I work with a lot of prospective tenants in the Fort Lauderdale area looking for a new apartment, condo or house to rent. I pride myself on listening to the tenants needs and wants, balancing that with their budget, and finding them a perfect rental within the first two days. But there are times when the process can take longer. In these instances, the reason is almost always due to the tenant not planning ahead or having unrealistic expectations.
In my experience, you will have a successful and low stress experience finding a new apartment if you have a good understanding how the process works.
WHEN TO START LOOKING FOR AN APARTMENT
Rental units typically rent within a couple weeks in Fort Lauderdale, if the unit is priced to market rent. Often, a good unit will rent the same day it is listed in the Multiple Listing Service. However, I recommend looking 2 months in advance on the Internet so you can get a feel for what rent prices currently are for the features and location you desire. Serious searching should begin 5-6 weeks before desired move in date.
DETERMINE YOUR GEOGRAPHIC BOUNDARIES
Having a North, South, East and West boundary will help you and your real estate agent refine your apartment search and make it much easier to get you in your new apartment sooner. Work with an agent who has rented in this area for a long time. Additional desires like closeness to schools or being within walking distance of shopping and other amenities can help refine the location either further.
If you decide to rent a property in a condo or homeowner’s association, the shortest approval time is usually 2 weeks. It can take up to 4 in some instances, when the approvals only occur during monthly board meetings. Do not expect to find a condo to rent and move in immediately. Individually owned duplexes and apartment complexes can usually accomodate immediate move in if the unit is vacant and ready.
Start saving money early. Three months rent is usually required to take occupancy. This represents first & last month rent plus security. It can also be first month rent plus two month security. Whatever the case, be prepared to shell out some cash to get your new apartment. If the rental is in a condominium association, there can also be a common area deposit which must be paid by the tenant.
Higher end condo associations generally require tenants to earn 3-times monthly rent amount for approval. 2.5 times monthly rent is acceptable in some cases, and usually for individually owned apartments.
BACKGROUND & CREDIT CHECKS
A background check, eviction history, credit score and rental history will be required for each adult 18 years an older. This is a cost paid by you the tenant. It is requested by either to the real estate agent or by a condo association during the application process. The fee ranges between $35 and $150.
If you have a dog over 25 lbs, your choices of possible rentals will be limited. There are very few condos and apartments in the eastern part of Broward which will permit dogs above 35 pounds. Renting a single family home is an option, but is always up to the owner’s discretion.
BE READY TO SIGN AN OFFER
If your real estate agent shows you a property that is amazing and fits all your needs and wants, take it. If you think the unit is that nice, then everyone else is thinking the same thing! Those units will rent within hours of going on the market. Fort Lauderdale is growing faster than another county in South Florida and demand is high.
You can negotiate rent. Your agent can see rental history for any unit that has been active in the Multiple Listing Service. Using this information can determine if the new rent price is over market price and the landlord is overreaching, allowing for some negotiation in the price.
FOR RENT BY OWNER
Finding an apartment yourself can be stressful and at times dangerous. There are schemes that have been documented in the news where someone who has no relationship to a property executes a fraudulent lease, and then skips away with your deposit money. Other unscrupulous folks have rented out bank-owned, vacant property. If you do decide to rent on your own, at the very least ask for identification from the owner and then match him to the tax record which is publicly available on the Internet.
USING A LOCAL REAL ESTATE AGENT
It is in your best interest to use a Realtor to find you a rental property and represent you. A Realtor will have the experience to help you navigate through the rental process. Also, tenants generally do not pay a real estate commission to rent property in Florida. Real estate agents are paid by property owners, when that property is listed in the Multiple Listing Service and cooperating commissions are established. This differs from some other states, like New York , where the tenant pays the real estate agent for finding the rental.