From Home Owning to Renting: Where to Begin

You've finally sold your house and have made the decision that you don't want to go through that again. But you've owned a home for so many years now-you can't remember the rules of renting. Whose responsibility is the leaky faucet? Do you have to buy your own clear plastic recycling bags?

While some answers will vary depending on the apartment you choose to rent and the city in which you rent it, others are fairly straightforward. If you are looking for a few answers to Renting 101, look no further:
1. Do I need a broker or should I just try to find a place on my own?
This is a very common question when you start looking for a place to live. After all, who wants to pay that enormous finder's fee? But the truth is, a trustworthy broker -- one who understands your needs -- will definitely save you some hassle when it comes to finding the place that fits you best. He or she will have information about the building management and the neighborhoods in the area that you might find helpful-especially if you are moving to a new city. In the end, it might be worth the extra money.

2. Should I look to rent in an up-and-coming neighborhood where the rents are lower but the area isn't as nice? Or should I just move to an established neighborhood and pay more?
The answer to this question is truly subjective. Obviously, when you are looking to buy property, every owner wants to buy low and sell high. But since you won't ever have to sell your property when you are a renter, you might want to think about the fact that even though your rent will be lower, the trade-off of living in a sketchy neighborhood isn't always worth it.

Your best bet is to consider your lifestyle: Do you have children? Do you work late and find yourself coming home at hours when safety is an issue? Are you a woman living alone?

If you know that it will be a better choice in the long run to pay more and live in a place that is right for you, see if you can make that work before moving someplace where you will be miserable until the place "up-and-comes" -- if it ever even does!

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3. What do I look for in a building manager?
Whether you live in a building run by a professional management company or in a family-owned, landlord-operated rental, it is important to find out as much as you can about the people managing your home. When you owned it, you were your building manager. Even if you are perfectly capable of repairing the washer/dryer, you don't have to -- nor should you. Now that you are a renter, whoever is running the place can make or break your living arrangements.

A good manager will be easy to reach by phone, prompt in his or her response to your complaints and capable of running the building or rental smoothly. The best way to find out about the management in the rental you want is to ask former and current tenants. Better than getting contacts directly from the manager, is to knock on doors or get the number of the person vacating the place in which you hope to live. And know what questions to ask in advance.

4. Should I pay utilities or should they?
Most rentals will expect you to pay your own bills. Those that don't are either going to save or cost you in the long run. By adding utilities to rent, obviously your manager can't foresee you month-by-month costs. If they charge you too low, you will ultimately win out. If they charge you too much, you lose. Either way it's a gamble.

5. Who's supposed to fix the drippy faucet?

The great news about no longer owning your own home is that you are no longer responsible for most repairs. If the item came with the property, you do not have to fix it. Anything, however, that did not come with the place, is your responsibility. If you brought an air-conditioning unit or are using one belonging to a former tenant, you are responsible for repairs to that. But everything from broken light fixtures to broken refrigerators are the responsibility of the landlord. So is making sure the sidewalks are shoveled in the winter and the garbage is taken out (unless other arrangements are made).

If you have been living in a place long enough, you might even be able to get a fresh coat of paint on your walls and your wood floors buffed or carpets cleaned. You may also ask about upgrading the windows if you find the place too drafty, or changing locks if they stick too much. If you have a good enough argument for the upgrades, you will likely get those things free of charge.

However, you will still have to clean the grout in your shower. No one said renting was perfect.

Still trying to decide which is right for you? Here are some AOL Real Estate guides to help you no matter whether you choose to buy or rent:

More on AOL Real Estate:
Find out how to calculate mortgage payments.
Find homes for sale in your area.
Find foreclosures in your area.
Get property tax help from our experts.

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