By Joe Szabo, Scottsdale Real Estate Team
Navigating the rental market isn’t easy. Between bait-and-switch listings on sites like Craigslist, deceptive landlords, and confusing legal language in lease agreements, finding the right apartment can be a time-consuming, mentally taxing process. But before you even begin your search, you’ll need to determine whether you’re looking for a short- or long-term lease.
Not sure where you stand? Consider these advantages and disadvantages to month-to-month leases — then decide what makes the most sense for your needs.
Pro: You get greater flexibility
If you’re thinking about buying a property in the near future, or moving to a new city, a short-term lease gives you more flexibility and can save you money in the long run. When you sign a 12-month (or longer) lease, you’re legally obligated to pay 12 months of rent even if you decide to move before the lease expires. (Read: breaking a long-term lease will cost you.)
Granted, “some landlords will let you terminate a 12-month lease early if you find a new renter to take your place,” says Joe DeFilippo, a real estate agent and rental specialist with City Chic Real Estate in Washington, D.C.
However, if you want to be able to move on short notice without paying a penalty, a month-to-month rental is your best option. Bear in mind you’ll still need to give the landlord at least 30 days’ notice (or more, depending on the lease agreement).
Con: You pay more in rent
Owners want rental property occupied at all times so they can continually collect rent. But when a tenant moves, finding a replacement can be a hassle — and there’s a chance the unit will be vacant for a while. Therefore, month-to-month renters pay a premium, says Rae Wayne, an agent with The Bizzy Blondes Real Estate Team in Los Angeles.
How much more you’ll pay depends on the market. In Washington, D.C., month-to-month leases cost on average 50 percent more than 12-month leases, says DeFilippo. In Manhattan, landlords usually charge 15 percent to 20 percent more — and rent is high in New York, points out Marin King, an attorney and real estate agent at Keller Williams NYC.
Pro: You can (usually) switch to a long-term lease
In general, if you’re a good tenant, the landlord will be open to you converting to a 12-month lease, but there are some circumstances where that’s not the case. For example, if the owner is planning to make the property their primary residence in the near future, you’ll eventually need a new place to live. Find out what the landlord’s motivation is before signing a lease.
Con: Your rent isn’t fixed
Arguably the biggest benefit of signing a 12-month lease is that you get to lock in your rental rate, which makes it easier to manage your budget.
Meanwhile, when you’re on a month-to-month lease, the landlord could decide to raise your rent on a whim and — depending on where you live — may only need to give you 30 days’ notice.
Pro: Many are fully furnished
Some apartments are specifically designed for short-term renters and come furnished. Residential buildings near universities, for instance, are ideal for summer interns, who are often willing to pay more since they don’t have their own furniture.
The good news: many jurisdictions place a cap on how much landlords can increase rent within a 12-month cycle, so you’ll probably have some protection. But you’re still in a less favorable position than you would be in a long-term lease.
Con: Moving ain’t cheap!
A month-to-month lease might make sense in the short term, but if you start going from one short-term lease to the next, you’ll burn money that you could be saving for a down payment.
Even if you don’t hire a professional mover, your lease may require fees to cover your application, utility transfer, and cleaning. Also, some buildings charge new tenants a move-in fee of up to $500.
Moreover, there may be lag time in terms of your previous landlord releasing your security deposit. “There can be a lot of money in flux during a move,” says King. Not to mention that packing boxes and carrying heavy furniture isn’t exactly a pleasure cruise.
Con: You may have to do some digging
Landlords tend to prefer a long-term lease, since it offers guaranteed income over a set period of time, and reduces the risk of the property sitting vacant in between tenants, says DeFilippo. Hence, you have fewer options if you’re looking for a short-term rental.
Please note that this Scottsdale Real Estate Blog is for informational purposes and not intended to take the place of a licensed Scottsdale Real Estate Agent. The Szabo Group offers first class real estate services to clients in the Scottsdale Greater Phoenix Metropolitan Area in the buying and selling of Luxury homes in Arizona. Award winning Realtors and Re/MAX top producers and best real estate agent for Luxury Homes in Scottsdale, The Szabo group delivers experience, knowledge, dedication and proven results. Contact Joe Szabo at 480.688.2020, info@ScottsdaleRealEstateTeam.com or visit www.scottsdalerealestateteam.com to find out more about Scottsdale Homes for Sale and Estates for Sale in Scottsdale and to search the Scottsdale MLS for Scottsdale Home Listings.
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