Anyone who has ever rented a property will agree that the process of finding your ideal rental home is daunting, time consuming and has its disappointments. First, one must sift through all the property ads, usually online, hoping that listings are up to date. Then, after creating a shortlist of hopefuls based on desired location and photos (many of which are old and inaccurate) and inspection times that work, you embark on the inevitable race around town attending inspections, sometimes in areas you are unfamiliar with and competing with many other prospective renters who are just as stressed and keen as you are. To top it off, you often have no more than 10 or 15 minutes to make an accurate assessment of the property before submitting your application - or risk “missing out”!
Is it any wonder that in such circumstances important observations get missed or the right questions aren’t asked? Surely one of the most common disappointments when starting a new lease is that things aren’t as you had hoped (or remembered) or that you wish you had asked/checked something that was important to you.
If you are unable to attend the inspection in person then you are at an even bigger disadvantage. It has not been uncommon for inspections to be posted online during COVID for prospective tenants not able to attend if they are interstate or overseas. It is a huge risk to sign a lease without having inspected the property or at least had someone view it on your behalf as you may be relying on inaccurate photos, limited descriptions and it will be very difficult to get an accurate impression of the property.
The best way to avoid any issues is to be prepared and know what to look for. So, to help make things a little easier, here is a list of 10 important items to confirm, based on the experience of our Brisbane relocation consultants who inspect rental properties on behalf of clients regularly and, if you are unable attend an inspection can do so on your behalf as an experienced and unbiased third party.
1. Check the dimensions
Do bring along a tape measure and don’t be afraid to take quick measurements of room sizes if you have awkward or larger furniture items. There is nothing worse than moving into a property and finding out that your king bed or oversized dining table does not fit through a doorway or around a tight corner. If you have a larger double door fridge, check that it will fit into the fridge space in the kitchen. Make sure the laundry will accommodate your washing machine and dryer. If you like to air dry your clothes, check that there is space in the laundry area or a clothesline is installed. Will your car fit in the garage?
It is also worthwhile considering how larger items will be moved into the home, because if entry doors are narrow, lifts to apartments are small or there are lots of stairs, you may run into problems and incur unexpected additional moving costs.
2. Is there enough storage?
Renting or buying more storage space is expensive as well as being an extra hassle, so check that the property has adequate storage for your needs. If you have bikes, surfboards, toys, lots of suitcases etc make sure that there is a secure external area to store these items. Many inner-city apartments have bike storage areas in garage areas but only a lucky few will have storage cages in the garage and building by-laws may prevent the storage of items in communal garage areas. Many Queenslander houses have under house storage, but they may not be fully secure or protected from the weather. Check: is there enough cupboard and pantry space in the kitchen for all your gadgets and enough wardrobe space in the bedrooms?
3. Property orientation
The most favoured orientation for a property is north facing as it provides good light all year around. West facing rooms will receive hot afternoon sun, which is especially uncomfortable in Brisbane, so beware of west facing outdoor areas and balconies unless they have some kind of awning or shade. It is also a good idea to gauge whether the property has good air flow and will get good breezes as these are invaluable in the summer. In Brisbane cooling afternoon breezes tend to flow from east (Bayside) to west and properties with a higher elevation or second story living are best placed to benefit from these breezes.
Before you start inspecting properties check with your insurance provider what security features would impact your contents policy. Deadbolts, security screens, window locks and other features may help reduce your policy costs so check what security features properties have during your inspection.
5. Streetscape, construction and neighbours
Don’t neglect checking out the neighbouring properties. Do they overlook the property? Are there noisy barking dogs next door? Is there a construction site nearby? Is the street a commuter’s ‘rat-run’ or next to a school with busy pick up and drop off traffic? Often there can be quite a difference between areas within suburbs, so take a walk or drive around surrounding streets and make sure that it feels safe and is what you re expecting. This is certainly an area where a relocation agent can provide invaluable advice.
6. Window coverings
Remember that it gets light before 5am in Brisbane in December – so check that blinds / curtains are installed and will keep out the sun until you are ready to wake up as well as keeping the heat out during the day! Check that window coverings are listed as inclusions in the lease before you sign.
7. Extra expenses (water, phone and internet connections)
Make sure you confirm if water is included in the rent or not as this can be an unexpected expense down the track. If internet speed and connections are important confirm what is available at the property by looking up the address online. If you require a home phone, check that a phone line is installed. If you want Foxtel, ask if this is installed already or, if not, that the owner will allow you to have it installed.
8. Gardens and maintenance
Typically, tenants are responsible for gardening – including weeding, regular mowing and trimming of smaller hedges, watering plants and lawns and removing garden waste. So, do consider how easy the garden will be to maintain and make sure that you consider how much time this will take and if you have the all the tools required. If you want to set up a veggie patch in an area of the garden or have some chooks, you will need to ask if this will be allowed. If you have a pet or children, check: is the garden secure?
9. Gas or electricity? Air conditioning?
Some people prefer gas and others electricity, for cooking. It is a personal preference. You may be able to work this out from photos or advertising prior to the inspection but do confirm what is available at the property when you inspect. If the hob is induction, have a think: will your pots and pans work?
Have a look at the air conditioning units, how old are they, ask if they are serviced regularly, do they seem to be of sufficient size to cool the room effectively. It is ideal to have ceiling fans as well (or instead, depending on your budget) to reduce cooling costs.
10. Cleanliness and overall state of the property
Many properties will be shown empty and will be leased out in the condition they are in when you inspect. If the garden is overgrown, the pool is looking cloudy, there are items under the house or in the shed, or the property is dusty or full of dead bugs, do ask the real estate agent to fix these issues before your move in date.
Getting non-urgent repairs done at a rental property can take a ridiculously long time, depending on your property manager. Assess how old the appliances seem to be (the older they are the more likely problems will arise), including air conditioning units, ceiling fans, oven, stovetop. If the property is still tenanted it may be quite difficult to gauge the exact state of the property so you will have to take careful note of the state of walls, carpets, window coverings, appliances etc and try to not get distracted by tenants belongings. If you have any concerns or if you require any repairs / maintenance / additional amenities raise these items with the agent.
Words of Wisdom
It is wise to take a list of items to check with you and tick them off as you go, so you do not forget anything and make notes as you need to (because you will forget!). Property inspections can be very busy, particularly on Saturdays, and it is very easy to get distracted with all the activity and after multiple inspections it is easy confuse one property with the next. It is also important to remember that rarely does a property have everything on your wish list, so do understand your priorities clearly so you are able to make sensible and acceptable compromises if necessary.
If you are able to speak briefly with the property manager at an inspection, we encourage you to do so as it helps you stand out from the crowd but do keep it succinct as the property manager is typically busy and under time constraints. We advise that you only ask questions that you are not otherwise able to ascertain, e.g. how long the tenants have been at the property, why they are moving out and whether the owner are planning to sell or move back to the property in the short term, as this may impact the suitability of the property as a long term rental.
Keep in mind that the suggestions above are just some important items to check and there may be other items to consider. Our experienced Brisbane relocation consultants can look at every property with a critical eye based on your specific requirements and assist you to identify issues before and during your Brisbane home search, saving you time and worry, so do not hesitate to contact us should you need help with you property search or if you require related Brisbane relocation services.