Guide | The Modern Way To Move


Selling Your Home

You're ready to sell your property. And, while you're looking forward to seeing the word "SOLD" posted from the curb, you know there's a lot to consider along the way. One of your first decisions is to select a real estate company and real estate agent who'll join you in the process.


Manage Showings
Once you’ve chosen your Keller Williams agent, and together have prepped your house for sale and set a price, you’re ready for the public to see your home.

What is a showing?

A showing takes place either at an open house, which is a scheduled session when anyone can come by without an appointment, or during an appointment scheduled with you or your listing agent.

How do I prepare my house for a showing?

Your KW agent is a great source of advice on specifics for your home preparations so that your house is positioned competitively in the market. Preparations will likely include two phases. During phase one, before photos are taken and before the first showing, you should:

  • Clean deeply.
  • Paint some or all of your house.
  • Do minor repairs such as caulking tubs and windows.
  • Make major repairs – if needed and in your budget, such as replacing your counters or appliances.
  • Stage your furniture to showcase your home’s best features.
  • Remove personal items such as family photos.
  • Declutter every surface and storage space.
  • Reorganize your closets and pack excess items.
  • Eliminate odors by cleaning the fireplace or pulling out musty rugs.
  • Add a color scheme with rugs or pillows if needed to warm up your home.
  • Upgrade your lighting or light bulbs to make your rooms brighter.
  • Spruce up the landscaping.
  • Power-wash your decks and sidewalks if needed.

What can I expect when showing my house?

Three important things you can do to help get your house sold are:

  • Leave when your house is being shown. Buyers prefer to look at homes when they can move around freely and the owners aren’t there.
  • Make your house as available as possible. While it may be inconvenient to show your home at dinnertime or on weekends, buyers who can’t see a property when they’re eager may cross it off their list.
  • Listen to any feedback from buyers or agents about ways you can make your home more appealing.


Review Offers
Congratulations! You received a message from your KW agent that you have an offer on your home. Now you need to evaluate that offer and decide how to respond.

What is an offer?

An offer to buy your home is a purchase agreement signed by the potential buyer that includes:

  • The amount of the offer
  • An explanation of how the buyers will pay, such as cash or a pre-approval for financing
  • The terms – such as a request for closing cost help or contingencies such as the sale of the buyers’ house, a final mortgage approval, a satisfactory home inspection and an appraisal
  • A target date for closing
  • An earnest money deposit
  • A time limit for the offer

How do I evaluate each offer?

When you receive an offer to buy your home, you and your Keller Williams agent should review it and consider whether you want to accept it. Whether you have one offer or several, you and your agent will look at:

  • The amount offered
  • Whether the buyer has included or waived contingencies
  • Where the funds are coming from, such as all-cash, a reputable local lender, a well-known online lender, or an unknown out-of-town lender
  • The proposed closing date and date of possession of the house to see if it aligns with your needs
  • Any special requests for items to convey or for special inspections

What happens if I receive multiple offers?

If you receive multiple offers, your KW agent can advise you on one of these options:

  • Accept the best offer. If one offer stands out above the rest, you can accept that one right away. But be careful not to be swayed by a high offer if the financing seems uncertain or if the buyer hasn’t explained a plan for a possible low appraisal.
  • Counter all the offers to get a better price and terms. You can ask all potential buyers to give you their best offer by a certain deadline.
  • · Counter one offer that’s close to what you want. If you like one offer but think the buyers could do a little better, you can send them a counteroffer to see if they’ll accept it.


Prepare for Inspection
Most buyers request a home inspection as a condition of their offer. While a home inspector will dig more deeply into your home than a buyer, the preparation you made before your first showing should help you get ready for the inspection. Your Keller Williams agent can give you personalized advice, too.

What is a home inspection?

A home inspection is a thorough review of your home’s structure and systems by a professional home inspector. Buyers can use the inspection report to decide to rescind their offer if a major issue is uncovered or to request repairs if the contract is contingent on a satisfactory report. In some cases, a home inspection is solely for the buyers’ information and can’t be used to negotiate.

What is looked at during a home inspection?

The inspector will check:

  • Structural conditions such as the foundation, beams and floors
  • Roof condition
  • Mechanical systems such as heat and air conditioning
  • Appliances – to make sure they’re working, although some inspectors skip appliances that are not built-in
  • Plumbing – for leaks, rust and water pressure
  • Electrical systems such as grounded outlets and code violations
  • Safety issues such as stairs, handrails, mold or chimney maintenance

What’s not looked at during a home inspection?

