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Tips for Getting Your Dream Rental

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For tenants, finding your dream rental isn’t always easy. There are plenty of properties out there, but in hot housing markets, they tend to move quickly. 

If you’ve been coming up empty-handed in your property searches, finding your ideal rental might seem impossible. What can you do to scout out a good rental early on? How can you ensure that your application stands out from the crowd, and give yourself an edge above the rest?

The secret is diligence, persistence, and your ability to move quickly. It also involves demonstrating through your interactions with the landlord or property manager and your application, that you’re a great fit for the property, able to follow the terms of the lease, and pay the rent on time. Finding a good rental can be a challenge, but it’s certainly not impossible once you know what you’re doing. 

Here’s a look at some tips to help you scout out your dream rental, and some strategies to help you get an edge above the other applicants. The good news is that once you’ve gone through the viewing and application process a couple of times, you’ll know exactly what you should do to land your dream home, something that will prove to be invaluable when you spot your ideal home.

Tips to Help Score Your Dream Rental

  • Try to Improve Your Credit Score

First up, get yourself ready to rent before it’s time to move. This means finding out what your credit score is, and if necessary, looking for ways to improve it. 

“There is no sense in applying for a place you will not get,” shares Eric D. in his article on Bigger Pockets. “Bring in your proof of a credit score to help, but know that any decent landlord will also run your application through a credit check process and verify that your version closely matches theirs.”

If your credit score isn’t up to scratch, you’ll want to find a cosigner, someone who can sign your lease with you, who has a good credit score and meets the income requirements as well. 

  • Consider Moving During the Winter

Sure, you won’t always have a choice in what time of year you search for your new place, but if you do have the luxury of choosing a move date, it may be an idea to try to move during the winter months, especially if you’re hoping to secure a good deal. 

“Budget constraints are often the determining factor for getting the space you want and need,” explains Kenneth Burke, in his article on Lifehack. “Rent contracts are usually cheapest during November, December, and January. Take advantage of it! I once got a 30% lower monthly rate just because we signed in January. If you can manage it, wait to sign a deal until one of these months, because you’ll likely be able to get a lot more bang for your buck.”

  • Start Your Search Early On

Try to start your search early on. This means 1-2 months before you have to leave. This will give you time to find your ideal rental. If you’re working with a shorter timeframe, you’ll need to plan on putting more hours into searching through the listings. 

  • Set Up Notifications

You may want to set yourself up with notifications when something that meets your criteria becomes available. Burke recommends setting up an IFTTT (If this then that) recipe for Craigslist listings.

“Craigslist is a goldmine of, well, just about everything, including places to rent,” he shares. “An IFTTT recipe is basically an automated notification system. So you can set it up to hear about every, say, 3 bed 2 bath option under $1500, and get an email whenever a new listing meets that criteria. You can always find a great deal on craigslist, but you’ve got to be quick.”

  • Look for Hidden Gems

Consider looking in places like newsletters, flyers, or even online notice boards. In some cases, you might find a hidden gem that’s been shared in these places, and in some cases, only shared here. That means you’ll have much less competition, as fewer people will know about it.

“I once found a glorious (and cheap) cottage in a wealthy neighborhood by checking my alma mater’s blackboard,” shares Burke. “That was the only place they listed it. The owners also ran a landscaping company. The place was immaculate, and within easy walking distance to parks, restaurants, and scenic hiking trails. Definitely find and check the announcement boards. It might be the only place your dream apartment is listed!”

  • Search the Main Sites

You’ll still want to check the main sites as well. Zillow and Trulia to see what rentals are available in your area. Be sure to visit Renters Warehouse as well. These sites have features that allow you to narrow down your criteria so that you can find properties that are closer to what you’re looking for.

  • Don’t Let Dull Photos Put You Off

Yes, it’s true. If you find a rental listing with no photos, that should be a clear warning sign. However, low-quality photos are inconsequential, and if you can see beyond them, they may help you to discover a hidden gem. Look beyond the upside-down images, or photos of rumpled bedspreads, closed curtains, and clutter, and you may be able to snag yourself a diamond in the rough.

  • Avoid Negotiating

Sure, you could consider negotiating on the rental price, if you’re in an area where rentals aren’t moving that quickly. For instance, if you see that a rental’s been on the market for a while, and you could make an offer that’s below the asking price. Or, if the property is in need of a few upgrades in the kitchen, but you’re fine with the older appliances, you could consider negotiating a lower rent. Keep in mind though, that in a competitive market, you won’t be able to negotiate. In these markets, offering less than the asking price will most likely just result in another applicant being chosen over yourself.

  • Set Your Criteria From the Start

You can’t change some things about your new home, such as the location, the layout, the water pressure, or the parking situation. But when it comes to small things, there’s a lot that you can do to make a rental your home. Decide for yourself which aspects are the most important to you, then look for properties that meet your criteria.

