How to Find a Rental in a Tight Market
As the housing market continues to improve, the Pew Research Center states that the percentage of renters in the U.S. has continued to rise since 2006 — there haven’t been this many home rentals since 1965. Combine the low inventory with rising rental prices, which the U.S. Census Bureau notes have generally continued to increase since the late 1990s, and potential renters can find themselves in a tight market.
But even with increased competition for good rental units, moving to a new place doesn’t have to have to be difficult. Whether you’re relocating or simply looking for a new rental, the following tips may help you navigate the rental market.
Search Within Your Budget
When the market is competitive, it can be tempting to jump at the first place you really like. You need to be sure you can afford the costs, though, says LifeHacker.com — including the deposit, rent and moving costs. By setting a budget, you’ll likely search for what you know you can afford, rather than simply what’s available.
According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, a general rule of thumb is to keep your housing expenses to about 30 percent of your income. When setting your budget, calculate one-third of your monthly income (after taxes and other deductions) to get an idea of what you can afford.
Remember to stick with your budget, and be sure to resist the temptation of an upgrade for just a little more per month. While a place with granite countertops or an extra bathroom may be tempting, the extra money on rent each month can add up quickly.
Use Online Resources
Once you’ve set your budget, start searching online for available rentals within your price range. Sites such as Zillow, Trulia and Apartments.com can help you search for a new place not just by price, but also by location, type of rental and features and amenities. Many of these types of sites, and their mobile apps, allow to you to automate searches, so new and updated listings are sent to you throughout the day — which can help you stay on top of things in a tight market. Remember, once you see a listing you’re interested in, the quicker you call, the better your chances.
Consider Working with a Real Estate Professional
A real estate professional may be able to help during your search for a great rental, says U.S. News and World Report. You may benefit from their knowledge of the local area and save yourself time as they handle a lot of the search. In a competitive market, particularly in major metropolitan areas, a real estate professional can help get you appointments to view available rentals. If you’re relocating and aren’t familiar with the new area, U.S. News also notes that a professional can help you narrow your search to neighborhoods and homes that fit your needs, lifestyle and budget.
Be Prepared and Professional
In a competitive market, it’s important that you put your best foot forward with a potential landlord. Forbes suggests treating the search and application process like you would a job search.
Before you even put in an application, Forbes recommends writing a “rental resume.” Having your previous rental history and references on hand may help demonstrate that you’ll be a responsible tenant. You’ll also want to check your credit score, says Forbes, as it will likely help determine your eligibility for an apartment or rental home. It can take 30 days or more to investigate and correct an error on your credit reports, according to the Federal Trade Commission. By checking ahead of time, you’ll give yourself time to resolve any issues with your credit history.
When it comes time to submit the rental application, be thorough and courteous. Complete your application accurately and carefully, and be on-time and dressed appropriately when dropping off the application or meeting with the property owner or manager, says Forbes. Showing a level of respect and professionalism can go a long way in making a good first impression with a future landlord.
You may also want to be prepared to go to the bank for a cashier’s check or money order, says U.S. News and World Report. In a tight rental market, providing a landlord or rental agency with the required deposit quickly can be key in securing a rental.
A tight rental market doesn’t mean your search for a home has to be difficult. With a little knowledge and preparation, you can find the rental home that is right for you.
Originally published on July 31, 2014.