The inspector won’t check some items that are unusual or inaccessible, such as:

  • Septic systems
  • Wells
  • Underground pipes and sprinkler systems
  • Swimming pools and spas
  • Playground equipment

How should I prepare for an inspection?

Before the home inspector arrives, you should:

  • Clean your house.
  • Remove or crate your pets.
  • Make sure all your light bulbs work.
  • Empty your washing machine, dryer, oven, and dishwasher – in case they are inspected.
  • Make sure everything is accessible, including your attic, a crawlspace, your garage and any sheds.
  • Leave a note if anything doesn’t work and explain that you’re getting it fixed.
  • Provide documents about maintenance and repairs.
  • Leave your cell phone number for the inspector.
  • Leave the house.

What happens now?

Once the inspection report has been generated, you and your KW agent can discuss how to handle any possible issues the buyers mention. You can negotiate with the buyers, decide to fix an item, provide money for the buyers to fix it themselves or provide documentation that the problem has already been addressed. Your Keller Williams agent can help you handle any inspection issues.


Prepare for Appraisal
As you near the end of your home sale journey, you will need to pass one more test: an appraisal. Your KW agent can help you gather materials and prepare for the appraiser’s visit

What is an appraisal?

An appraisal is an objective valuation of your property that serves as a safeguard for the buyer and the buyer’s lender. While the buyer pays for an appraisal, the appraiser actually works for the lender. While an appraiser may look at some of the same things as a home inspector, the result is an appraised value of your property rather than a condition report.

How is my house appraised?

Appraisers use as many measurable pieces of data available to provide an accurate value of your property, including:

  • Comparable properties in your area that are of similar size, age and condition
  • The condition of your home’s systems and structure
  • The square feet of your property
  • The number of bedrooms and bathrooms
  • Your location
  • The quality of your flooring, plumbing and electrical systems

How should I prepare for an appraisal?

Preparing for an appraisal is similar to prepping for an inspection. You should:

  • Provide a list of all major improvements to the home and the age and condition of your roof, heating and air conditioning system, and appliances.
  • Provide any permits required for home improvements.
  • Clean your house.
  • Provide full access to all rooms and spaces, including the garage, sheds, attic and crawlspace
  • Remove or crate your pets.
  • Leave the house, or at least stay out of the appraiser’s way.

How can an appraisal affect my home sale?

An appraisal could require a renegotiation if the property value comes in lower than the sales price. The appraised value dictates the maximum amount the lender will allow the buyers to borrow, minus their down payment. Depending on how the contract was written, if the appraisal is low, you can:

  • Ask the buyer to come up with extra cash to make up the difference between the loan amount and the purchase price.
  • Reduce your price to the appraised value.
  • Split the difference with the buyer.
  • Cancel the contract.


While it’s tempting to focus on your next move, your Keller Williams agent is likely to remind you that until the closing is over, you have some final responsibilities as a seller.

What should I do before the closing?

Before the closing day, you’ll need to:

  • Take care of repairs required by the contract.
  • Keep all receipts and invoices and before-and-after photos of repairs.
  • Gather all appliance manuals and warranties for your buyers.
  • Hire a mover.
  • Cancel all utilities for the day after you move.
  • Cancel all utilities for the day after you move.
  • Change your address.
  • Review all settlement documents, especially the settlement statement.
  • Check the property survey to be sure it’s correct.
  • Clean the house.
  • Prepare for the buyers’ final walk-through

What can I expect when closing?

Sellers may or may not attend the closing, so you should consult your KW agent and the settlement company to decide what’s best. You can sign all documents before the official closing. Sellers’ expenses, which are deducted from the proceeds of the sale, include:

  • Final balance on your mortgage
  • Real estate commissions
  • Prorated property taxes, utility bills, homeowner’s insurance, and homeowners association dues

What’s next?

After the closing, you’ll:

  • Receive the proceeds from the sale, usually by wire transfer.
  • Cancel your homeowner’s insurance “post-close” – to make sure you’re covered on that day.
  • Save your closing documents and home improvement records for taxes.

Home Buying Tips from Keller Williams

In our experience, a house is not a dream home because of its size or color. It's about how you feel when you walk through the front door - the way you can instantly see your life unfolding there. This about more than real estate. It's about your life and your dreams.