See also: Spring Cleaning: How to Spruce Up Your Rental

  • Have Your Paperwork Together

“You should be ready to rent any place you are looking at; otherwise, why waste your time or the landlord’s?” Eric D. explains. “Bring along proof of employment and income, along with your W2, tax forms, or a pay stub. Bring a pen to fill out an application and a checkbook to write out a check for the application fees. If you like the rental, you should also put down a holding fee to hold the rental. If you do not like the place or the landlord, keep the information in your pocket for the next place.”

Documents you’ll need when applying for a rental:

  • Photo ID
  • Social Security 
  • Employment History
  • Proof of Income (bank statements)
  • Rental history (list of properties you’ve lived in and landlords for reference)
  • The application fee 
  • The first and last month’s rent and the security deposit

  • Look At Properties That Are Within Your Budget

Income is one of the main considerations when assessing your qualification for a rental. So make sure you meet the income requirements of the property that you’re planning to see. Usually, a landlord or property manager will want to see income that’s three times higher than the asking rent. 

In fact, your annual household income is one question that may even come up before you’re able to schedule a viewing, so make sure you know the answer to this question before you call up.

Don’t quite meet the income requirements? No worries! You’ll want to find a cosigner, someone who meets the income requirements themselves, and who’s willing to sign the lease with you. Make sure you find someone, usually a close friend or family member, ahead of time so that when it comes time to fill out the application, or even commence your property search, you’ll know exactly what your options are, and what to put down.

  • Be Fast When Arranging a Viewing

Moving quickly is the name of the game when it comes to finding and securing your dream rental. Once you spot a listing that you like, you’ll want to move quickly to book a viewing as soon as possible. If you can, try to fit in the next available showing. Waiting until the weekend will put you at a disadvantage, as early birds will have already managed to fit in a showing ahead of you, which means they may be putting an offer in ahead of you too.

  • Be Ready to Pay the Deposit

Just because you’ve submitted an application, doesn’t mean that the property’s yours. You’ll need to keep in mind that in hot housing markets, you’ll be competing against many other applicants, so you’ll need to be able to move quickly during each stage of the journey. 

One thing that you’ll want to be ready for is paying the security deposit and the first and last month’s rent. Do you have the funds on hand to pay for it? If not, you’re going to have a hard time getting approved. 

  • Give the Required Notice With Your Current Property

If you’re currently renting, don’t forget to give the required notice for your current property. Check your lease to see how much notice you’ll need to give. For a month-to-month lease, for example, state law usually requires 30 days.

  • Dress Nicely and Be on Time

Yes, they seem like small things, but they’re important. Dress nicely and show up on time for your showing, or even a few minutes early. No, you don’t need a suit and tie, but you’ll want to look polished and put together to make a good impression on the landlord or property manager who’s showing you the home. Arriving late shows that you don’t value being on time, which doesn’t exactly send a good message.

  • Move Quickly With Your Application

Once you’ve found a home that you love, move quickly to fill out the application. Ideally, you’ll want to do this as soon as you arrive home from the viewing. While at the viewing, ask the landlord or property manager where you can submit the application. Usually, these are done online. Once you’re at a computer, pull up the form and get your application finished right away. Take the time to read through and edit it quickly, then fire it off.

  • Complete Your Application With Care

You’ll want to move quickly, but you’ll also want to ensure that you complete your application carefully as well. This is especially true in a competitive real estate market, where rentals move quickly. Double-check that you’ve included all of the information that’s required, and provided all of the documents that they’ve requested to make the landlord’s life easier.

  • Share Why You Want to Live There

A good landlord will want to hear that you love the home and would like the opportunity to live there. If there’s space in your application, try to make a candid note of why you’re a great fit for the property. Is there a big garden there and you enjoy gardening? Let them know. Is it located near your work? Let them know. These details might seem inconsequential, but they help to provide insight into why, exactly, you like the place, which can give prospective landlords a glimpse into your situation.

  • Keep Your Phone Switched On

Next up, keep your phone switched on, and return any missed calls promptly. Likewise, check your email regularly as well. If you hear back from the landlord or property manager soon, that’s great! You’ll that much closer to securing your dream home. 

  • Start Packing

Once you’ve secured your new rental, you’ll want to arrange to leave your existing rental. Make sure you’ve given adequate notice to vacate your existing place. Now, it’s time to pack and arrange for movers to take your things. You’ll also want to start changing your address, once you’ve moved into your new place, and make sure you’ve started the process of setting up utilities as well. 

As you can see, when it comes to finding your dream rental, the name of the game is to be diligent and professional. It’s also a good idea to get everything lined up ahead of time including cosigners, security deposit funds, proof of employment, bank statements, and more so that when an opportunity comes up, you’ll be able to act promptly. Try to get your viewing booked for the soonest possible date, and make sure you get your application in on the same day as well. 

Put your best foot forward with your references, and be friendly and professional, both in-person and on your application. It takes patience, but with diligence and persistence, you’re certain to find your dream home soon. Don’t give up on your search and try not to feel discouraged or pressured to settle for less. Just think of the applications that didn’t work out as practice runs. Keep looking and when you do find your dream rental, you’ll know exactly what you need to do to make it your home. 

All the best in your property search!

Looking for your dream rental? Why not start your search at Renters Warehouse? See properties that are available to rent now and discover your dream home today.

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