Top tips for renters: What to look for on your first inspection

While searching for a rental can be exciting, it can also be downright confusing – especially if you’re a first-time renter. Here’s what some experts say are the most important things to look for when scouting for your next rental property.

1. Functionality

Terry Christianos, who is the director of Sydney rental agency Urban Rentals and has worked in property management and real estate for 30 years, says that it’s important to look beyond the “Instagrammable” features of a property and think about whether the way it functions actually suits your lifestyle. Budget rentals often won’t have a laundry, for instance.

“The kitchen – does it meet requirements in terms of cooking facilities?” Christianos asks. “Where will the furniture fit, and will it fit in the lift? Is there a lift?”

It all comes down to personal preference and how you like to use your home. Some prospective renters might value natural light, for example, (in which case, Christianos suggests driving past the place later in the day to suss out how much light it gets at different times), while others are big on gaming or watching movies, and therefore value good window coverings. To this point, she recommends actually trying the blinds to see if they’re operational.

2. Liveability

You might find the dreamiest house or apartment, but your experience of the place is going to be affected if it doesn’t meet some basic liveability criteria. These include things like reliable heating and cooling, plus easy access to local amenities like train stations, supermarkets and so on.

Christianos points out that, if you’re sharing with others, privacy is also essential to liveability.

“Are there areas for privacy other than just your bedroom? Is there a balcony or a courtyard, or can you easily walk to a park or a cafe nearby?” she says. “Just to make sure you do have a little bit of privacy that’s not just closing your bedroom door.”

3. Internet connectivity

This is obviously a big one – and something new renters might take for granted. Andrew Baietta, head of Dodo Telco Products, says that prospective renters should look into the quality of internet access at any property they’re inspecting.

“Renters can consider asking what technology exists at the property, or they can enter the property address into an online service qualification check – like the one on Dodo’s website that pops up after they select a plan – to find out what technology services the property,” he says. 

“Fibre to the premises, fibre to the building and fibre to the curb are the best technologies for speed and reliability. Fixed wireless and fibre to the node are still good, but can have more variability in terms of speed and reliability.”

Interestingly, Baietta says not everyone needs the speediest internet possible, but it depends on our circumstances.

“Most people who are studying or working from home don’t need super-fast connections,” he says. “When there are multiple people in the home watching high-definition TV streaming, then higher-speed connections become more important. For example, four students sharing a home all with their own TV connected to the internet may want to consider a super-fast plan if they want high-quality 4K on all TVs at the same time.”

Baietta also says renters can ask the landlord or agent what kinds of speeds the previous tenant received, and that they can check if the premises are eligible for a free fibre technology upgrade via NBN’s website or by calling Dodo. 

The safety of the local area is an important factor to consider. Photo: Greg Briggs

4. Ventilation

Poor ventilation is (mostly) invisible, but it can be a big deal. Christianos says if bathrooms don’t have windows, prospective renters should check that there’s a working extractor fan installed.

A lack of ventilation obviously contributes to household mould, which can negatively impact our health. On that note, Christianos has another tip: use your nose to detect damp smells, and beware fresh paint.

“Towards the middle or end of last year, a lot of the fresh paint on things was usually because there was mould,” she says, “So we always bring that to our client’s attention, and we ask the agent. We do try and mention to the client that fresh paint could have been old mould, especially if the smell is still lingering a little bit.”

5. Security

According to Christianos, security is a factor renters often forget to consider. Appraising a property’s security includes ensuring the windows are lockable (particularly if it’s a ground-floor apartment), as well as any balcony doors, and taking the surrounding area into account.

Christianos suggests people ask, “Will I feel safe there?” and “What will it be like at night?”

“You need to walk the streets. You need to walk behind the block,” she says. “Has the front door got security or is it left open all the time? Drive past it at a different time of day … that’s super-important.”

Article source: Queensland Property Investor