Home Visit
We'll arrange to visit the homes you've selected, together and in-person, to determine the best fit for you.

How can I make the most of my time when visiting homes?

  • Get an accurate idea of your price range, an estimate of your monthly payments and a pre-approval letter, so sellers will take you seriously when you make an offer.
  • Work with your KW agent to hone your “wants” and “needs” list. Think about what’s most important to you: the location or the house itself.
  • Preview homes through the KW app to eliminate those you won’t need to visit in person.
  • Plan an itinerary with your Keller Williams agent.

What should I expect when visiting homes?

  • You and your KW agent typically visit homes together
  • Homeowners usually are not home, so you’re free to spend as little or as much time as you want.
  • Buyers often have a gut reaction to a home. First impressions count, but you can also consult your agent to learn more about home values and possibly to reevaluate your priorities in the context of what’s available in your price range.

How many homes should I visit?

Sometimes buyers find their future home the first time out and others look at 50 homes before they see one that checks all their boxes. It’s a good idea to see at least a few alternatives so you have some points of comparison, but sometimes you just know a place is where you want to live.

What should I look for when visiting homes?

  • Look beyond the staging and decorative items to see the features and fixtures that convey with the house.
  • Check the condition of the home.
  • Keep track with photos and notes.
  • Consider possible home improvements you might want to make so you can research costs later.
  • Don’t forget to check out the outside of the property and the neighborhood. Your Keller Williams agent has access to neighborhood insights and data to help inform your decision.
  • Locate your commuter route, schools, shops, restaurants, parks and other amenities.
  • If the property is a condo or located in a homeowners association, find out the fees and rules to see if you can live with them.


Making an Offer
Once you’ve narrowed down your list and have a clear favorite, collaborate with us to make an offer on a home.

What should I include with my offer?

Your Keller Williams agent will have the most recent standard purchase offer forms that comply with state and local laws.

  • The price
  • Terms – such as a request for closing cost help or that the offer is subject to your obtaining financing and a home inspection
  • Target date for closing
  • Earnest money deposit – your KW agent can advise you about how big your deposit should be based on local customs and current conditions
  • Request for final walk-through
  • Time limit for the offer

What are the most common contingencies?

  • Financing. Unless you’re paying cash, it’s typical to write your offer with a contingency clause that lets you off the hook if you can’t finalize your mortgage within a certain number of days. Even though you have a pre-approval for a loan, it’s smart to protect yourself.
  • Home inspection. Your offer can be made dependent on a satisfactory home inspection report within a certain number of days. This protects you if the inspection uncovers expensive necessary repairs.

What happens if I face multiple offers?

In a competitive housing market, you may find yourself competing against other buyers. In that case, your Keller Williams agent is your best ally in strategizing for your offer to be accepted. With access to real-time market data, your KW agent will know how to best position your offer. If there’s more than one offer, the sellers can:

  • Accept the best offer
  • Counter all the offers to get a better price and terms
  • Counter one offer that’s close to what they want

What is a counteroffer?

Sellers can accept your offer as is or they can make a counteroffer with an adjustment to some or all of your terms. You can accept or reject the counteroffer and make your own counteroffer. The contract is final once you and the sellers have agreed to all the terms.


Execute Contract
The crucial period between an offer and a final contract is an important time to stay in close contact with your Keller Williams agent so you’re equipped with all the information you need to make smart decisions.

What should I expect to see in the contract?

Ask your KW agent to explain the key points in your multi-page contract, such as:

  • Accuracy of information, including the correct spelling of your name and the property address
  • The effective date of the contract – important because your contingencies have time limits.
  • A list of contingencies, such as that the sale depends on financing, an appraisal, a satisfactory home inspection and perhaps the sale of your current home.
  • Property disclosure information from the seller, depending on your state laws.
  • A complete list of what conveys with the property
  • A list of required inspections, such as a home inspection and a pest inspection
  • Information about when you can move in.
  • In some cases, such as if your offer is contingent on the sale of your home, the seller may add a “kick-out” clause, which means that the seller could accept another offer if one is made before your home is sold.

How do I know when to negotiate and when to let go?

