Houston, Texas is a diverse and booming metro area with a robust job market. There are entertainment and dining options for any taste nearly every day of the year. If your work has found you relocating to the Houston area, you should be excited for your future, not fretting over finding suitable housing.
However, navigating the rental market in Houston is challenging. With the average cost of renting a single-family home at $2,162 in 2021, there is little room for error in your discussions with a potential landlord. When looking for affordable housing in Houston area, know that a few simple questions can streamline the process and potentially get you into your next rental knowing that you’ve done your homework and found the best deal for your budget.
What Affordable Housing Questions Should I ask?
Landlords often get a bad rap, but this reputation could come from many renters asking the wrong, or too few, questions. There are a few questions every renter should ask when looking for affordable housing in Houston. Before signing your next lease, make sure you ask the potential landlord the questions below.
Often, when thinking of leasing an apartment or home, we only consider the largest expense of the monthly rental cost. However, there are other very important costs to consider. These monthly costs can add up quickly and have a major impact on our budget. Utilities are a major cost and can vary widely based on the area where you live. While your winter heating bills are not as likely to be high, Houston can get very hot! This means that your cooling bills during the summer months could also be very high. When touring the property, check for newer, energy-efficient, windows and doors. Ask about insulation and always ask your potential landlord if utilities are included in the monthly rent.
If so, you may have found a gem.
If not, you will need to know if you must sign up for the utilities. This can often come with additional costs and a separate deposit for the utility company. Some landlords will keep the utilities in their name and pass the bill along to you. Make sure that you will get a copy of this statement each month and know that if this is the case you will not be receiving a positive boost to your credit score when the bill is paid on time. Some furnished room rental programs offer a boost to your credit score with each on-time monthly rent payment.
If the landlord has kept the utilities under their name, ask for the average cost per month for the previous year. This information is vital for keeping track of your future budget.
Is there a security system on the property? This is very important to know. If there is, who has access to the system and to the code for disarming the system? Security systems are great for keeping your home secure, but make sure that you can change the code and know who has entry access to the property. Be aware that security systems can have additional monthly costs associated with them as well. If you install a security system, know that they often come with multi-year contracts and that you will need your landlord’s permission to have it installed on the premises.
If you are renting a single-family home an important consideration is whether or not there is lawn care included with the rent. Ask if the tenant is responsible for these costs. If there is a lawn care service, ask how much it costs and if the cost increased last year so that you can anticipate future increases.
Discount for Lease Length
If your job is secure and you plan to be in the Houston area for some time, then it is worth asking the potential landlord if there is a discount for a longer or multi-year lease. Often, the security that the landlord experiences in knowing that they have a good tenant in place and will not have to re-list the property is worth a financial incentive for the tenant. On the flip side, if you need to leave the lease early for some reason (out-of-state job change) ask if there is a penalty for early termination. This can be negotiated in the lease before you sign.
Houston is a cool city with so much to do and see. You will want to have friends and family come and visit. With that in mind, ask your potential landlord how many guests are allowed on the property. Another important question is how long guests can stay. Guests that stay too long could potentially be seen as sublettors or “roommates,” incurring additional monthly fees. It is always best to clarify this before any confusion occurs.
Credit Check and Income Requirements
Will you be living alone or with roommates? Your next rental may have income requirements. Ask your potential landlord if there are requirements. If there are, you will need to make sure that you have current paystubs from your employer on hand for proof of income. Also, know that there may be a required credit check for each property you apply to rent. Shore up any past credit issues or concerns before consenting to a credit check. You don’t want to find your dream rental only to have a previous credit issue hold you back. Know that some furnished room rental programs only require you to submit to income verification once.
Previous Cost of Rent
Ask your potential landlord what the rent was last year. This will give you an accurate sense of how much the cost of rent will increase in the future. Furnished room rentals like Padsplit limit rental hikes from hosts to protect their members.
Landlords often raise the rent on properties each year. Ask what the rent of the property was previously to get an idea and be prepared for future increases. Some will peg the increase to annual cost-of-living estimates, others will factor in insurance premiums and property taxes.
Length of Previous Rental
A good indicator of landlord-tenant relations is the length of time the previous tenants leased the property. Ask the landlord how long the tenants stayed. Pay attention to the potential landlord’s attitude toward previous tenants. The way that they speak of prior renters could give you a good indication of their future attitude toward you.
Avoid Unnecessary Questions
Navigating landlord-tenant relations while attempting to find affordable housing in Houston can be challenging. Asking the above questions can help clarify gray areas and find the right rental for you, but know that there are other options that answer these questions in advance and mediate between you and your landlord. PadSplit is a furnished room rental service that is clean, safe, and affordable. Affordable Housing is clearly posted and easily searched to help you find the home you’ve been looking for with far fewer questions.
PadSplit features homes throughout the Houston market for nearly any budget. Don’t let navigating the housing process slow down your relocation. Work with PadSplit to get you into your next home faster, safer, and more securely.