Top 10 Tips to Make a Rental a Home

1. Good Landlord or Rental Manager
One of the most important qualities of a good (rental) home is the landlord. Does he scramble to come fix your leaking dishwasher the next day or wait a week because he’s so busy? Is he hiding any fees or facts from you and other tenants? Vet your landlord or apartment manager. Ask them how long they’ve been in business. More experienced ones will likely provide better management and have better tenant relations.

I once signed a year-long lease and two days after moving in watched scaffolding go up around the whole building—a year-long construction project. My roommate and I negotiated our rent down significantly after that day. Kelley, a Seattle-area college student says, “My housemates and I just learned that we share our utilities bill with our neighbor unit which is why our bills never made sense when we calculated it out ourselves.”

2. Walkable Location, Location, Location
Being close to amenities like school, shops, cafes can expand your sense of home. Pick an area populated with places that tailor to your needs, tastes, style. Living in highly walkable areas is better for your pocketbook, health and the environment. Chances are you’ll meet new people who also hang out in local hubs, expanding your social circle. If you live alone, this can give you a sense of community. Find the Walk Score of any address. Search for apartments & rentals.

3. Soundproofing
Do you have neighbors that like to listen to Justin Bieber and other questionable “artists?” Exercise your right to listen to sounds of your choosing by renting a place with proper soundproofing. Nothing disturbs a sense of home sanctuary like music or noise that doesn’t jive with your mood or taste.

4. Distance from Busy, Loud Streets
A walkable area doesn’t need to be loud. If you cannot sleep or get any work done because your apartment is smack in the middle of a loud intersection, then maybe it is not the right place for you to live (even with adequate soundproofing). Visit the rental unit during the day and again in the evening and stand still with windows both open, then closed. You’ll get a roughly 24-hour sense of sound day and night before you commit to a lease.

5. Neighborhood Safety
A good apartment can ruin itself if it’s placed in a bad neighborhood. No one wants to stress about the chance of break-ins or being mugged when coming home late. Make sure you’re aware of any crime in the area before you decide to move in. Call the local police department to get crime rates or talk to a few surrounding neighbors. Buyers do this as part of routine due diligence before they buy a house. Renters should do the same.

6. Ability to Customize Space
Some landlords will charge a fee if you decide to paint the walls or drill holes for shelving in your apartment. Make sure you’re aware of this before you decide your living room couch looks nicer in a yellowish hue than boring white walls. You may be able to negotiate making select changes with your landlord. Perhaps prove you are a reliable renter for a few months before asking to change curtains, paint, etc.

7. Pet & Pest Control
Can you keep a pet? It’s definitely a plus if you’re allowed to live with your best furry friend. Don’t lie. Pet-friendly apartments and rentals exist. You just need to spend a little more time to find the right place. On the flip side—don’t by shy to ask the apartment manager about past and recent bug infestations that have occurred in the complex before you move in. Even if things look in the clear, it’s best to avoid infestations at all costs, so set up traps in case any bugs try to move into your furniture.

8. Neighbors
Good neighbors who are good people is an important factor for a good home. Ones who are clean, somewhat quiet and friendly enough to loan you a cup of sugar are likely to help you out if you get locked out, need to use a phone, etc.

9. Your Facility
Does your apartment have a gym? Pool? Laundry room? Bike rack? Extras that come with your complex are something to be aware of as you decide where you want to live. Shop around to find the best facility amenities for your lifestyle.

10. Parking
Are you given a spot to park your car? If so, are you charged for it? Having a secured parking spot at your place reduces stress in finding or paying for a parking spot. However, some landlords will charge you a hefty quarterly fee for it, so investigate before finding your perfect apartment.

Search for apartments and rental units by Walk Score.


  1. Chris Saracino

    Great piece Jocelyn!

  2. Tracey March

    Having a great property manager can make all the difference. Are repairs done on time? Is your property manager too intrusive? Are your calls returned? Having a reliable property manager who understands how to keep good tenants and who gets the job done makes your life easier, and makes you feel more at home.
    As for pets: a 2003 study found that pet-friendly rentals actually get higher rents and longer tenancies. Being allowed to keep your furry friends can definitely make your rental feel more like a home. Tenants are willing to pay for that and when they find it, and they’re more likely to stay longer.
    Thanks for the article :-) Walkscore provides such a great service.

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