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Renting a Home: What To Look For

Renting a home is quite a task, as it requires the right time, timing, planning ahead, and communication with the landlords or agents you will be working with in your search. After all, you want it to be exactly the right place for you and whomever you will be sharing the space with, especially if you are moving to a different city. There is a lot to learn and the good news is, once you have the right steps mastered, the search for your new home can be fun. For many people, finding exactly the right place simply takes experience and most folks who are happy in their homes have moved more than once in their life. They have lived alone and with other people, and maybe they have worked both on their own and with a real estate company to find the right place. If you are new to finding rentals, don’t worry. This article will provide a brief synopsis of what you want to do and in what order. It will also provide you with detailed information about two cities that are great to start out in and compare what they have to offer - Spokane, Washington, and Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Finding a Rental Home: Key Steps

Before the fun begins, there are a few steps that you need to take in order to set your rental ducks in a row once you have found some places in your online search. Here they are, briefly:

  • Make sure to tap into all rental markets. The good news is, there are search engines and online tools beyond Craigslist, including MyNewPlace.com and individual Realtor© sites. Be sure to get a sense of how private owners and Realtors price the homes they display for a higher level of comparison.
  • Know or learn the features of a standard lease and each party’s responsibilities. Take some time to do the research here! As in all cases where you are signing a contract, you want to know what it says and what it obligates you to do. A lease protects you as well as your landlord, so make sure it also holds him or her responsible to the legal conditions that are applicable to a lessor according to your state and area.
  • Walk around the neighborhood where the house is listed. Get a sense of what is nearby, how you will travel, what your neighbors are like, and generally decide whether you will like your new neighborhood. Doing a long distance move? Do a Google search for images and blogs, or perhaps call up friends who live in or know the area. Also, be ready with any paperwork you might need and a checkbook, especially in high demand cities and neighborhoods where there are unofficial first-come, first-serve practices.
  • Do an in-person viewing of the home. This is often the fun part, because you can let your imagination run when you are looking at the space you imagine might be your future home. Don’t forget to check for more practical things, too, including whether the walls and floors are in good condition, the presence of dripping or leaky faucets, and whether or not the caulking in the bathroom serves its purpose.
  • Communicate. Don’t be afraid to ask your potential future landlord questions! Sometimes, they will offer the information to you in good faith. Also run by your visit with anybody you will be living with, whether or not they were there with you.
  • If you feel the price is too high, don’t be afraid to negotiate - when possible. It is not typically possible to do this in areas where there is a high demand for rental homes, as the landlord will simply find someone else who will jump on the property. However, if there is a reason to negotiate down, such as minor damage or a leaky faucet, and the landlord is interested in you, give it a shot.
  • Do a second spot check for damage and functionality in the house, even if you have signed the lease. This is where communication is key! Make sure the landlord knows that you are aware of anything that does not work to full capacity. This way, s/he can fix it and later, you will not be held responsible according to the conditions of the lease and the deposit.

    This is a list of the basic work involved in finding a rental property that is perfect for you - and yes, it will be work. There is also fun involved, as you get to establish roots in a new place, whether it is a new city or a new neighborhood! In this article, we have picked two places that are comparable in city feel but in different locations - Spokane and Colorado Springs. After covering some of the details of each area, we compare the areas, availability, and what you can generally expect to find.

    Renting a House in Spokane, WA

    Spokane is a city of approximately 209,000 people located on the eastern Washington border. It is directly west of its Idaho neighbor, Coeur d’Alene (about an hour’s drive), and it is an outer urban center of the Pacific Northwest. Like many cities in the PNW, you will find people who are committed to maintaining an eco-friendly urban life and who have a love of all things outdoors. Unlike its western counterparts, Portland and Seattle, Spokane has a “rain shadow” because it is nestled between the Cascade and Rocky Mountain Ranges. Spokane is home to Gonzaga University and so boasts a young college population. It also has 18 neighborhoods that are listed on the National Historic Register and some of the most beautiful homes are in Browne’s Addition and South Hill, two locations which have many Victorian-style residences. These, typically, are not for rent, but for sale, and the more contemporary neighborhoods are where you find rental properties. Many of these newer neighborhoods are located on the north side (North Spokane), and Hillyard is known for welcoming newcomers of different ethnic backgrounds. Spokane Valley, a town to the east of Spokane proper, is becoming one of the outlying areas that encompass residential life.

