12/31/2013 11:26 am ET Updated Mar 02, 2014

Top 5 New Year's Resolutions for Long-Term Renters

If you are a long-term renter, you know that finding a living situation you enjoy and can afford is often a concern. For the start of the new year, we have five resolutions that might be right for you.

1. Become a Stellar Tenant

When landlords have great tenants, they are more likely to renew leases and limit rent increases. Stacy Brown, operations manager for Real Property Management, has four golden rules for building a great relationship with your landlord:

  • Pay your rent on time.
  • Don't abuse free maintenance.
  • Be a good neighbor.
  • Treat your rental like you own it.

To keep the relationship in good standing, Brown says, "appropriate communication is essential" and when problems come up, "work directly with the landlord."

2. Find the Perfect Space

Many longtime renters dream of finding a perfect rental they can live in for years but, more often than not, end up regretting the lease after moving in and start itching to move on. To stop the cycle, Brown says,

When looking for your new 'home,' renters need to try to visually 'live' in every space before committing to the lease. Picture your furnishings in the home, imagine where and when you will entertain and work, where guests will park and congregate. Walk through the kitchen as if you were preparing a meal, etc. If you can effectively put yourself in the property, then you just may have found your home.

3. Upgrade to a Larger Home

For renters feeling a bit cramped, deciding to upgrade to a bigger space might be the perfect New Year's resolution. Of course, you'll have to get a few things in order. Brown says good credit scores and a positive rental history will help avoid rejections, but your monthly income will need to be three times the monthly rent to get approved for most rentals.

4. Save Money on Rent

Is saving money your New Year's resolution? One trick might help you save money on rent. According to Brown,

Negotiating on leases, although rare, can pay off in certain circumstances. It is always a good idea for renters to do their research in the area they wish to live, understand what the market rent is for that area, and if the home you are interested in is higher than normal, negotiate a lower price.

If you can't find a landlord who is willing to haggle, try searching®'s Available Rental Listings for units in your price range and ask the landlord for a discount. Brown says many landlords now "offer a discount on rental rates if the rent is paid on or before the first of the month."

5. Re-establish Rental History

If you've had some blemishes on your rental history, you can get past them in the coming year. The only way to rebuild your renting rep is to be a "good resident in the first place," Brown says. By being a stellar tenant (see resolution number one) you can build up a positive rental history.

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