Q: We’re looking for a larger place and want to avoid paying double rent. Any ideas?

A: Give yourself a fair amount of lead time, ideally about 60 days to look. Keep in mind that no one likes surprises, not even landlords, so take the plunge and verbally let your current landlord you’re hunting for a larger place.

Telling your current landlord that you’re looking may ease tension for all concerned. Perhaps the owner or manager has another property that suits your growing needs, or knows of a place that would be a good choice. It usually doesn’t hurt to ask, especially since it gives the landlord some extra lead-time for preparing for a vacancy.

Legally speaking, the amount of notice a tenant must give a landlord varies from state to state. Generally, the interval between rental payments applies. After checking the proper lead-time for your area, be sure the notice is in writing. To avoid misunderstandings later, be sure to keep a copy of the actual notice in your file. Some people don’t bother keeping a copy and have a shock when the landlord returns a smaller deposit than expected, perhaps claiming they received written notice at a later date than you recall. Not surprisingly, one of the leading causes for deposit disputes between landlords and tenants is over the actual amount of rent owed at move-out.

When is the typical 30 days a fair gamble? Depends on where you’re going. There are a lot of factors involved in finding a new place, which can influence the amount of lead-time you should budget when looking for another place to call home. For starters, are you renting in the same area or out-of-town?

Renting within driving distance of your current abode gives you more options, since you can readily look at a variety of places and get a feel for the market. For example, are there a lot of vacancies where you’re looking? If so, you may be in luck.

For out-of-town hunts–generally speaking–the further the next destination, the more difficult it is to coordinate the timing. It’s not easy to fly in and out, searching for a rental, and many people settle for the best deal they can nab over the phone.

Think you can skip telling your landlord you’re looking for a new place, even if you’re “just looking?” Don’t bet on it, since it’s a gamble when the new landlord wants to call your current landlord for a reference, and inquires about your rental history. By keeping everyone informed, you’re more likely to enjoy a smooth and well-timed move to your new place.

Q: I just made an offer to purchase my first home and need to give notice to my landlord. How should I time my departure?

A: While there’s no perfect answer on when to give a landlord notice for buyers, Trish Lee, a Realtor in the Beverly Hills, Calif., area suggests, “It’s a good idea to wait until the major contingencies are signed off, since if there’s a major snag, you could be left without a place to live.” One client gave notice, but luckily provided a time range to her landlord and gave herself a few extra days cushion. “Losing your rental isn’t worth saving a few dollars”, Lee says.

Making an offer to buy a property doesn’t mean your offer will be accepted, let alone the deal closing escrow. Before you start packing your bags, it’s best to understand the steps that lead you to moving into a purchased property.

Much like a tennis match, the bid–like the ball–is sent back and forth until you both agree where it should land. Your first serve involves sending your purchase offer over to the seller’s side for a response. All offers include a deadline, which if left unanswered, ends the game. Often, a counter-offer is involved, which lobbies the bid from the seller back to your side for consideration.

A counter-offer is a change in terms, ranging from price to length of escrow to excluded appliances. The seller can counter anything included in the eight-page-plus purchase contract with another term or condition.

Sometimes counter-offers and counter-counter-offers are lobbied back and forth between buyers and sellers, making everyone’s head spin.

Assuming the terms and conditions are agreeable to both buyer and seller, the next match involves the loan, appraisal and inspection aspects, to name a few. Before you give your landlord notice, I advise you consult with your real estate agent to get a grip on when escrow is getting ready to close.

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