    Spokane has a wide availability of newer-style, single family homes for rent. Properties with 2 and 3 bedrooms and an equal number of bathrooms are most common, with a variable price range near or within the $1000 per month range. Many of the rentals are located in the newer and more modern neighborhoods of North Spokane, such as Indian Trail, South Hill and Liberty Lake, and even in Spokane Valley to the east. The properties are typically 2 stories, with a wide range of square footage. There are listings anywhere from 720-2905 square feet and, as a general rule, the prices do not vary greatly according to size or location. About 80-90% of listed properties are not pet friendly, so there is a small increase in rental prices for listings that list cats and/or dogs as “ok.” What appears to impact prices the most is the size and appearance of the total grounds, as houses with well-kept lawns and trees will be greater in price. If you want more information, such as length of lease, you will typically have to call or make an appointment with the Realtor or owner.

    One point of variation in the single-family home rental market is split-model homes. These are connected homes with separate living quarters and entryways, and usually house two families. These are only slightly more cost-effective than discrete, stand-alone family homes, with approximately a 10% difference in monthly rent price. Another point of variation that drives up the rental cost are homes on the outer rims of the city, which have expansive grounds and lovely views, as well as those that are located in gated communities. These are fewer and far between, so for the most part, the rental homes are concentrated in the neighborhoods listed above with the characteristics discussed therein.

    Renting a House in Colorado Springs, CO

    Colorado Springs has just over double the population of Spokane, with approximately 436,000 people who call it their home. It sits at a relatively high elevation just east of the Rocky Mountains and 65 miles south of Denver, Colorado’s capital city. It is generally warmer and receives more sunshine throughout the year than Spokane, but it shares the same spirit of and love for all things outdoors like people from the Pacific Northwest. In both cities, you will have the opportunity to make friends who know the ins-and-outs of outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, and rock scrambling, as both are located near major mountain ranges. Colorado Springs has a unique form of hustle and bustle, however, most of its economy is derived from the government defense and high-tech industries in the area. Pikeville, Centennial Boulevard, and Old Stage Road are among the most desirable areas where you will find rental homes and Southwest Colorado Springs is a popular, scenic, and thriving neighborhood. In terms of rentals, most are concentrated in the other neighborhoods mentioned just above.

    Like Spokane, Colorado Springs has a plethora of single-style family homes with 2 or 3 bedroom models available for rental. These are at or below the single-thousand dollar price range, though this is greatly variable in and of itself. Sizes of the houses most commonly available range from about 825-1,500 square feet and will affect the monthly price of rent. There are more houses with 4 or 5 bedrooms available on the market in Colorado Springs than there are in Spokane and additionally, the homes are typically large, newer-style structures, whereas Spokane has some older ranch-style models. In Colorado Springs, it is more common to have a wide driveway with a garage, while Spokane homes tend to have porches in the front and a narrower driveway on the side of the house.

    Compared to Spokane, Colorado Springs does not have as many split-style model homes, but if you are a family with a furry companion, Colorado Springs has a wider market available for pet-friendly homes and most of the houses do have larger lawn spaces compared to Spokane. This makes Colorado Springs an ideal place for couples or families with children to rent a house at an affordable price and make sure that their pets can come with them safely and permissibly.

    Two Cities in Perspective

    Both Spokane and Colorado Springs are areas where you will find people who value the outdoors and what it has to offer as a place of residence. The homes that are greater in monthly rent will not only depend on the size of the house and the property, but also according to how close they are to parks and other naturo-scapes in these cities. Two and three bedroom single-family homes that are newer models are most common in these cities and there are plenty on the lower range of what can be an incredibly varied rental market. The style of homes and range of monthly rental prices indicate that both Spokane and Colorado Springs are open markets for new or small families. Both areas will easily accommodate a range of incomes, whether you are looking for something affordable or whether you want something a little more upscaled and roomy.

    One primary difference between the two areas is that Colorado Springs has more larger homes available for rent. There are 4 and 5 bedroom houses listed just as frequently as there are 2 and 3 bedroom single family style homes. Colorado Springs, much more so than Spokane, is also incredibly welcoming in terms of pet friendliness: if you do a search for apartment rentals in this area, you will find that most apartment buildings and complexes welcome a maximum of 2 pets (cats or dogs) on the facilities. But one potential benefit of Spokane is that if you choose to stay, perhaps you can consider eventually purchasing one of the Victorian or 1920s-era homes in a beautiful historic neighborhood like Browne’s Addition. Compared to Spokane, then, Colorado Springs is much more concentrated in newer-style homes.

    Regardless of what city you ultimately choose to make your new place, either one has a number of rental homes at prices where you can feel good about establishing your roots.