What you need to know when renting a house for the first time
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What you need to know when renting a house for the first time

Things to think about when renting a house

There are lots of types of places to rent out there. You could rent a studio apartment, a loft, a two-bedroom apartment. You could rent a place in a big apartment complex or the top floor of a converted Victorian home. There are pros and cons to each type of rental, of course, but there’s one type of place that seems tempting to rent, but comes with some unique advantages and disadvantages. Here are some of the most important things you need to know about renting a house for the first time!

Benefits of renting a house

Here are some of the biggest advantages of renting a house:

  • Space. This is often the biggest draw of renting a house. The square footage of a typical apartment is bound to be a lot smaller than the square footage of a typical house. The house you’re thinking of renting probably has more than one floor, and several bedrooms, and it might have lots of shared spaces, like a living room, a dining room, or even a furnished basement. This gives you a lot more space to live, relax, and even entertain. There are responsibilities that come along with all this space, but there are a lot of benefits, too.
  • Privacy. When you live in an apartment, you’re usually right on top of other renters. You could have neighbors on either side of you, above and below! When you live in a house, you won’t have to worry about sharing a wall (or floor or ceiling) with a neighbor. That means you’ll have to worry less about your noise levels and nosy neighbors, too.
  • Neighborhood. The types of neighborhoods with lots of houses are often a little bit different from those with lots of apartment buildings. Often the house you’re renting will be surrounded by other houses. Maybe there will be other renters in the area, or maybe it’ll be a neighborhood of families. Either way, it could be a very cool environment to live in (or, you may decide that you’d prefer a neighborhood with lots of other renters. Your mileage may vary, of course).
  • A yard. This is a luxury that a lot of apartment renters don’t have. Sure, sometimes you have a shared outdoor space in an apartment complex, but more often than not, you don’t. With a house, you’ll probably have a yard, which makes it easier to have a barbecue, a Whiffle Ball game, or some space for Fido to run around. There are extra responsibilities that come with having a yard, for sure, but it’s also a pretty nice perk! When searching for your new rental make sure to filter for the keyword “yard”.

Potential drawbacks to renting a house

It’s not all rosy, of course. Here are some potential drawbacks to renting a house:

  • Expense. In cities, the rent for a house is almost always higher than the rent for an apartment. In suburban or rural areas, the price differential may be a bit smaller, but, typically, renting a house will be a lot more expensive than renting an apartment.
  • Lots of roommates. The house you’re looking at probably has several bedrooms, so you may end up with more than one roommate. This may be a great situation for some of you (heck, we know people who lived with a dozen of their closest friends in an off-campus house in college), but it may be more complicated than you expect. Different personalities, different habits, and different methods of dealing with conflict can potentially cause problems. With this in mind, consider signing a roommate agreement with your roomies to try and lessen the possibility of problems cropping up.
  • Lots to take care of. Lots of space means lots of stuff to manage. You’ll have more floors to mop or vacuum. You’ll probably have more than one bathroom to clean. You’ll probably even have an outdoor space to maintain. All that extra space can be a lot of fun, but the extra responsibilities can be burdensome to some people. To others, the extra work is no big deal, but it’s something to think about when you’re making this decision.
  • Would it be better to buy? If you love the idea of living in a house, you may want to consider buying one. It’s a big commitment, to be sure, and it’s certainly not the right decision for everyone, but you should take some time to consider whether it makes more sense to rent or to buy. To help you make your decision, check out our article on whether to rent or buy. 

