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Frequent Contributor

renting a house

I am trying to rent a house but when I go and look at them...they are dumps!  How can I ask, without offending the landlord, if the place is a dump before I drive 20 minutes to go and look at it.  

I am not asking alot, just two bedrooms and a garage, which this last house had, but the inside hadn't been touched in 50 years.  The hardwood floors it had were stained all over and hadn't been touched in probably 50 years either....The basement was all musty and I wouldn't trust putting anything down there for fear it would rot. 

What questions can I ask ?   The landlord said it had central air , hardwood floors, etc. and so it sounded nice...NOT!


Would contacting a realtor be a better way to find one to rent.....any other ideas from some of you that have rented before???

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Honored Advisor

Re: renting a house

It can be difficult to find a decent rental property, unless you know people in the area well enough to have some of them looking out for you, to find a good one that is affordable.  Start by asking around to the people you work with, people you know in church or other community settings, etc. 

Realtors will certainly have listings, if there are any available rentals in your area, but I have never used a realtor for our rentals, since you lose some amount of control over who you place that way.  It should not cost you anything to call one or two and ask what is in the market right now for someone in your need and price range. 

Some of the people in the area may know of a property that needs a caretaker - which can be a very nice setup if you find one.  We know a young man who's gotten one where he lives in a garage apartment and tends the lawn around it and a big house, which is empty right now.  All he pays is the electric bill.  That is only about a hundred a month, which is a dream come true for him.


Social agencies can sometimes point out affordable rentals, too, and some of the local housing authorities here require that properties pass inspections.  If I recall right, you are divorcing, but still living in the marital residence (sorry if I have confused this one with someone else).  That can slow down legal proceedings in some states, I think, since you are not supposed to cohabit during legal separation.  There may in such a case be a women's services agency that can help in such circumstances, too. 

I no longer deal with our tenants, since our son is the one who has to see them in his driveway and collect rents, plus do their repairs.  I cannot say from direct personal observation what condition any given one of our rentals is in, but we have always tried to keep them decent and nice, and the rents reasonable, as if one of our own  kids starting out was renting (Golden Rule/Karma).  Some of your prospective landlords may not have been in their properties for a long time, either.  

Sounding too picky up front is a turnoff for the owner,  and you may have to "kiss a few frogs to find your prince" of a home, too.  I'd sit down and make a very clear list of your needs, and consider things like commuting distance, type of heating fuel, etc., too.   

Ask questions, but do not offer too many comments right off.  I can honestly remember not offering a rental to one lady who told me she'd sued the neighboring county's school board.  She told me of so many problem everywhere she went, I knew she'd be a problem tenant, too.  In other words, ask more than you tell. at least up front. 

Remember, it is finding a home to you, but a business relationship to the keep your discussion businesslike, too. 

Another clue to this may be to take the address to a given property and look it up online in the county's property tax database.  That can give you exact location, vintage of construction, and a lot of details to condition, central HVAC, etc. 

This time of year, you may notice some houses where the grass isnt' being mowed evey week, and that can be an indication of emptiness.  Make notes and you can get a phone number or at least an address from the tax listings, too.  If the tax address of the owner isn't the home's physical address, that can be a sign that it's a rental, too. 

Another thought is if you know anyone who works for the post office or a company like Fed Ex or UPS, that does deliveries in the area, and knows which homes generally are occupied. 

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