Set a budget for renting the home prior to beginning your search. Knowing how much you can afford to spend avoids wasting time looking at houses that are not within your range. Keep in mind that when renting a house, utilities generally are not included and can account for a large sum during the course of the year.
Browse local newspaper listings for houses for rent in your area. Some locations provide information to renters on Realtor sites, while others only feature houses for sale. Take notice of Realtor signs in the areas you are seeking to rent and look them up online. You may get lucky and find listings for rental units.
Drive through the area you would like to rent a home. Many rental homes are unadvertised and are rented by word of mouth. Look for vacant homes. Check with the local municipal office to find the owners of the house. You may find a great deal this way.
Research the neighborhood, once you have located a home. Drive through the neighborhood during the day and observe the activity there. Repeat the drive through in the evening and again late at night. What appears to a quiet neighborhood during the day may come alive with nightlife once the sun goes down. Avoid surprises and check it out in advance.
Take a person knowledgeable in home repair and safety with you when you visit the house. Check for proper maintenance. Look for any signs of storm or water damage to the main structure. Check pipes and electrical wiring to make sure they are up to code and pass safety requirements. If you will be responsible for the heating and electricity, ask to see old bills to get a good idea of the average costs to keep the house warm.
Ask about outside maintenance. Will the property owner provide plowing in the winter and groom the lawn during the summer, or are you responsible for the upkeep of the yard and surrounding area? Most landlords provide these services, but if your home is located in a country setting you may be expected to take care of the lawn and yard as well as the inside of the home. Be sure you understand the property owner's expectations to avoid hassles in the future.
Check the property owner's references. If possible, speak to others who also rent from this property owner. Ask questions to find out how reliable he is in the event you have problems with the house. Does he make routine repairs? Can he be counted on to be there in an emergency?
Avoid making a decision on the spot. This is an important decision and you need time to think it over. Ask if the landlord will hold the house until you can discuss it with the rest of the family. Although there will be times when tenants are clamoring for the property, most landlords will allow a day to think it over.
Make the call as soon as you make a decision. Be courteous. Even if you decide against the home, call the property owner and let him know. You may deal with him again in the future and it will help if you have a positive experience to fall back on.