A row of apartments in the University Neighborhood

Many landlords and property managers wait awhile to fill a vacant rental if it is being held for a desirable tenant, so start checking listings a few months before you plan to move!

Learn more about local neighborhoods on Make It Missoula's neighborhoods page.

Photo by Nelson Kenter - kenterphotography.com

Residential Leasing Tips

Start looking. Now. Even if your upcoming move is still a month or two away, you can be sure that some rental listings are already posted.  If you see an attractive listing, be sure to make contact with whoever posted it as rentals can go quickly in Missoula.

Because Missoula is a university town, rental vacancies are more prevalent in summer months than during the school year. During months when the university is in session, you’ll simply need to be more diligent in finding the perfect rental.

Consider starting your rental search by checking out  our list of property management companies. Alternatively, classified ads in local papers and websites like Craigslist are also good places to start your search.

To expedite matters, have references and rental histories ready so you can act quickly to apply.  More and more Missoula property management companies are including online applications on their websites, making the process easier.

As added help in finding the perfect Missoula apartment or rental home, follow these helpful residential leasing tips.

1. Know your budget. Before beginning your search, know your rental budget. Generally speaking, about one fourth of your gross income or one third of your take home pay is a good general guideline.

2. Determine your “must haves.” You should prepare a list of things that you feel you must have in an apartment or rental home. Decide on the number of bedrooms, whether you will need a garage or covered parking, whether you need a pet friendly property, etc. Knowing what you need before you start, can help you narrow your search.

3. Be patient looking. Don’t expect to find the right place right out the gate. It may take awhile. Most people start by searching the Classified sections of the newspapers and /or search online for potential properties. If you feel you need help, consider hiring a rental agent or working through a property management company.

4. Check out the neighborhood. Once you have some rentals in mind, make sure you canvas the neighborhood. Look for signs that it is safe. If you have children, find out about the quality of the local schools. Also talk to others in the neighborhood, if possible. If the neighborhood does not feel right for you, look somewhere else. You do not want to rent somewhere you are not comfortable.

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5. Check the property thoroughly. Once you’ve narrowed your search, check each property carefully. Besides reviewing the obvious like floor plans and amenities, be sure to check for things like signs of insects, potential noise from streets or adjacent apartments, overall cleanliness, etc. You don’t want unpleasant surprises after signing the lease.

6. Review the lease. After selecting your property, review the lease thoroughly and ask questions about anything you don’t understand. For example, are utilities included? If not, ask how much do they usually run. Are pets allowed? Can you have a roommate to share costs? Is parking available? Does it come with a washer and dryer or a common laundry room? Try to think of everything that needs an answer, before signing the lease.

7. Negotiate if possible. Do not be afraid to try to negotiate the price, especially if it is a little more than you would ideally like to pay. The landlord may be willing to adjust the price if he needs to rent the property badly enough. Make sure you understand policies about deposits, and what the consequences will be if you have to break the lease. The lease is meant for your protection, but it also protects the landlord.

8. Document move-in condition. Before you move into your new home, it is a good idea to take photographs of everything that you can. You could take shots of every room in the house as well as fixed items in it, that is, stove and refrigerator. Do not forget to take some of the outside as well because they may come in handy at a later date.

9. Keep copies of all communication. Keep a copy of all your correspondence with the property owner or manager. Yes, all of your correspondence. If there is a change in your contract, you should get this in writing. If you would like to report a problem in the home, that is, the roof is leaking etc. put it in writing. Yes, you can telephone and let him/her know about it, but put it in writing as well and record the dates that you speak by telephone about it. This may come in handy if disputes arise.

10. Do a walk-through at lease end. When your lease is up, do a “walk-through” with the person in charge. A walk-through simply means that a specific person will check to see that you have left the property in good condition. Get a signed copy from him/her, which confirms the condition in which you’ve left the property or that describes any specific issues related to the property upon your moving out. This protects you from not getting an appropriate amount of your security deposit back. As added protection, take photos of the property as visual proof of the property’s condition upon move out to compare against those you took at the time you moved in.

Good luck!

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