This article is by GRS staff writer Adam Baker. Currently, Baker is fat and in debt.
We all know how to rent a typical, cookie-cutter apartment or house. Find a contact number. Set-up a walk through. Fill out the application. Pay your fee and wait for a response.
But sometimes typical just doesn't cut it.
Maybe you're looking to secure a unique apartment in an irresistible location. Or you might be seeking the only house for rent in a certain school district. Heck, you may even find yourself in New Zealand needing a short-term (3-month) lease when everyone wants a 6-month minimum. *raises hand*
Whatever your motivation, here are nine ways you can knock the socks off your next landlord or property manager:
- Create a Rental Résumé. Treat this like you would a job search. The majority of applications are going to ask for the same information. Put together a basic one- or two-page document containing this commonly requested information. Even if the landlord or property manager makes you fill out the application anyway, at least you'll already have everything on hand. Be sure to include:
- Full names of everyone on application
- Dates of Birth
- Contact information (phone and e-mail)
- Current address (length, landlord information, reason for leaving)
- Previous addresses (with additional information)
Social Security numbersPrevious commenters note that you may want to wait to reveal your Social Security information
- Current employment information (salary, length, contact information)
- Past employment (with additional information)
- Personal references
- Vehicle information (make, model, plates, driver's license number)
- Pet(s) information (breed, size, age)
- Pull your own credit report. Use AnnualCreditReport.com, if possible. Pulling your own credit report ahead of time will ensure that you are aware of the information contained in the report. If there are any negative marks, be sure to include a written statement of explanation (especially for any bankruptcies, evictions, or missed rent payments).
- Obtain and include full letters of reference. Most rental applications only ask for the contact information of your references. However, as with a job, you can go the extra mile by including full letters of recommendation from previous landlords, property managers, or apartment complexes. As a property manager, I was more than willing to write these for our best tenants. Many apartment complexes have a standard reference letter they provide to past tenants upon request.
- Provide copies of commonly requested “further information”. This is especially important for the self-employed or those with inconsistent employment length. Commonly requested information can include copies of recent paystubs, recent years' tax returns, net worth statements, bank statements, and income/expense reports for small businesses. Also, landlords may request copies of identification like driver's licenses, social security cards, or birth certificates.
- Look sharp. Whether you like it or not, appearance does matter, especially for first impressions. Wash the purple dye out of your mohawk, lose the three wolves T-shirt, and dress business casual. (J.D.'s note: Did anyone notice that Dwight was wearing the three wolves t-shirt on The Office recently? I just about died laughing.)
- Be five minutes early. Waiting does not impress anyone.
- Find common ground. In any social encounter, discussing a topic that is familiar to both parties is one of the fastest ways to build rapport. When Courtney and I were searching for apartments here in Auckland, we talked to many different agents and owners. Early on in each discussion, I brought up the fact that I had owned a property management company back in the States. It gave us an immediate connection and built instant trust. While you may not have direct real estate experience, chances are there will be many opportunities for you to find common ground of your own.
- Know your needs and wants ahead of time. This is a important. Decide ahead of time what features are absolute musts and which are more negotiable. For example, you may know that you need a fenced in backyard for the dog. Or, you may only be willing to consider homes with a detached garage for working on your cars as a hobby. On the other hand, an included washer/dryer may only be a strong want. You'd be willing to purchase these if the rest of the property fit your needs. Get clear on this distinction and be able to articulate this to your potential landlord or manager.
- Don't be afraid to ask questions. As a property manager, I always had a weird feeling about tenants who appeared nervous or who seemed afraid to ask questions. The potential tenants whom impressed me the most appeared confident, stated what they were looking for, and asked specific questions about the property. For example, it's perfectly reasonable (and somewhat expected) to inquire about the average costs of monthly utilities.
Once you've established yourself as a strong candidate…leverage it! Knocking the socks off your landlord is not just for fun! After positioning yourself as an ideal applicant, don't be afraid to start negotiating.
Here in Auckland, Courtney and I had luck negotiating ourselves into a three-month lease even though it ended in the middle of December (bad timing when trying to re-rent). At our last apartment in the States, the complex ended up waiving both the application fee and our required deposit.
Try asking for a 10% rent discount. Many apartment complexes run unadvertised specials, and the individual landlord will often discount if he believes you'll be a quality tenant.
I've seen people have luck requesting upgrades on appliances or requiring that an owner furnish a washer/dryer when previously it wasn't included. If your condo or apartment charges extra for amenities (gym, pool, parking), try asking for access to be included in your rent.
Most people are scared because they think it's uncommon to ask for more. I've been on both sides of the rental equation and this sort of negotiation happens all the time. If you don't ask, the answer will always be “no”. So get out there, impress some people, and take your apartment or house hunting to the next level!