Renting a home can be a much better option than an apartment for some, especially if you have a large family or independent lifestyle. Try not to look at such a rental as the short-term or temporary place, the way some apartments feel. Renting an entire house is a big responsibility, but it might also open some doors for you in the future, too.
1. Inspect The Home As If You Were Buying It
When you buy a house, there's a lot of paperwork to get through, some of which depends on the home having a thorough inspection. Because you're getting the whole house and not a single rental unit, you should inspect it, just as if you were buying it. You don't want the hot water heater going out on you, and you don't want leaking faucets, drafty windows and other problems new homeowners often inherit. Go over every area of the home as if a mortgage was on the line, and you should be good to go.
2. Don't Move In Without A Lease
Some landlords advertise "month-to-month" payment structures; while that may be okay for some renters, because you're moving into an entire house, you're better off asking for a lease. What if the owner/landlord decides to put the home on the open market or move in himself? A house tends to be more livable and coveted than a cookie-cutter apartment, especially if the landlord has plenty of those. Protect yourself with a lease, making sure the verbiage is clear and identifies what you're looking for.
3. Ask About The Option To Buy
While an option to buy may complicate the situation for the lease, landlord, and possibly, you, it could be the start of something wonderful. Maybe you don't have enough money for a sizable down payment right now, but further down the road, you might. If you think the house is something you and your family would want long-term, ask the landlord to include an "option to buy" clause in the lease.
That should mean your rent is actually going to eventual home-ownership, rather than simply keeping your family housed another month. Asking about the option to buy also shows the landlord you're dedicated to the property, giving them a sense that you'll be more likely to take good care of the property as a renter, which is something they probably have issues with all the time.
4. Get Permission For Upgrades, Especially Ones You Intend To Deduct From Rent
Whether or not you have the option to buy in your lease, you'll probably be bitten by the home improvement bug, as many who move into their own house are. If you're going to start fixing things up, make sure you can also deduct the money you put towards the repairs from the rent you're paying, or possibly apply it towards a down payment you'd need for owner-financed buying in the future.
At the very least, renting a home will look good on your credit report, as you demonstrate a lot of responsibility and take care of the house. Furthermore, though, you could be opening the door to home ownership someday and for that, you must be fully prepared. Talk to a local realtor about local homes for rent.