Your Keller Williams agent can guide you, but you also need to decide how much you want a particular property and what you’re willing to accept to get it. You may want to let go when:

  • A bidding war drives the price too high
  • The appraised value of the home is below your offer
  • A home inspection finds defects that would be expensive to repair
  • The sellers are unwilling to make reasonable repairs
  • You learn about homeowners association rules that won’t work for you

What are common contract pitfalls I should avoid?

Your KW agent will help you watch out for:

  • Unrealistic deadlines: you’ll need time to arrange a home inspection and receive the report, as well as arrange financing
  • Missing deadlines means you lose your chance to end the contract and keep your deposit
  • Items that don’t convey with the property: if you’re not sure, ask your agent to confirm
  • Communications from your lender


Schedule Home Inspection
As soon your offer is accepted, you should schedule your home inspection. If you’re buying in a busy season, it may take time to find an available inspector, so rely on your Keller Williams agent to recommend trusted home inspectors.

What is a home inspection?

Your home inspector will check a massive list (more than 1,000 items) of systems, appliances and structures in your home to evaluate its condition. You’ll get a written report that identifies potential problems and future maintenance issues. It’s up to you to decide whether the report means you want to walk away from a house or ask the sellers to make repairs. You can also have an “information only” inspection, which means you’re buying the house as is, but want to know its condition.

What’s included on a home inspection?

The inspector will check:

  • Structural conditions such as the foundation, beams and floors
  • Roof condition
  • Mechanical systems such as heat and air conditioning
  • Appliances – to make sure they’re working
  • Plumbing – for leaks, rust and water pressure
  • Electrical systems such as grounded outlets and code violations
  • Safety issues such as stairs, handrails, mold or chimney maintenance

What should I watch for during the home inspection?

You and your KW agent should attend the home inspection to learn about home maintenance and so you can see any potential problems yourself. The inspector can answer questions as you go, so if there’s anything you don’t understand or are worried could be a problem, just ask.

I’ve got the home inspection report, now what?

While you and your KW agent can decide whether to negotiate on anything in the inspection report, you can ask the inspector the following questions:

  • Are the items you’ve flagged major or minor issues?
  • What needs to be done to resolve any flagged issues?
  • Can you give me an estimate of the cost of any repairs?
  • Do I need another inspection, such as by an electrician or a structural engineer?
  • Are there things I need to do after I move in


Get a Home Warranty
Some home sellers pay for a home warranty that covers them while their home is on the market and conveys to the buyers after the sale. You can ask your real estate agent for advice about negotiating for the sellers to pay for a warranty or buying one yourself.

What is a home warranty?

A home warranty policy, which typically lasts for one year and is renewable, provides coverage for some of your home’s systems and appliances. In return for the annual fee, the company will cover repair costs and arrange for contractors. You’ll pay a deductible fee and possibly service fees if you need to use the warranty.

Do I need a home warranty?

If you’re buying an existing home, especially one with appliances that are more than four years old, a home warranty can give you peace of mind about paying for unexpected repairs and finding a reliable contractor. If you’re a first-time buyer, especially if you have limited savings, this can be particularly important. If you have plenty of emergency savings, you’re handy or know good contractors, you may not need a warranty. Your real estate agent can also be a good source of recommendations for contractors. If you’re buying a newly built home, structural defects are usually under warranty by the builder for 10 years and other items are typically covered for six months to two years, so you don’t usually need a home warranty.

What should I look for in a home warranty?

To choose a good home warranty, you and your Keller Williams agent should review:

  • The home warranty company’s license with your state’s real estate commission
  • The fine print – that’s where you’ll find exclusions and limitations
  • What’s covered and what’s not
  • The coverage limits – your repairs will only be paid for up to a specific level
  • Service fees and deductibles
  • How quickly service and claims are handled
  • How contractors are vetted and what happens if you use your own
  • Coverage differences between a basic warranty and enhanced warranty
  • Online reviews


While you may feel jittery before your closing, your KW agent and lender should have you fully prepared for the day. As the buyer, you choose the title company for your title search and the closing. Your agent and lender can recommend reliable title companies.

What should I do before the closing?

As your closing nears, you should:

  • Stay in close touch with your Keller Williams agent, lender and title company.
  • Avoid lowering your credit score with a new credit application or late payments.
  • Confirm that your contract contingencies are resolved, including the home inspection, an appraisal and your financing.
  • Finalize your homeowner’s insurance policy.
  • Gather your down payment and closing cost funds in an accessible account.
  • Review your Closing Disclosure form, which you’ll receive three days before your settlement, and ask questions if you don’t understand something.
  • Arrange a wire transfer or get a cashier’s check for the funds you need for the settlement.
  • Schedule a walk-through of your new home within 24 hours before your closing to check its condition.

