Securing a great place to live can be pretty competitive in today’s market. All landlords dread the tenant who turns out to be a nightmare – and you are not that person. But they are not going to know that unless you make it clear and rise above the crowd. How do you stand out as the best tenant and get that home you love?
SCENARIO: You found a place you want BADLY. But due to changes since 2008 making it more difficult to get mortgages, people aren’t buying as many houses. Instead they must rent – and that has driven rents up as well as impacted what’s available.
SCENARIO: It’s late in the PCS season and there are fewer “good” rentals left available. You found a place you can call home, but there are many other applicants vying for it.
SCENARIO: You have pets, as most of us do. Depending on the size or breed and the number you have, it can make it very difficult to find an apartment.
The solutions? Be uber-prepared and go the extra mile across the board.
Early Bird Gets the House
Get a jump on listings. First thing in the morning, comb online listings and the papers and waste no time calling. If the broker or landlord says they’re booked, say whatever you have to say (charmingly, nicely, even using a little humor) to plead your case for things being timely – and see if you can get them to suddenly find room to meet you there. Remember, you don’t know until you ask! Make it as easy as possible for them by saying, “I’ll meet you whenever it’s best for you if you can see me sooner.”
First Impressions COUNT
You could be the nicest, quietest, most responsible person in the world… but if you run over to see a place in a tee shirt and beat up tennis shoes, it may work against you in a tight market. Have a sharp casual outfit set aside, so you can throw it on if you get a last minute call for a showing. Don’t chuckle – what would you want to see if you were renting out your place? A nice shirt, pants, and clean casual shoes is going to make a huge difference in that first impression.
Especially if it’s an open house situation, come with typed references from past landlords (putting the best comments on top!) with their contact info, your last three months’ paycheck stubs, a credit report, photo ID, and a checkbook ready to write first and last month’s rent and security. If you are making an appointment, ask THEN if they will bring you an application so they will be prepared if you like it enough. If that’s not possible, ask for an application form to fill out right there. If they say it’s online, ask if you can leave them with a deposit check while you fill it out on your phone or tablet in the moment. If they say they have to be at their office, offer to drive right back to their office and leave it, even if they are not returning there for hours. Let them know you are doing this. Ask when you can call to hear back. Take as much as can be done into your own hands, rather than biting your nails waiting to hear back. This way, you make your priority theirs, while looking efficient and taking responsibility off their already-busy hands. Win-Win!
In the end, paying more can make the difference. You may want to offer a little more in rent. Sound crazy? It could be the best money you’ve spent if you feel good about where you live and come back to each day. This is the place you’re going to be coming home to after long work hours, and where you’ll be entertaining guests and celebrating holidays. And if it’s a safer neighborhood for you and your kids, or it gets your kids in a better school zone, it’s priceless.
Showcase Your Best Habits
If it’s true, tell the landlord about your fabulous home habits. If you’re handy, say you’re happy to do any work that they OK if something breaks or is in disrepair (especially appealing to a long distance landlord – though receipts and code repairs need to be discussed). Say you have a housekeeper as well as the cleaning you do on your own, tell them you love to garden and will be pulling weeds, trimming bushes and mowing regularly – anything that sounds like you will be taking care of their place as if it were your own. You have a right to entertain, play music in the evening, etc… but if you don’t party much, are an early riser, are quiet, and the like, it doesn’t hurt to work that into the conversation.
Address Pet Concerns
Get referrals from other landlords regarding your pets. You want to let others reassure them that you were never that person who left their dog in the yard barking for a long time, whose dog ever snapped at passersby, or whines all day while you’re at work, and that you left the place as clean as you got it. You may want to include letters from your vet saying the animal is healthy and well behaved and any certificates from any pet training.
Offer a pet addendum and a hefty extra security deposit to cover things landlords get concerned about like scratches from cats or dog nails, pee stains on wood floors, etc. Offer to put rugs on any wood floors (or even over their carpeting), and discuss putting kitty litter in the laundry or bathroom so the house doesn’t absorb scents. Again, if you have a regular housekeeper, say so.
Going to a showing may be the only opportunity to show as well as tell the landlord or agent just how awesome you are – neat, clean, organized, friendly, rational, responsible, able to handle your kids or pets in the best way, and able to pay on time and in full! Happy Hunting!
Rochelle Joseph is a Writer and Image and Marketing Consultant who has had experience marketing, renting, buying and selling her properties for over 20 years. She has written and edited for several publications, including the Boston Book Review, The Emerson Review, ZooBorns.com, WildLife Magazine, the Houston Zoo, The Wildlife Center of Texas, One Spirit Interfaith Seminary as well as AHRN.com. She currently writes at her great gifts blog at Looky Here You and her animal blog at Naturegirrrl.