and rental homes and how the process of renting a home works.
Differences between renting a home vs. an apartment
- Space. Usually, a rental home will offer more space than an apartment. Sure, you can rent a two or three-bedroom apartment, but a rental home will still likely have greater square footage, as well as a front and/or backyard. A house may even have a patio, which will probably be more substantial than the postage-stamp-sized one an apartment might offer. A rental home may have more closets than an apartment, an attic and/or basement, and possibly your own garage.
- Amenities. Rental homes generally offer fewer amenities than today’s apartment complexes, which often provide pools, hot tubs, a meeting/party room, exercise facilities and more. A rental house might have a hot tub, a pool, or access to a neighborhood pool, but not the wide range of amenities today’s apartments offer.
- Privacy. A rental home offers more privacy than an apartment, where you may have neighbors — and their noise — above you, below you, and on both sides.
- Parking. Renting a house means having your own driveway and garage. Unless you pay extra for your own space at an apartment complex, you could end up without a garage and have to park some distance from your place.
- Maintenance. With an apartment, you generally don’t have to lift a finger toward maintenance. The landscape is cared for, your broken dishwasher is repaired for you and a worker even stops by to change your air conditioning filter. With a rental home, the landlord usually handles repairs, but he may expect you to perform simple maintenance such as replacing HVAC filters and mowing and trimming the landscaping.
- Cost. It’s not a hard and fast rule, but renting a home generally costs more than an apartment.
The rental process
If you decide to lease a rental home, you may deal directly with the owner, or you may deal with a management company the owner has hired to handle leasing, rent collection and maintenance and repairs. Each state has tenant protection laws that apply to the rental of houses and apartments alike. As with an apartment, a home rental agreement will address the following:
- The length of the lease.
- The monthly rental cost.
- When and how payments are due each month.
- The security deposit, as well as a pet deposit if animals are allowed.
- The utilities you will be responsible for paying, as well as whether you are responsible for any homeowners association dues.
- Liability for damages to the home.
- The tenant’s responsibility, if any, for maintenance and/or repair.
- Terms under which the lease can be terminated early. Sometimes landlords, if given 30 days’ notice, will release you from the remainder of a lease if a new tenant can be found right away.
- If you are renting a home, before signing the lease ask whether you can make decorative changes, such as painting a room. Remember not to sink too much money into decorating a house that isn’t yours.
Look to the future
Suppose you move into a rental home and like it so much you want to stay there permanently. In such a case, you may be able to negotiate a rent-to-own lease with the homeowner, where your monthly rental payments count toward a down payment on purchasing the property. Often landlords who rent out a home they own plan to sell the house at some point and will be interested in such a transaction.
Related – Buying Versus Renting: The Pros and Cons