You’re entering the apartment rental market for the first time, and you’ve spent many weekends looking for a place. You finally find one that’s just perfect for you, but 20 other people are waiting to see the apartment. Now you start to panic, wondering what you can do to make yourself stand out as the perfect future tenant. Well, fear not!
We have the answer.
But first, you need to understand that your future landlord cares about only three things: that you pay your rent on time, that you don’t damage the apartment and that you don’t cause any problems with your fellow tenants, or the law.
If you had rented before, you’d have a “rental resume”— references from previous landlords attesting that you were a great, responsible tenant. Alas, you don’t have one, so instead you have to behave in a way that will impress your future landlord.
Here are six strategies that will help you make your case:
1. Look only for places you can afford
A landlord’s No. 1 goal is to make sure you can pay the rent. Win over prospective landlords by knowing the maximum rent you can afford on your income — and only look at rentals at or under this amount. To calculate your limit, you need to first figure out how much you make per year, including all sources of income. Then take your total annual income and divide that by 40 to determine your target rent. (For example, if you make $40,000 a year, your target rent is $1,000 a month.) If that number is equal or higher than the amount you’re planning to pay in monthly rent, you’re in great shape.
2. Bring a completed application form with you to the inspection
Submitting your completed application form right after you have inspected the property shows that you are serious about applying for the property. The sooner you’re able to submit the application, the sooner the property manager is able to commence the process of getting through your application and presenting it to the landlord.
3. Have enough cash in the bank
Apart from having to pay a month’s rent in advance, you will also need to pay up to 6 weeks of bond prior to taking possession of the property. Other fees will include furniture removal fees, connection fees, parking permits, not to mention the costs associated with vacating from your previous rental property.
The first three tips will get your foot in the door, but you still have to convince your future landlord that you’ll take care of the apartment responsibly. Here the first impression counts.
4. Dress up
When attending an apartment viewing and meeting with the landlord or his representatives (agent, building manager), make sure to dress nicely. Consider an outfit you’d wear to a job. First impressions mean just as much to your prospective landlord as they do to potential employers, and the message you want to send is, “I take good care of myself, and I’ll take good care of your apartment.”
5. Be on time
When you are scheduled to meet with the landlord or his representatives, make sure you arrive a couple of minutes early, just like with a job interview. Why is that so important? It’s just common courtesy, but also another way of subliminally messaging to the landlord that you are punctual in your habits and will be punctual in paying your rent.
6. Don’t hide your doggy, kitty or cockatoo
If you have a pet, things can get tricky, especially for first-time renters without a “rental resume” that says how well-behaved your dachshund is. It’s simply a fact that cautious landlords will often avoid renters with pets rather than guessing whether the pet is well-behaved and house-trained. Savvy renters can avoid potential problems by suggesting a pet interview, which provides the landlord an opportunity to make a personal assessment of your pet’s behaviour and demeanour. This can be especially important for problematic breeds that get bad PR, because without personally meeting your pet, a landlord will simply move on to the next prospective tenant.
Following these six tips will show your future landlord that you will be a responsible tenant who has enough income to pay the rent on time and will take care of the apartment. Overall, approach applying for a new rental as if you were applying for a new job. In this market, in both situations, the ratio of qualified applicants to available openings is high, meaning you have a lot of competition. Therefore, if you’re genuinely interested in the apartment, it’s important to set yourself apart from others being considered. To give yourself the best opportunity to wow potential landlords and be the one to sign the lease to the new place of your dreams, you need to be prepared, professional and polite.