Deciding to rent a home is a big life choice — one that requires much thought and consideration. From creating a budget to purchasing renter’s insurance, there’s a lot that goes into it. And, as with any major decision, you want to make sure you’re well informed. Here are just a few things to keep in mind while conducting your search for your new home.

1. Where You Want to Live

Of course, one of the first things you’ll want to figure out is where you want to rent. Narrow your house-hunting search by choosing a location based on proximity to work, the city, attractions or any other factors you might consider valuable in the decision-making process. Of course, there are positives and negatives to any location. But, finding one that works best for you will help you refine and simplify your search.

2. Needs vs. Wants

You’ll also want to differentiate between your personal needs and wants. What are you looking for in a home? Do you need two bathrooms or can you settle for one?  Determining what’s most important will help you focus on homes that actually suit your needs and save you from wasting time on a space that only matches surface-level interests and wants.

3. Your Budget

Creating a budget is also a huge part of planning to rent a home. You want something you can afford, which means you’ll have to determine how much money your comfortable spending on housing. How can you cut expense to afford a more expensive rent? Or what might you save or spend your money on if your rent were cheaper? Once you determine how much you can afford to spend on a home, you can narrow down your search further.

4. Rent Inclusions

Of course, you’ll also want to consider what the landlord is including in the price of rent. While utilities may be included, most of the time they aren’t, which means you’ll have to estimate how much they might cost on top of rent. Base your estimate on current utility bills and allocate an extra chunk of money in your budget for them, just in case they end up costing more than you thought.

5. Negotiating Is an Option

While you may not be able to negotiate the rent price, you might be able to negotiate certain aspects of the lease agreement. For instance, if the lease states you may move in March 1 but are unable to move until March 15, you might request a later date and pro-rate your rent. Oftentimes, if you express a serious interest in renting, your landlord be willing to accommodate you.

6. Who’s Responsible for Maintenance

Once again, you need to consider what is included in the lease, which includes who’s responsible for maintenance and home repairs. Maybe the landlord agrees to pay for or personally make repairs. Or maybe you’ll be stuck with the bill. Either way, it’s important to find this out before signing a lease to save yourself any unexpected costs.

7. Is Insurance a Requirement

In most cases, insurance companies require landlords to insure the property they’re renting with a rental dwelling policy. This typically covers physical damage caused by fire, hail, lightning, snow and other hazards. However, this won’t cover your personal belongings. So, some landlords will require you to purchase your own renter’s insurance policy. So it’s important to clarify this before you move in.

8. Lease Term Length

Many residential leases last for 12 months or even 6 months at a more expensive rate. However, you shouldn’t assume that your lease will look the same as everyone else’s. Find out specifically how long your lease lasts and plan accordingly. If you’re planning on staying for more than a year, ask if you can sign for a longer lease to protect yourself from raised rent or updated terms and conditions.

9. What If the Landlord Wants to Sell

You want the peace of mind of knowing you’ll be living in your new home until your lease expires. However, if there’s nothing in the contract that protects you, your landlord could make you vacate the home if he wishes to sell the property. So, before signing anything, make sure the lease protects you from rent increases or your landlord trying to sell.

Put It in Writing

Once you have answers to your questions and clarifying everything you want and need in a home, write everything down. This will ensure you don’t forget anything and that you actually get answers to your questions. Better yet, make sure it’s all written out in the lease to protect yourself and your belongings, setting you up for a memorable and enjoyable life in your new home.