2017-06-01 / Views

A friendly guide to scoring a rental

A column by Jay Bushen

You’ve probably heard Leelanau County is in the midst of what some say is a housing crisis.

You’ve also heard about the struggles of seasonal laborers who want to live in the county but can’t find an affordable place to hang their hat.

What you may not have heard, however, is that year-round rentals are elusive—but far from nonexistent.

My girlfriend and I, a pair of renters in our 20s, were recently thrust into a situation in which we had one month to find a one-year lease. A setback at our new apartment building had us scrambling but, thanks to her persistence and a little bit of luck, we found a winner.

Interestingly, the home happens to be the fourth quality, year-round rental we’ve found in the last 25 months.

When I first moved here, I didn’t think that was possible. But it is.

It seems we’ve uncovered somewhat of a system when it comes to tracking down these quality rentals. That being the case, I figured I’d share that system with any and all of our rent-doling readers in search of a home.

Without further adieu, here are my 10 tips to renters in Leelanau County:

No. 1: Buy a house.

I’m not changing the subject. If it’s feasible, go for it. Remember, “renter” is a nice word for “money waster.” Home equity can become a source of income over time. Plus it’s way cooler to be a landlord than a tenant, right?

No. 2: Be realistic.

If owning a home isn’t right for you, then now is the time to stop watching HGTV. Everyone has needs, whether it’s finding a petfriendly place or a home with a washer and dryer, but good luck meeting all of them in Leelanau County. The pet-friendly rental with 2,500 square feet and a view of the bay for $900 probably doesn’t exist, and if it does, don’t expect your morning commute to last fewer than 10 minutes. Keep an open mind and cut ties with a few “needs.”

No. 3: Ask around.

If you want to hit the jackpot, start by asking family, friends and coworkers if they know anyone trying to fill a space. Last year, my girlfriend found us a great house in Maple City through one of her coworkers. As part of an effort to find reliable tenants, the landlord did not post the rental on Craigslist or any social media sites. So put your feelers out there and see what happens because word-of-mouth referrals can lead to some of the best deals.

No. 4: Inquire ‘till you tire.

New to the area? Socially awkward? Have no friends? Never fear; Craigslist has been here for 22 years. Say what you will about the site, but this is still where Average Joe goes to solve his housing woes. As a result, the most important piece of advice I can give is this: Search Craigslist daily and don’t hesitate to call (or email, if you must). You’d be surprised at how often new housing ads are posted.

No. 5: Demonstrate value.

This one’s obvious to me, but only because I spent four years leasing apartments in college. Think of it like this: If you’re interested, you’re not the only one. Assuming this is a private renter who isn’t governed by Fair Housing laws, you’ll need to give them a reason to pick you. The tricky part is doing so in a subtle manner. I’ll leave that part up to you.

No. 6: Be smart.

So you’ve proven me wrong and you’ve found a pet-friendly dream home within your price range. Only problem is the landlord is currently on a business trip to Nigeria and needs you to scan and email him your application. No way, Jose. As a rule of thumb, never trust anyone. Ever. Not until you shake their hand, at least. Keep your Craigslist friends close and your Social Security number closer.

No. 7: Stay patient.

Good things come to those who wait. Homelessness comes to those who wait too long. Toe the line with common sense or, if you’re unsure, seek input from people you trust (and didn’t meet on Craigslist).

No. 8: Settle wisely.

Trust. Your. Gut. If the home meets three of your top-five needs, it might be time to pull the trigger. If your lease expires in three weeks, you probably should have pulled it already.

No. 9: Don’t burn bridges.

Things happen. Don’t trash a previous landlord, send a passiveaggressive email to a prospective renter or bank on anything until a roof is over your head. The more fall-back options you have, the better.

No. 10: Be a good tenant. Pay your rent and fulfill that lease. Keep in mind that many renters verify the last three years of your rental history (and they should). Even more reason to keep those bridges from burning, eh?

I don’t have all the answers, but I’ve got a roof over my head for the foreseeable future. I hope you will, too.

If nothing else, I wish you the best of luck in your search. You may need it.

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