What can I expect at the closing?

In a word: Paperwork! Allot a few hours for your closing. Bring to the closing:

  • A government-issued photo ID
  • Proof of homeowner’s insurance
  • Your copy of the contract
  • All paperwork associated with your loan and the home purchase
  • Your cashier’s check or wire transfer confirmation
  • Your checkbook for miscellaneous funds that weren’t included on your closing estimate

What paperwork is required to close?

You’ll be signing numerous documents, including a repeat of the documents you signed when you applied for your loan. The most important documents you’ll sign are:

  • Promissory Note to repay the mortgage
  • Deed of Trust, which gives the lender the right to foreclose if you don’t repay the loan
  • What’s covered and what’s not
  • Initial Escrow Disclosure, which outlines the funds on deposit for your property taxes and homeowner’s insurance bills
  • Right to Cancel form, which states that you have three business days to cancel the transaction

What’s next?

After your closing:

  • Keep all your signed documents in a safe place.
  • Avoid lowering your credit score with a new credit application or late payments.
  • Change your address.
  • Change the locks and security codes on your home
  • Review your due dates and new budget.

Renter's Guide

Whether you’re leaving your family home for the first time or looking to replace your current rental home with another, it’s a big and exciting step. While most people associate real estate agents with buying and selling homes, Keller Williams agents have expertise in all areas of real estate, including the rental market. With this quick guide and a KW agent by your side, you can make a better informed decision about your next rental home.


Setting your budget
You’ve probably heard that you should spend 25% to 30% of your income on rent, but that rule of thumb may not meet every renter’s circumstances. How much you”ll spend depends on your other expenses and your local rental market. In high-cost housing markets, it’s not unusual for people to spend as much as 50% of their income on rent, even though that may not be ideal.

How much can I afford?

  • As a starting point, calculate 30% of your gross income. For example, if your household income is $60,000 annually, that’s $5,000 per month and your rent should be no more than 30% of that – $1,500. For a more individualized idea of what you can afford, you’ll need an itemized budget.

    • First, add up your non-negotiable expenses, which include things like insurance premiums, a car payment or transportation costs, your cell phone bill, your typical grocery bill and the minimum payments on your student loans, credit cards and personal loans, if you have them.
    • Next, calculate your debt-to-income ratio and factor in a rent payment. Your debt-to-income ratio compares your gross monthly income with your monthly minimum payments on debt and housing. For example, if your monthly income is $5,000, your rent is $1,500 and your other expenses are $750, your debt-to-income ratio would be 45%. Ideally, you want your overall debt-to-income ratio as low as possible, preferably at least under 45% or 50%.
    • As you calculate an affordable rent, consider whether or not you might want a roommate to share expenses or for companionship. Depending on your budget and rents in your area, living with a roommate could be a good way to increase your rental budget. If you prefer to live alone, you may need to compromise on your expectations for your next rental home, depending on your income and your local market. A Keller Williams agent can help you identify options that fit your financial plan.
    • Start saving for the expenses of switching homes, which include a security deposit, your first month of rent, moving expenses, and possibly a pet deposit and your last month of rent.


Partnering with an agent
Finding a rental home that fits your budget, whether it’s an apartment, a condo or a single-family home, takes local knowledge of neighborhoods and transportation options that match your priorities. A real estate agent can help you narrow your choice of neighborhood and suggest a variety of options that you can consider.

Why should I partner with an agent?

Establishing your priorities can be challenging. You’ll need to think about how much space you want, the location, the style of your new home, and come up with a “needs” and “wants” list to decide things such as whether laundry equipment in your apartment is essential or just desirable. KW agents have experience working through these issues with their clients. Keller Williams agents also know their communities and can help you identify options that you may not have considered. KW agents are in constant communication with other agents, so they can help you connect with potential renters. When you look for properties with an agent, you can receive guidance on features to notice, what questions to ask, and learn from their experience with the local real estate market. A Keller Williams agent can help you navigate the application process and give you advice about how to position yourself for the best possible chance of an approval. In addition, real estate agents know about local laws that govern tenant and landlord relationships and have resources to help you understand any issues that may arise. KW agents are experienced negotiators and can assist you when you’re ready to negotiate fees, rent, or terms of a lease.


