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How can we come across as awesome potential tenants?
April 18, 2010 12:49 AM   Subscribe

How can we make ourselves more attractive potential tenants?

We have been trying for months to no avail to rent a flat.

We live in Melbourne, so there is a bit of a housing-shortage thing going on - often when we go to open inspections, upwards of 100 people show up, so there's a fair bit of competition.

I realise to some extent this may be a numbers game, but we've applied for so. many. places and I'm sure there must be something we can be doing to increase our odds, but I don't really know what priorities are placed on the criteria the agents are using to determine our suitability as potential tenants, so I don't know what to focus on improving.

We're both university students (20 & 21) working about 25 hours a week. Our combined take-home income is about $800-1000 a week (my partner is salaried and takes home about $550 a week, I'm casual so my pay varies a bit more but very rarely dips under $300 a week, and is usually more). We have no consumer debt, he has excellent credit, I have no Australian credit history. We have about $15,000 in savings. I have one rental reference, but not from Australia, he has none - we've been subletting from a guy who doesn't speak enough English to either give us a reference or to understand us when we ask for the name of the landlord (the guy who translated when we moved in has since moved out.)

So.

- I could see the reference thing being a problem, but surely it must be possible to get a rental with no references, otherwise how would anybody ever get references?

- Is my lack of credit history here holding us back? I've noticed notes on a couple application forms saying that the agency will do a credit check. Should I open a credit card or something and just not use it?

- Is it a Big Deal that we're students? I could cut my uni load back enough that I could work full time for a while, if that would make us significantly more attractive tenants.

- Are we applying for the wrong price range of properties? We've been applying for places between $220-$270/wk, and it seems to us that we can clearly cover that on our income (hell, at the cheaper end of that we could pay the whole year's rent up front). But if the real estate agencies are declining us, it'd seem they don't think so?

- My parents are willing to guarantor any lease we sign (and they own two houses, so they have the assets to back that guarantee up), but I'm not sure how I could go about making that offer in a very form-based application process.

I realise this is really long but I don't know what is important or not (in essence that is my whole question!). I am really really desperate to get out of share-housing arrangements with 9+ people in a house with one bathroom and one kitchen and one washing machine. Please help me figure out what we are doing wrong! How can we make ourselves come across as awesome tenants?
posted by lwb to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
If renting in Australia is anything like renting in the US, showing up with your checkbook/chequebook and offering to make a deposit right then and there will help seal the deal.
posted by SansPoint at 1:01 AM on April 18, 2010


Go in with the forms already filled out. Hand them in there and then and look absolutely professional when you do. My brother had some success with a cover letter stating why he and his girlfriend were good tenants.

What area are you looking in? St Kilda is the swankiest suburb I looked at and the inspections were brutal (70+ people for a POS apartment) - further out was much much easier. I still turned up in nice clothes with the forms prefilled (everything photocopied for them as well) and made a bit more of a personal connection with the person showing the place.
posted by geek anachronism at 1:07 AM on April 18, 2010


geek anachronism's experience largely matches mine.

Go to the inspection with the forms filled out, stapled to a cover letter explaining your circumstances (e.g. why you don't have Australian credit history but are still a reliable, responsible person. Emphasise your employment, rather than your student status) and photocopies of all documents (I.D., proof of your income and savings, etc). Include copies of a letter from your parents offering their guarantee. We did this once when my co-tenant was an international student - in fact, I think the agency requested the guarantee letter on their application form.

Maybe you could also use your cover letter to offer something to the landlord e.g. that you will pay x months rent up front, or sign a longer lease, if that is possible for you.

Alternately, you might need to look at places up a price bracket - you might face less competition, and it's possible that people are outbidding you for the places you're looking at. They're probably not declining you because they don't think you can afford it, it's just that someone else looks like a better overall package.
posted by une_heure_pleine at 1:29 AM on April 18, 2010


In order of your questions:

- Theoretically you are correct, but if you are applying to a popular location, your lack of references will work against you, given there are probably at least another 10 applicants applying that do have appropriate references.

- This is probably unlikely to hold you back. Financial checks for property rental in Australia are usually limited to checking your income with your employer.

- Yes, unfortunately it probably is. Same comment applies from no.1.

- No one is likely to want to bother with this.

My only advice is, apply early, act keen, have your forms filled in ready to go, and follow up with the agent. If you manage to see the same one a couple of times, they may take pity on you!

If you have no luck, you might need to start looking at less ideal locations to boost your references etc. Or trying finding somewhere via word of mouth, such as through work or something.
posted by ryanbryan at 5:33 AM on April 18, 2010


What area are you looking in?

Mostly Footscray and surrounds, due to work locations, but we've been applying to places as far north as Preston and as far west as Werribee.

I think the worst inspection we've been to was one in Laverton where the place was right opposite a train station - the real estate agent was late, so I passed the time by counting the people there, until I got to 120 and I had to stop because the agent arrived.

We've already been bringing pre-filled forms since the first place we applied for, when we turned up about half an hour after the inspection to hand our forms in and were told it'd already been leased.

The suggestions for cover letters are great, and I'm going to start working on one of those and see if it helps. Ditto dressing professionally - I've been dressing uni-student-neatly but probably I could drag out the clothes I bought for job interviews and wear those. I didn't even really think of that as a potential issue, silly me.

Thanks for the help!
posted by lwb at 6:47 AM on April 18, 2010


Show up early and dress to the nines. Good luck!
posted by blazingunicorn at 10:42 AM on April 18, 2010


In addition to showing up early and dressed well, bring a chunk of cash, and be prepared to hand it over as a "deposit." Maybe you're ready to pay your "last month's rent" in cash on the spot.

Don't go overboard with the winking and the nudging, just casually mention that you can pay part of the deposit right now, "if cash is okay?"
posted by ErikaB at 11:21 AM on April 18, 2010


I think lack of references is a real issue and was for me when I started out renting. So I think part of the key is to get good references.

To this end I am seconding the idea of trying to rent somewhere cheaper, not so nice and further out than you might otherwise. Make sure you are renting with a professional estate agent and be the perfect tenants. Pay rent heaps in advance. Don't hassle the estate agent with minor issues you can live with. Make sure the place is left in better condition than when you moved in.

Another option to obtain a good reference is to move in with someone who is already renting in a flat-share type situation. Make sure you are moving in with someone responsible and again be the model tenants. Make sure you are on the lease. If they leave you can often just take over the lease and not replace them.

Once you have at least one good reference that sings your praises I found it really helps for finding future places.

lwb. Your casual work status could be an issue. Can you convince your work to employ you or list you as permanent part time?

Many landlords prefer year long leases so if you can, offer this even on places that are only being listed for 6 months.

Suggestions about cover letters and dressing well are also good. I personally would be interested to hear advice from estate agents in Melbourne if there are any out there on askMeFi.
posted by NeatBeat at 11:48 PM on April 19, 2010


I took a slightly different route - I went through the real estate agent. I rocked up (dressed professionally), booked inspections, and basically tried to get to know a few real estate agents in the area I was looking for. At the actual inspection, I also had all my forms done (including, and this is important, pay slips), and for properties I applied for, had my first weeks' rent as a deposit with the estate agent within 5min of the inspection time (seriously - they couldn't take my money at the inspection, I had to drive to the agent's office, usually).

I've never been rejected for a property, though. Also, this is in Brisbane ... property vacancy rates are horrible up here, too.
posted by ysabet at 6:11 AM on April 20, 2010


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