If you live in a hot real estate market, you know it. It's not just San Francisco or New York City — two markets not for the faint of heart when it comes to finding a rental — but all over the US, competitive markets abound. Business Insider reports that rental prices are soaring 10-15% in many markets, and bubbles are forming in areas across the US.
Apartment hunting has become cutthroat - but there are four savvy ways experts recommend to be proactive in beating the competition to score the apartment of your dreams.
Anticipate and organize
If you've ever applied for a rental before, you know that you need to provide information so landlords can judge what kind of tenant you'll be from both a financial and a social perspective.
Sep Niakan, a condo specialist in the Miami area says, "The key to beating other offers is about being organized and comprehensive. The way you submit your offer gives the landlord and landlord's rep a sense of the kind of person you are. Are you submitting things incomplete or messy? Are you being forthcoming with information that they request? Are you combative or collaborative? Landlords want to know who they are putting in their place. The more info you can offer about yourself, the easier you will make it for them to select you."
One good way to get organized is to know what landlords look for on your credit report. Be prepared to address any obstacles, like errors on your report, and also have as much positive information and testimony about your character as possible. And if you need a cosigner, have that person lined up in advance.
As Sep points out, "As a landlord, who do you want to take? The guy offering $5,000 whose offer you have in hand? Or the gal offering $4,900 whose offer you also have in hand, plus a rental application, copy of full credit report with score, landlord reference letters or contact info, and proof of income?"
It's not a job, but it is your job to make yourself look better than anyone else
You may not realize that when you first meet the property manager, you're being interviewed - but in essence, you are.
John Graff, CEO and broker from LA's Ashby & Graff Real Estate has this advice:"Landlords are like electricity, they like to follow the path of least resistance. So make sure your first time calling or meeting the landlord goes as smoothly as possible. Be professional, courteous, and friendly. Think of this more like a job interview than anything else. You need to show the landlord you will not only pay your rent on time but that you won't be a troublemaker, nuisance or just plain annoying to deal with."
Show them the money
A landlord's biggest headache is deadbeat tenants. And evicting someone can cost as much as $5,000 or more - which doesn't factor in the lost time or stress. This is why doing a careful vetting up-front is critical for landlords.
Remember that old expression about how money talks?
While it's a good idea for people with a history of financial issues who are trying to prove themselves as reformed to pay a few months rent up front, in a competitive market, offering to pay more is a smart tactic even if you have a perfect credit history.
Graff says, "Some people don't realize that the rent is often negotiable, so if you're in a competitive market with lots of interest in a property, give the owner an offer they can't refuse and offer 3-10% over the asking rent. If you really want to get crazy (and you have the financial means) offer the owner a few months of rent paid up front to entice them into a lease agreement."
A longer lease helps you take the lead
More is more when it comes to rentals. If you have all your ducks in a row AND are willing and able to commit to a longer lease, it gives you that extra level of desirability. As Evan Roberts, a Baltimore, MD property manager at Dependable Home Buyers, points out, "Vacancies are terrible for landlords. Turnover means paint, flooring, odd and ends repairs, finding a new renter, time consuming background checks and verification, all while not having any rent coming in the door. If you're able to sign a three-year lease you'll have a serious advantage over other renters who can only commit for one year. This is hands down the best way to get those competitive rentals without having to pay any more money out of pocket."
Muhammad Ali once said, "Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth." When you're fighting for the right rental for you, think about the ways you can be of service to your future property manager - including paying rent on time, being a courteous neighbor and a thoughtful tenant - and you'll increase your chances by a longshot.