How to secure your dream rental
Rental properties are receiving more applications than ever before. This is because there are less rentals available and they are being rented at a faster pace. But don’t let this dishearten you in your search. A few simple strategies, like having your application ready before you turn up at a viewing, will put you ahead of the pack. We have insider knowledge on securing the right space for you. Our tips will help you become a savvy real estate searcher and get your application to stand out.
Understand how renting works
Property owners generally outsource finding new tenants and managing the tenancy of the property to real estate agents.
Real estate agents manage many properties and usually get paid a percentage of the rent. They appreciate looking after rental properties that don’t require too much of their time, if you get what we mean.
When real estate agents are looking for new tenants, they are looking to find lessees that will look after the property and be committed to paying the rent on-time and in-full. They aren’t looking for the best possible tenants ever, just ones that meet the acceptable criteria. They want to fill the vacancy as quickly as possible, with a minimum of fuss.
Put your best foot forward
The first step in getting a good rental is to get on the good side of the viewing agent.
During property inspections, you will have the opportunity to meet with an agent from the real estate. The person you meet at the inspection may not be the person who reviews your application and ultimately decides who gets the lease. But they might be, and they’ll almost certainly be asked to give feedback about you, if you put in a rental application. So you want to make a positive impression. To make sure you score points with them, consider these tips:
- Dress to impress
Come in your best attire to make a good first impression. If the agent meets you for the first time when you’re dressed in stubbies and flip flops, they might not think you’re serious about renting the property.
- Arrive on time
Property agents have a lot of appointments each day; it's simply part of the job! Show them that you respect their time by being punctual. Nothing makes a bad first impression like being late.
- Have a good chat with the agent
Even though the agent meets a lot of people during the day, they can still crave genuine human interaction.
Use your charms to make a lasting impression. Ask them about their day and their interests. In the process, you can talk yourself up. If gardening or home improvement is a mutual hobby, be sure to highlight how your skills will help to maintain the property.
- Be honest
If the agent asks you about previous rental issues, be upfront. You can also bring them up yourself and discuss why the issue won’t happen again, before your application is reviewed. Of course documents and references help a lot, but nothing beats a personal explanation.
Communicate what you’re looking for
When meeting with an agent during a home inspection, you’re also meeting the property for the first time. You’ll be inspecting the features of a home, modest or grand.
Communicate which features of the property match your criteria with the agent and those that don’t, either during the inspection or with a follow up email. This will help you get clearer on what’s important to you, and may also provide opportunities if the agent knows another property that will be listed shortly that better matches your criteria.
Must-haves and deal-breakers
Make a wish list of your personal requirements and letdowns. If you’re planning to live with others, combine your list in case you need to make some compromises.
Here are the most important features to consider in your rental search.
Don’t forget to take into account your lifestyle when renting. Do you want to be close to your workplace, a good school, or friends and family?
Rate the importance of your preferred method of transport, convenience to shops, proximity to favourite entertainment and accessibility to other amenities you desire. For your commutes, via your own car or public transport, use Google Maps to work out travel times at different times of the day. Your ultimate goal is to test the area’s compatibility with your way of life.
How much stuff do you have and how much space do you need? Do you need an area for your work setup? Will your family be able to fit in rooms with all your belongings? Do you need parking for your car?
Storage isn’t just about closets and cupboards. Make sure all your stuff fits in your new place to avoid any issues in the future.
3. Neighbours & Noise
Before turning up to an inspection, visit the street during peak noise time for traffic and neighbours, like Monday at 8am and Saturday night at 9pm.
Check Airbnb to see if neighbouring properties are listed, as Airbnb properties are known to cause noise and inconvenience for residents of an area.
Ask the real estate agent if the surrounding properties are owner-occupied or rented. Are the neighbours rowdy, do they have furry friends, or are there squeaky floorboards? Basically you’re looking for ways to assess the worst case noise scenarios.
Does stuff work during an inspection and will they work for you? If the shower is working, will one bathroom work for you and your three flatmates? How about the refrigerator—is it enough for a family of four? Make sure you check the nooks and crannies and the practicalities of the property.
Remember, it is a lot less hassle to move into a place where things work, than to try and get stuff fixed after you move in, regardless of the promises made by the agent.
As much as a place is perfect, you should be able to afford it. Remember, you’re trying to maintain a positive rental history, which means paying rent on-time and in-full.
If you believe the property should be rented at a cheaper price, have a go at negotiating. If you can find similar properties in the area with cheaper rent, this is one way to get a discount. Your success will depend on if another renter is willing to rent at the listed price. So ensure you have a solid reason with some evidence in case the opportunity for reduced rent arises.