Your Search
Online portals for rentals, including, can provide an overwhelming number of options, particularly if you’re not sure what neighborhood you want to live in or the type of rental property you prefer. The combination of an online search and in-person visits to a narrowed-down list of potential rentals with a Keller Williams agent can streamline your search and help you find a rental that matches your wallet as well as your preferences.

Where and how do I search for a place to rent?

Start your search online at and connect with a Keller Williams agent in your area. An agent can be an excellent resource for your search. For example, if you’re interested in an amenity-rich high-rise apartment, an agent can help you find one and show you condos with a similar lifestyle where you might rent from an individual owner. An agent can assist you with single-family home rental options, town houses, and every style of apartment that’s available where you want to live. As you describe the neighborhood amenities you prefer, such as parks, pools, bike lanes or restaurants, your agent can make suggestions of a variety of places that you might not know about which could be appealing.

How early should I start my search?

A serious search should start about one month before you sign a lease, but if you’re in the exploratory stage and need to know more about what’s available in your price range, it’s smart to start a few months ahead. You can always start online at to get an idea of rentals in different areas and then contact an agent when you’re a couple of months away from your target moving date.

What should I consider with my search?

For most people, their budget and the location are the most important considerations when looking for a home to rent. If you have children, the schools may influence where you want to look. If you have pets, you’ll need to look for a pet-friendly rental. Next, make a list of your priorities for the location and the rental itself. For example, you may care most about parking, laundry equipment in your apartment or in the building, the size of the apartment, amenities such as a pool or a gym, and whether the building is pet-friendly or has any pet restrictions. Your real estate agent can help you discuss your priorities. If you’re renting with someone else, your agent can work to find the overlap in your list of needs and wants and find ways to compromise.

How do I view properties in person? Why is this important?

Once you’ve narrowed down your list to a few possibilities that you like, you or your agent can call to make sure the places are available and to schedule an appointment. While you can eliminate some places and find others you like in your online search, your can’t easily know about important things such as how noisy a place may be or how much natural light it gets unless you go in person. Visiting a property can give you a better idea of the neighborhood and allows you to check personally on how well your phone works, whether the appliances work, if your furniture will fit, and if there is enough storage. Be sure to check out the condition of the common areas as well as your prospective home for signs of neglect or good maintenance. Bring your list of needs and wants with you so you don’t forget to check for those items while you’re touring a property. Your agent can be a valuable companion and adviser when visiting properties to point out features that are appealing or a red flag.


Searching for renters insurance
While you’re searching for a place to live, you should also line up renters insurance for your future home. Comparison shopping can yield a good rate and help you decide how much coverage you need.

What is renters insurance?

Renters insurance is an insurance policy that renters buy for themselves to provide protection for their belongings in case of something happening such as a fire, a burst pipe, a storm, or a theft. These policies also provide liability protection in case someone gets hurt at your home. A renters policy even covers your things when they’re in your car or on vacation with you. Just like car insurance covers your car and you in an accident, renters insurance provides protection for you at home.

Why do I need it?

Your landlord’s insurance will cover necessary home repairs but won’t cover the costs of replacing your items if they’re damaged in a fire or stolen. Some landlords require their tenants have a renters insurance policy, because the policy provides extra insurance for the renter in case of an accident or damages to their apartment or their neighbor’s apartment. Renters insurance typically costs from $15 to $30 per month, an inexpensive way to protect your valuable possessions and to protect your assets in case something happens at your home to injure someone or damage their property. Some renters policies even cover a hotel stay if you have to move out while your home is repaired.


Asking the questions, understanding terms and policies
An important part of your search is making sure you understand the rules and policies of your potential landlord. Depending on what you find out, you may even decide to choose one rental home over another. Questions you should be sure to ask when touring or when talking to a landlord include:

Your Rent

  • How often is the rent raised? What notice do you provide?
  • Is renters insurance required ?
  • What about HOA fees? If you’re renting a condo with a condo association fee or a house in a homeowners association, will the owner pay these fees or are you expected to pay them?
  • What’s included with my rent, such as utilities, on-site recreation, parking, etc.?
  • Can you estimate costs that aren’t included in the rent, such as utilities?
  • How and when do I pay the rent?
  • What is the late payment policy?

