Some people don’t want the responsibility of owning a home. Others can’t afford to buy a home, especially in today’s market. It is for these reasons that so many people are looking for houses to rent. But getting a lease can be difficult, especially in big cities with limited inventory.
If you’ve had trouble finding an apartment for rent, or are afraid you’ll have a hard time once you’re ready to begin your search, know that there are steps you can take to make your apartment search more successful. when availability is low. Here are some tricks to employ.
1. Look during the winter
Many people do not want to move during the winter. The weather can be uncooperative, and for families with children, school is still in session. But if you’re willing to look for an apartment during the winter and sign a lease on one, you may be able to secure a rental before spring.
“Right now, demand for apartments isn’t as high as it was over the summer,” says Brian Carberry, senior managing editor for Atlanta-based listing service Internet Rent. During the winter, fewer people tend to search for apartments, so starting your search now could help minimize your competition.
That said, Bianca D’Alessio, New York-based licensed associate real estate broker at Nest Seekers International and co-star on the HBO series “Selling the Hamptons,” says inventory levels remain low in many major cities, so renting during the winter can be challenging for that reason.
“It’s common for landlords to align renewal periods for the spring, because more rent can be made there,” he explains. So if you start looking now, you may have less competition, but be prepared to face some inventory challenges.
Still, D’Alessio insists that searching for a home well in advance is key when dealing with limited inventory. In fact, he says, renters used to search for a new apartment only about 30 days earlier in major cities. Now, he says, it’s worth looking 90 days early.
2. Calculate your price point
You may be tempted to sign a lease the first time an opportunity presents itself. But you don’t want to mess with it financially.
That’s why Carberry says it’s important to hit a price point before you actually start your search. You may need to adjust your desired price point to align with the reality of your local market, but it’s essential to have a starting point, one based on the numbers you’ve calculated.
3. Set your priorities
When looking for a rental in a tight market, you can’t afford to be too picky. That’s why Carberry recommends making a prioritized list of the things you want in a rental.
Maybe there are certain amenities you absolutely need to have, like an in-unit washer and dryer or an on-site fitness center. A door attendant might also top your list.
Also, you may want to prioritize certain blocks or neighborhoods in order to have access to different services, from restaurants to public transportation. Order these things by importance so you know when to seize an opportunity and when to move on.
That said, you may need to be willing to compromise if you’re looking to rent at a time when inventory is low. That could mean signing a lease on an apartment that meets your primary needs, even if there are items at the bottom of your wish list that don’t get checked off.
If you find a house to rent that’s genuinely right for you, “don’t wait for a better apartment, because a lot of people are being squeezed,” D’Alessio says.
4. Show what a good tenant you will be
Just as bidding wars can be common among prospective buyers in a tight real estate market, potential tenants are often forced to fight for the same available rental. That’s why you should show up with proof of what a great renter you’ll be when you first go to see an apartment.
“Bring a letter of recommendation from a current or former landlord. Bring a copy of bank statements that show you have the financial resources to pay for the apartment,” says Carberry. That could mean the difference between a property manager renting to you and someone else.
5. Be prepared to rent that day
If you find yourself with a great rental in a tight market, don’t sit there, says Carberry. When inventory is plentiful, you can afford to think things over for 24 hours. When that’s not the case, you should be prepared to sign a lease by the time you finish looking for an apartment.
6. Look outside the market for opportunities
You may get into the habit of perusing online listings in an attempt to land a great rental. But D’Alessio says he shouldn’t wait for apartment listings to appear. Instead, he identifies the buildings he’s particularly interested in and contacts property managers to see if there are any vacancies or to get a list of when the units will be available.
D’Alessio also says you shouldn’t hesitate to take a more aggressive approach if there’s a building you’ve fallen in love with. “Talk to the gatekeepers if you have to,” she says. You never know who might tip you off to a great apartment.