It’s important to think about the type of lease that best fits your current situation as you begin the hunt for your new home. Since apartment communities offer leases with varying lengths of time, consider the differences between a long-term and short-term lease. Whether you desire more stability or appreciate a flexible arrangement, both long- and short-term agreements come with their own unique tradeoffs that are important to understand before you sign on the dotted line.
To help you identify the lease option that best suits your goals and lifestyle, especially when moving to a new area, here are some key differences between these two types of lease terms:
A long-term lease typically applies to an agreement that lasts longer than six months. While 12-month leases tend to be the most common, property managers may also offer ones that are multi-year.
For those who prefer stability over flexibility, a long-term lease may be a good fit. Residents have the security and ease of knowing that their living accommodations are nailed down for the next year or more. Your rent will also remain the same over a longer period, allowing you to easily calculate your expenses and make long-term financial plans.
If you really like a city or particular neighborhood, long-term leases allow you to put down roots in that area. You can immerse yourself in your community and form deeper relationships with neighbors and local businesses. You can also personalize your space to make it really feel like home, since you know you will be settled for a while.
In signing a long-term lease, you should make sure that you’re comfortable and stable enough to commit financially. If you realize a few months in that your rent is higher than you can afford, or you have a change in personal circumstances, your options are limited. And while all leases are legally binding contracts, these leases are a longer commitment and can come with costly penalties to break. That’s why it’s essential to ensure you are comfortable with the rent and prepared for unforeseen circumstances when entering a long-term lease.
Another factor to consider is location. You might find you have a longer commute than anticipated or end up in an area that doesn’t have the amenities you need. Renters who are considering a long-term lease in a new city should carefully weigh their decision and understand that they will need to wait longer to move if desired.
A short-term lease generally refers to a rental agreement that lasts six months or less. These can be a month-to-month agreement or a more traditionally structured lease — be sure to read your lease contract and its terms carefully.
Flexibility is key when it comes to short-term leases. Whether you’re unsure of your future plans, aren’t ready to commit for an extended period of time or simply need a stopgap while you find longer-term housing, a short-term lease offers you the opportunity to tailor your accommodations to your timing needs. Short-term leases prioritize flexibility, which can be helpful if you need to relocate on short notice.
Moving can be especially daunting if you’re unfamiliar with the destination location. Short-term leases give you time to adjust and explore before committing to a neighborhood longer term. You can take your time getting to know local communities and finding favorite spots like your go-to coffee shop, gym, bar, restaurant or supermarket. If these happen to be in another part of town, a short-term lease allows you to move to that area relatively quickly.
While flexibility is convenient, it also comes with trade-offs to consider. The convenience of short-term leases typically comes with higher rent, as housing providers take on greater risk and lose the stability of long-term agreements. It’s also important to note that property managers can make changes to the lease terms after each period, so your agreement may not look the same as it did a month ago.
Knowing and understanding options for the length of a lease and determining which is best for you is important. Regardless of which choice you make, you can enjoy your new home while exploring the different areas and neighborhoods with the convenience of the apartment lifestyle.
Robert Pinnegar is president and CEO of the National Apartment Association in Arlington, Va.
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