So your lease is nearly expired, and you’re not sure whether you want to stay put or move on to something that may better suit your current lifestyle. What should you do?
Rule no.1: don’t wait until the last moment to decide. You need to give yourself enough time to check out available apartments and weigh the odds before it’s time to give notice to your landlord. Making a last-minute decision to move might mean rushing into another rental that doesn’t entirely meet your needs. Here are some tips to help you do your homework.
1. Reread your lease agreement about 8 months into your contract, or for those in a month-to-month lease, about four months before you’d want to move. Pay special attention to the clause that states when and how you should give notice to your landlord or property manager if you decide to move, noting that sometimes the “when” and the “how” are in separate parts of the contract.
2. Know if you’re a 30 or a 60. Most leases dictate that you must give 30 or 60 days notice. (Yes, sometimes even “month-to-month” lease agreements might require a minimum of 60 days notice.)
3. But don’t assume that giving notice on day 17 of one month means you can move out 30 or 60 days later on day 17. Most landlords prefer to have leases that end on the last day of the month and start fresh on the first of the month, so check before making move-in plans at your new place to avoid overlapping rent.
4. Make a list of all the pros and cons of your current rental. Here’s a list of things to consider: proximity to friends and family; commute to work or campus; nearby shopping; access to public transportation; parking; laundry access and cost; gym amenities; leisure activities; friendly neighbors (or not); views; layout; building style (walk-up or elevator); urban vs suburban; maintenance cost; response time for repairs; neighborhood crime; building turnover rate; walkability to modern conveniences (library, coffee shop, banks); and monthly rent.
5. Prioritize your list. Now, take your checklist and rank your pros starting with what’s most important to you, and then similarly rank your cons. Maybe you’d like to have a guest bedroom, but if you only have overnight visitors once a year, do you really need to pay for that extra space?
6. Determine if you can do better. Once you have your checklist, start researching the market to see if you can do better than what you have now. Can you get more of the “pros” on your list at a lower cost?
Can you afford the move? Of course determining the financial cost of a move should be high on your list, but sometimes it’s better to do the math after you’ve found another place: if you find you can lower your rent, your monthly savings could offset some of your upfront moving costs. Just don’t forget to factor in all the expenditures, like the cost of a rental truck, if needed, first and last month’s rent on the new place, and potentially unpaid time off work if you can’t get vacation time to make your move.