Pet Policies

  • Are there any pet restrictions, such as the type or size of animal?
  • Are service animals allowed?
  • Is there a dog park or a dog-washing facility?
  • What pet fees and deposits are required?

Lease Terms

  • How long is the lease?
  • Is subletting allowed?
  • Can I add a roommate later if I want to?
  • What are the rules about breaking the lease?
  • What is your renewal policy? Is a month-to-month lease an option?
  • How much notice do I need to give when I decide to move?
  • What do I need to do to get back my security deposit?

Your Space

  • What kind of notice do I get if you or an employee need to come into my apartment? Would anyone ever come in unannounced?
  • How do maintenance requests work? Do I have any maintenance responsibilities as a tenant, such as cutting grass or managing the trash?
  • What do you do to prevent pests? Have you ever had bedbugs or any other type of infestation?
  • Are cosmetic changes allowed to the home and, if so, what kind?
  • Are there plans for improvements or updates to the house or apartment?
  • What amenities are included with the rental? Besides fun things like a pool or gym, ask about trash pickup, a doorman or security gate, assigned parking, bike storage, grounds maintenance, and package services.
  • Are there policies about guests?


Submit your application, get approved
When you’ve found the apartment you want, it’s time to apply. Your landlord wants to know that you’ll be a responsible tenant and that you can afford to pay the rent, so the application will require several steps.

Here’s what you need for an approval:

  • Good credit. Typically, good credit refers to a score above 680 or 700, which shows that you can handle your finances. Many landlords accept tenants with lower credit scores if they can demonstrate a good rent payment history and a solid job history. Your agent can advise you about your options and how to improve your chances of approval if you have a lower credit score.
  • Possibly a co-signer. If you have a limited credit history or are new to the workforce, you may need to ask someone with a stronger credit history to co-sign your lease.
  • Documents. You’ll need a driver’s license or other government ID, a Social Security card, recent paycheck stubs, and contact info for employers and previous landlords.
  • Money for deposits and fees. Many landlords charge an application fee of $30 to $150 to cover a credit check and possibly a background check. A pet deposit may also be required. You should also gather funds for a security deposit and your first month’s rent.
  • References. Many landlords require tenants to provide references, who could be a previous landlord, an employer or coworker, a teacher or a family friend. Always let someone know if you’ve given their name as a reference.


Signing the lease/paying the security deposit(s)
It’s exciting to be approved for a new rental home, but before you sign the lease, make sure you read it and contact the landlord with questions. Hopefully, most of your questions about things like lease renewals and subletting were answered before. If not, be sure to ask now.

Things to check before signing

  • When is your move-in date?
  • Will your rent be prorated if you’re moving in the middle of the month?
  • Do the rent and deposit requirements match your expectations? If not, it may be possible to negotiate with the landlord. Your agent can help with this.
  • When is your rent due? Is there a grace period before a late fee is imposed? How does the landlord prefer you to make your payments? What is the late fee?
  • How is the home evaluated before the security deposit will be returned?
  • Make sure you know the rules about maintaining your rental and about how to end the lease. Typically, you’ll need to provide written notice to end the lease and get your deposit back.
  • Sign the lease and provide all the necessary deposits at the same time so you start your relationship with your new landlord on a positive note.


Scheduling your moving day
As soon as the paperwork is complete and you know your move-in date, decide whether you want to move yourself or schedule a moving company. If you hire a moving company, get several estimates and check reviews and references – the cheapest may not always be careful or professional enough. Next, start packing. This would be a good time to sort your belongings and decide if you want to donate or sell some items rather than move them. Starting fresh in a new place is easier if you only bring what you will really use and want to keep. Find out if you need to set up the utilities or if they’ll be running when you arrive.

Moving day tips

While you’re likely to want to unpack right away, it’s important to start with a move-in day checklist from your landlord, your agent, or one you create to review the condition of the apartment. You’ll need to keep a copy of this to help you get your security deposit back when you move out. Take photos or videos with your phone, email them to the landlord on your move-in day, and keep a copy yourself so you can prove what the home looked like on your move-in day. Key places to check and photograph include:

  • Appliances
  • Smoke detectors
  • Alarm systems
  • Thermostat
  • Built-in light fixtures
  • Plumbing, including faucets, showers, and toilets
  • Doors, windows, and screens
  • Walls and floors
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