A longer lease might give you some leverage to a reduced price. If you’re looking for a long-term tenancy, this might get you some savings.
Get a step ahead of the competition
One of our best tips is to prepare your rental application before you attend an inspection. Most real estate agents allow you to apply via online forms like 1form. Which means you can get a start on your application right away and can use the same information for multiple properties.
Get your application ready
In your rental application, you’ll be asked for specific documents that will help the property agent and lessor decide if you’re fit to rent their property. These include the following items:
- photo identification (driver’s license, passport);
- copies of your recent rent receipts and rental ledger to show your ability to pay rent;
- previous utility accounts to confirm you’re up to date with your bills;
- proof of income like payslips; and
- bank statements for expenses such as Afterpay.
One thing to note - real estate agents choose prospective tenants from a “risk perspective”. If they find your proof of income or credit score to be unstable, for example, you’ll need to put more effort into finding a rental. Unfortunately, this means that casual workers, self-employed and single parents need to have a more compelling application to get a great rental.
Make it personal with a cover letter
This isn’t a requirement but we think it’s a must-have for any rental application.
Letting agents go through numerous applications and a cover letter can help set you apart from other applicants. It is the perfect opportunity to explain why the property is an excellent match for what you’re after and to clarify any weaknesses in your documents, if there are any. The purpose of the cover letter is to communicating that you’re a great applicant.
Identify supportive character references
What if your documents set you out to be a high risk applicant? You can count on your references to soften the blow and improve your chances of finding a good rental.
Your character reference should give a vote of confidence in terms of your personal, financial, educational, and/or professional capacity. Your previous landlord/property manager is the perfect choice for this. But if you don’t have a rental history yet, a former employer or mentor can vouch for your great level of personal responsibility based on your timeliness and work ethic.
A character reference can also vouch for your present and past spending habits. If your credit score is poor on paper, a reference who can attest to your improved spending behaviour can help in your application.
Work out how you'll pay the bond and rental advance
As you prepare for payments for your rental, there are two big costs to consider: your rental bond and rent paid in advance.
A rental bond is a security deposit you pay your landlord in case of any breach of lease agreement like damage to the property. It assures your landlord that they are protected in case there are any issues when you vacate the property.
Basically, if there is damage to the property and you refuse to fix it, the owner will use the bond money to fix it. This usually amounts to four weeks worth of your rent, and you can consider bond loans if you need a little help in that area.
Inversely, if the property isn’t well maintained and your landlord is the one who broke the breach of their responsibilities, you can raise your voice to be heard. Learn about how to issue them a notice of breach here.
The next cost is your advance. A common mistake for renters is to think that you need to pay 28 days rent at once. This is simply not the case as you only have to pay two weeks in advance. Let’s say you pay your rent every fortnight, you’ll have to pay two weeks ahead which you have to settle at the start of the period.
Make sure you're not 'blacklisted'
For those with previous rentals, there’s rental databases with a blacklist to be wary of, especially if you have a negative rental history.
What will affect it? Just as you’ve read above, your bond and rent payments.
You will need to declare if your bond isn’t being given back in full. So it’s really important to have 100 percent of your bond returned for the next time you want to rent. Yep, you will most definitely be asked “Have you ever had your bond withheld?” Losing any part of your bond will make it difficult for you to get your next place.
Just as you’ve built your landlord’s trust with your rent in advance, it’s also important to keep your rental payments on track. Any late or missed payments will affect your rental history negatively and may even cost you a bad review from your landlord in the future.
Other things on your rental history include any past evictions, your criminal history, and your credit score. Make sure you keep all of these in check for you to get a rental property easily.
There are different renters rights which you can read about more about here. For example, some states allow you to get a free copy of your personal information in rental databases.
Be careful of rent-bidding
Some applicants offer a higher price than what the owner is asking for. This may be a good tactic if you can afford it, but it can also be complicated.
For one, it is illegal in some areas of Australia especially if solicited. It is an irregular practice that gives you an advantage over other applicants. So be careful if this is a strategy you want to try.
The key to securing a great rental is to know what you’re after, be quick and responsive, and stand out in your application whilst meeting minimum criteria.
Being prepared will help you land an awesome rental because you will be able to have your application in really quickly. This means that if you’re a good match for the property, you might score the lease before anyone else puts in an application.
If you find a real estate agent that tries to solicit a higher price from you, or the online photos of the rental don't resemble what you found at the inspection, you can lodge a complaint with us and we’ll make sure you follow the correct process.
We’re here to help you handle it, just let us know the details of your complaint here.