The Rental Housing market is a competitive arena for those seeking a new residence. While it may look like there is a good pool of rentals on the market to choose from, there are even more house hunters out there vying for the same properties. Landlords often have to make a choice in applicants and money isn’t everything when it comes down to the final decision. Landlords want good responsible tenants who will care for their investment and won’t be a nuisance to their neighbors. So, how can you come out ahead of the crowd, when there are others just as financially qualified as you are?
1. Be professional in your contact with every landlord and property manager.
Begin each contact as if it were a business relationship, because in a way it is. Your first impression will be the biggest one for this relationship. It does not matter what form the contact is, phone, email and in person – they all the same – be professional. Treat your rental application as you would a job application. Fill in ALL of the blanks in writing and with proper sentences and grammar. If you need to, use spell check on your application before you submit it to the landlord. Keep in mind, that yours is not the only inquiry the landlord will receive. Given a choice of a blunt message stating “Hello, this is John Smith and I’m interested in the rental, please call me so I can get more information” or one that is well thought out and thorough “Good afternoon, my name is John Smith and I recently saw your rental listing. I would like the opportunity to ask you a little bit more about your rental property. Could you please call me when it is convenient for you, so we can discuss the rental? Here is my number (123) 555-1234. Thank you – again, my name is John Smith”. Make sure your email address looks professional as well – email@example.com looks a lot more professional than firstname.lastname@example.org. It is very easy to set up a free email account online. Plus, if you only use it for your house hunting, you can easily ignore it later on and the spam it will generate once you find your new place. While we’re on that subject, think about your answering machine or voice mail message. It too should be professional for those landlords that will be phoning you back. You can always change it back to party central once your house hunt is over.
2. Be prepared with some inquisitive questions for the landlord. Plan out the questions you have for the landlord before you try to make contact. There is nothing worse than getting them on the phone and drawing a blank, or hanging up and remembering that you forgot to ask a key question. If you have a checklist prepared beforehand it will make you look more professional and serious about the property the landlord has to offer. In addition to the questions you will come up with on your own, some questions you may want to include are:
What reason did the last tenant give for leaving? This will give you some insight into any potential issues you may need to be aware of. Maybe the neighbor has an unruly child you need to consider in your decision.
Has this rental been vacant very long? You may be able to use this to your advantage later on and ask for a little less in the rental amount. The longer the rental has been on the market, the more willing the landlord may be willing to negotiate a little to get it filled with a quality tenant.
How many rentals do you have? Is this landlord a professional or a novice? Sometimes, landlords that have made renting properties into a business are less emotionally attached to the property and it may work in your favor.
How long have you been a landlord? The longer a landlord has maintained rentals, the better prepared and more investment savvy they will be. This may mean better maintenance and upkeep on the rental unit in the long run.
What is the policy for repairs, including emergency repairs? Check to see if there is a policy they have in case they cannot be reached in case of an emergency situation.
Are there any home owner association or community rules that I should be aware of as a resident? Sometimes Associations rules can be just as stringent as the lease and you should be aware of them when making a decision on choosing your next place of residence. Some even have additional fees for pets on top of your landlords’ fees
3. Person to Person meetings require extra attention to detail.
When you’re preparing to meet with a landlord in person, make sure you dress well and make the small details count. Again, think of this meeting as if you’re going to a job interview. Dress professionally and neatly. While this does not mean rent a tux, you should at least wear a pair of slacks and a dress shirt. That ratty old T-shirt just will not do. Also, do not go reeking of cigarettes. Do whatever you must – Febreeze your clothes prior to dressing, breath mints, chewing gum, etc. – to eliminate any cigarette smell prior to meeting the landlord. Even if the landlord allows smoking, most prefer to rent to non-smokers as there is less damage to their rental unit to fix later on.
4. Be prepared to fill out the application on the spot.
Make sure that you have all of the information you will need on hand when you agree to meet with the landlord. Often times if the meeting goes well, they will want you to fill out the application right then and there. Be prepared by having all of the names, addresses and phone numbers of your references including your last 2 landlords. Visit http://www.annualcreditreport.com – the only FREE online credit report site – and obtain a credit report on each adult who will be residing at the residence. Make sure it is dated within the last 30 days if possible. Sometimes, the landlord will waive or reduce the cost of processing your background check if you provide the credit report for them. However, don’t count on it and be prepared to pay the full screening fee just in case. Make sure to have proof of your current income (paystubs) as well as a W-2 form covering the last 2 years of employment. If you are self-employed bring copies of your tax returns to verify your income for 2 years and copies of your bank statements for the last 3 months. Your bank statements can help verify that you have a savings built up and can cover rent and deposits. The more accurate and detailed your application is, the more responsible you look. This will mean less work for the landlord in processing your application and will increase your chance at being offered the rental.
Remember; be open, up front and honest in your “professional” relationship with your landlord. This will set the framework of communication for the long-run and continue on during your rental experience with them.
Lori Hartjoy: I am the owner of Blue Mountain Rentals, which was established in April of 2011. I bring over 20 years of clerical experience to my clients. My background includes processing employment, tenant screening, background checks and a property manager. The information contained on this blog and from any communication related to the Blue Mountain Rentals website is provided for informational purposes only. All information you choose to use is at “your own risk”.
Please visit http://www.bluemtnrentals.com for more information on how I can provide a win-win situation for you.
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