Renting a house vs. apartment compared

Rent a houseRent apartment
Monthly costHigherLower
MaintenanceMoreLess
PrivacyMoreLess
AmenitiesFewer More (fitness center, etc.)
SpaceMoreLess

Questions to ask your landlord about your rental house

  1. Can you sublet? If you end up with a spare room in your place, it might be very tempting to sublet it to a friend, or even list it on a website like Airbnb, so you can make a little extra scratch. It’s a great idea, but once again, find out if your lease allows it. Ask your landlord in advance instead of assuming it’s okay. You could get yourself into real trouble if you rent out a room without your landlord’s knowledge and permission.
  2. Is it furnished? Find out if the house is fully, partially, or not furnished. A house is a big space, probably a lot bigger than a one- or two-bedroom apartment. You and your housemates may not have enough furniture to fill it up! You may have enough for your own bedrooms, but what about the living room or dining room? If the place comes fully or partially furnished, find out. This could be a big difference-maker for you. 
  3. What is the appliance situation? Find out what appliances the house already has. See if they’re new or they need replacing. But beyond the expected appliances (like a fridge and stove), see what else is included. Is there a washer or dryer? Is there central air conditioning?
  4. Who pays for utilities? Find out if any of your utilities (heat, water, electricity) are paid for by the landlord or passed through to you as a fee. You’ll probably have to pay at least for cable and internet directly, but more and more landlords are managing utility expenses now too.
  5. Can you have a pet? When people think about a yard, a lot of them think about watching a dog run around that yard. Or maybe you’re more of a cat person, and you love the idea of having your feline roam around your spacious new home. Either way, find out if pets are allowed in your rental house before you make a decision as to whether it’s right for you.
  6. Can you make any changes? We’re not talking about knocking down walls here. But find out whether you’re allowed to make more minor changes, like rearranging furniture or hanging pictures. It’s better to check the lease or ask in advance than risk making changes that cause problems.
  7. Can you decorate it? Again, the house is a big space and, when you’re living in it, you may have a strong desire to decorate (or re-decorate). If you just hate the color of the living room walls, can you repaint? Can you put up wallpaper or change the carpeting? Check with your landlord before you do any of these things just to be sure they’re ok.
  8. Who’s in charge of landscaping? Does your landlord have a service to mow the lawn or shovel a snowy driveway? Do you like to work outside? If you do, talk to your landowner about it. Maybe you can work something out where you do some of the outdoor chores in exchange for a break on the rent.
  9. Are guests allowed? Again, with a big space, it may be tempting to invite a bunch of people over. Maybe you even plan on having a guest room just for overnight buddies. This is another matter you want to talk to your landlord about before you sign your lease, as there may be restrictions on overnight guests in that document, and you’ll want to know that in advance.
Roost Tip! Your water usage is likely to go up in the summer, so you should figure out who pays for the extra water between June and September. Negotiate this as part of your lease or put in a cap (say, $25 per month) for that period.

What to keep in mind when renting a house

Aside from the above, you’ll want to keep a couple of other things in mind as you consider renting a house for the first time:

  • Get on the same page with your roommate (or roommates). If you’re renting a house, chances are, you’re not renting it by yourself (unless you really, really want plenty of space to practice your drumming and dance routines).
  • Remember there are a lot of similarities to renting an apartment. Above, we focused a lot on how renting a house is different, but in a lot of ways, it’s the same. You’ll want to carefully read your lease. You’ll want to make sure you get renters’ insurance. You’ll want to avoid making common rental mistakes. In other words, while there are some unique aspects of renting a house, don’t forget everything you know about renting an apartment. A lot of it applies!

Finding a house to rent

Finding a house to rent for the first time is not all that different from finding any other kind of apartment. You can use the same techniques we recommended for finding an apartment: ask your friends and family, use social networking tools, or use rental listing apps. Just let people know you’re looking for a house (or use the website filters to search only for houses) and start looking at your options!

Get ready to rent that house!

Now that you have some idea of what’s involved when renting a house, you should start looking! Keep in mind the pros and cons and start thinking about what questions you’d want to ask a listing agent or landlord. Find the house that’s right for you, remember everything you know about renting an apartment, and read your lease carefully! Then move in and enjoy. And don’t forget to invite us to your first barbecue!

A quick note! Our goal is to gather and share info that’s up-to-date and helps you make great decisions as a renter. That said, the information you get directly from a provider could be a little different. Make sure to review their terms and conditions directly; and, if you see anything here that needs to be updated, please let us know! Advertising disclosure
Last Updated: November 25th, 2020