Since the real estate market crashed, many people are opting to rent an apartment or home instead of buying. But what are the top important tidbits to know when renting? What questions should you ask when you sit down with a leasing agent or owner or when touring the complex or home? The valuable information you gain from just a few simple questions can help you make a more informed decision, save you money, and keep you from renting from less-than-ideal landlords.

Question 1: What is included in the rent?

This is an extremely important question to ask because it could save you money or keep you from renting from that person or establishment. Some apartment complexes or landlords include utilities, cable, Internet, water, trash, and maintenance in the rental price. Some only include a few. Some include none. It's critical to know what you're paying for and how much. You could be saving a bunch of money by having everything included in your rent. Also, try to figure out the Internet, cable, and utility providers in the area before you sign a lease. If you don't, you may end up with a carrier you are not fond of. Always know what you're paying for before you sign on the dotted line. Another tip is to bring a licensed realtor with during your tour as they can help answer any questions you may have.

Question 2: Do you offer your own renter's insurance or do you require renter's insurance?

Typically apartment complexes and landlords require you to have renter's insurance to save you both a lot of headaches. However, some complexes will offer their own renter's insurance that may be cheaper than the brand-name companies. If you decide to branch off though, make sure the apartment complex's insurance is thorough and covers you just as well as another policy would have. Saving money on insurance is a wonderful plus, but getting less coverage can come back to bite you. Learn more about renters insurance by clicking here

Question 3: What kind amenities are offered?

Even if you don't plan on staying at a certain address for a while, it's a good idea to ask about what kind of amenities are on the grounds. In-house, in-apartment, or on-site laundry, pool, on-site dry cleaning, upgraded appliances, walk-in closets, parking availability or covered parking, grass for dogs, and doggy clean up bags are several items that may entice you to stay or rent somewhere else. Find out what's offered inside and outside the unit.

Question 4: Do you have many long-term leasers and do you have flexible leases, e.g. month-to-month, 3 month, 6 month, 1 year?

You want to know if people renew their leases at the complex or if the home's landlord has had several long-term leasers. If renters stay through only one or two leases, that may be a red flag. It's also a good idea to ask about the flexibility of the lease. Are there shorter leases available? Do you offer several different lengths of leases? What's the most common lease length at your home/complex? If you signed a one-year lease the first time, can you sign a shorter one the next? Is there any way to void the lease once it's been signed or are the terms ironclad? When do you need to notify the landlord/complex that you will be moving out? All important questions to ask when putting pen to paper.

Question 5: Do you allow pets? If yes, what's the charge?

Is your favorite Bonut or Schnookems not allowed on the premises? Or do you have to pay a ton of bones to keep him there? You want to know what the pet policy is and how much. If they are a pet-friendly complex or landlord, they may have special bonuses like grass and doggie bags.

Question 6: When's the last time the rent was raised or do you have yearly rent raises?

The rent increasing the next time you are thinking about re-signing your lease could sway you to look elsewhere. If there is a policy to increase the rent year-to-year or if the landlord of the home bases the rent on the current housing market, you could be in for a rude awakening when you try to stay for another term. You could get lucky and lease from someone who has had the same price for the past five years but it's never a bad idea to check if the rates increase frequently.

Question 7: What are your move-in fees, if any, and when, if ever, do you offer move-in specials?

During some parts of the year, rental companies and landlords try to increase business by offering incentives like $300 off your move-in fees when you sign in the month of October. It's necessary to know how much you have to pay to move-in to your new place besides the rent. Typically the first month's rent along with a deposit is due at the lease signing, but sometimes there are cleaning fees, move-in fees, pet fees, and last month's rent due also.

Question 8: If you see a model unit, and not the actual rental apartment, ask if the appliance/appearance is the same or if they are different than what you saw.

Many times when you tour the grounds of an apartment complex, you are led to a model unit that gives you the look and feel of what you might be living in. In some instances, the unit you will actually live in is still occupied and all you have to go on is the model. Always ask if the appliances, lay out, closet, bathroom, balcony, and whatever else concerns you, is exactly the same in your rental unit. Model units can have older appliances that haven't been upgraded or newer appliances to entice renters but may not match what you get.

Question 9: Do you paint/clean/shampoo/alter the apartment or house before the lease begins?

When you move in you want to know that your new unit or home was cleaned after the last resident lived there. It is customary that the landlord or complex will shampoo the rugs but sometimes they don't. Some complexes completely change out the carpets every time they have a new renter. Some home landlords don't paint in-between renters. It's good to know how much of the home or apartment will be cleaned or changed before you move in.

Question 10: Can I customize (e.g. paint, shelving) the apartment or house?

Each landlord and complex has their own rules about painting and shelving. Some allow it, some don't. If customization is important to you, ask whether you can paint or put up shelves before you sign the lease.

Question 11: Is the neighborhood/complex quiet or do they have a lot of block parties?

Whether you're in college, middle aged, or retired, you want to know if you'll be able to sleep or party the night away. If the complex or neighborhood is lively all the time and you're looking for a relaxing nook, that may not be the place for you. Confirm that the atmosphere is one that you will be comfortable in.

Find the perfect fit for you by asking the questions above. Always make sure you know exactly what you're getting or not getting and confirm you're comfortable with all of the terms before you put your John Hancock on their lease. If you run into any issues during you contract you can also contact a local college organization like this harvard legal group which will help you through any issues at not cost.

It is possible for you to repair, list and sell your home on your own, but it is important that your price is right and your expectations are realistic. There is nothing more damaging to the sale of a property than having to continually dropping the price until it will sell (and it may not even sell if you do drop the price). There are important things to do when you decide to price your home yourself.

You need to be objective about taking a look at your home and its worth. It is important to take the emotional attachment out of the equation. The prospective buyers of your home aren't going to care about how many memories you have made in your home, how much money you need for your next down payment, or how much you have put into repairing your home over the years. What they are going to care about is getting a fair and agreeable price for what your home is actually worth.

Know how much other homes like yours are selling for so that you have a starting point for your pricing. Knowing how much other homes similar to yours are selling for (or have sold for) will give you a good idea of how much you can expect to get for your home, as well as how much you may get for an offer if you decide to price your home a little higher. A good place to start is by looking for similar homes on a website like You can expect that your prospective buyers will do their research (or their realtors will) so you need to be prepared to defend your price or bargain.

If your based out of Rochester like I am, try to go to open houses with a Rochester MN Realtor so that you can get a good idea of what it is going to feel like when you are in the same position. It is important to go into their homes just as they would yours, be completely objective and open. However, you need to consider the location, as well as the repairs they have completed on their home and the overall condition of the home. What it comes down to, if all houses were the same price, would you buy your house or their house? That little question will be the driving force behind your pricing technique.

It is also important to take into account the condition of the market you are selling in. The house prices may be very high, but are they selling? How long is it taking to sell? Are the prices having to be dropped significantly, in order for them to sell? All of these questions are questions that should be answered before you make a choice on price so that you can make sure you are going to get a fair amount for your home.

All things considered, it is still possible to sell your home on your own. It will cut out the realtor's fees as well as give you the experience for the future to get a good deal on your next house. Being an informed seller can also make you an informed buyer, allowing you to feel more in control of the situation and able to make a good decision.