Finding a rental property doesn’t rank highly on most people’s favourite-things-to-do list. Landing a place that is: a) in reasonable condition, b) in the general vicinity of where you hoped to live and c) within your budget, can take a lot of searching. So, when you’ve finally found the place that ticks all those boxes, you don’t want to miss out to one of the other 55 people who took a rental application form at the open for inspection, right?
Giving your competitors the stink eye will only get you so far. What you need to do is outclass the other would-be-tenants in the eyes of the real estate agent and, ultimately, the landlord.
What you need, my friends, is to sell yourself as the perfect tenant.
What does the perfect tenant look like in the eyes of a landlord? Someone who’s tidy, doesn’t complain and has no plans to move.
The perfect tenant sales package has two parts: your behaviour and your application.
Part A: Behaviour
Tip 1: If you turn up to the property and start whining about the state of the carpet, or insisting that the bathroom would have to be re-tiled before anyone in their right mind would move in, you’ve probably already sealed your fate in the eyes of the real estate agent.
The landlord has final say on who moves in but their decision is based on a recommendation by the agent. Be nice. Treat the inspection a bit like a job interview—stay positive as you walk through the property.
The agent wants you to make their life easier. If you start demanding improvements before you’ve even moved in, they’re going to recommend someone else.
Tip 2: When it comes to nominating a move in date, in the eyes of the agent (and landlord), it’s a case of the sooner the better. They’re not much interested in whether you’ll have to pay rent on two properties for three weeks to cover the gap—they just want to lease the property as quickly as possible.
Try and stay flexible with dates.
If you don’t want to start the lease for another month but there’s another decent tenant who’s happy to sign up straight away, guess who the landlord is going to choose? (Hint: it’s not you).
Also, don’t apply for a property that you’re not willing to take and pay a deposit within 24 hours. Nothing gets a landlord or property manager offside faster than going through the application process, checking references and getting sign off from the landlord only to have the tenant pull out. It’s embarrassing to the agent and a total waste of everyone’s time.
Part B: The Perfect Rental Application
Tip 3: Fill in ALL the areas on the application form and be honest. If you think you’ll get away with not answering one part, or telling an extraordinary fib about your income, you’re wrong.
Tip 4: If the agent’s preferred method of receiving the completed form is online then do it online. If they want a hardcopy, give them the hardcopy. Make it as easy as possible for them to choose you.
Tip 5: Word up your referees and choose them wisely. Make sure they’ll pick up the agent’s call and say nice things about you. A property manager will be very suspicious of someone without a rental reference or a job reference. (Your mum does not count).
Tip 6: Self-employed? Get a letter from your accountant that proves your income.
Tip 7: This is a big one. The most important reference is the one from your previous property manager, which means a good rental reference actually starts 12 months earlier. Did you build a positive relationship with that person? Did you pay rent on time? Did you maintain the property well? Did you ever have a breach notice? In short, were you a pain in the ass?
Tip 8: Okay, this tip is for anyone who doesn’t have a recent rental history.
If you’ve just sold a property, have your sales agent give you a reference.
Maybe even provide a copy of your sales brochure to show that you’ve genuinely sold your home (code for the fact that you had enough money to actually own a home therefore you’re capable of paying the rent), and that you have some idea about maintaining a home.
If you’ve been travelling and have come back without a job, you’re probably going to want to show evidence of your savings account, to reassure the agent that you’re good to cover the rent. Also, try and get a written reference from your property manager overseas and provide the email details of that person so that the new agent can verify it without too much hassle.
Tip 9: Pet owners, this one’s for you. Your friends might love your high energy Siberian Husky but your prospective landlord is probably only seeing damage bills. Many landlords just won’t take the risk.
If you have a pet, especially a dog or cat, offer to pay a pet bond. This shows you’re confident that your pet won’t trash the place. A pet bond doesn’t come cheap—it’s usually 50 -100 per cent of the rental bond. A landlord can’t request this without an onerous process but you, as the perfect tenant, can offer to pay a higher total bond which makes the process a lot easier.
Tip 10: You’ve submitted the rental application and now you’re waiting to hear back. A well-placed call here and there is fine but don’t call the agent 10 times a day to find out where the process is up to—no one likes a stalker.
If all else fails and you’ve been shortlisted but the competition is still really tight, you can always offer to pay 3-6 months’ rent in advance. Some landlords can’t resist the offer of a nice big lump sum landing in their bank account.
If, for whatever reason, you hear back that you didn’t get the property, try and keep your cool. Remember that the landlord is not obliged to accept your application, nor is he/she obliged to give you a reason as to why you didn’t get it.
Then, dust off your positive attitude, go back to tip 1 and repeat the process. You can do it!
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