Securing a rental in a tight market
June 24, 2014 12:06 PM   Subscribe

My partner and I are looking for a house to rent in Seattle, which has become an increasingly competitive and expensive rental market. We've finally found a place that we're really excited about and we'll be touring it this weekend. Is there anything we can do to make sure we're the ones who get the house? Should we offer a deposit on the spot? Have credit reports on hand? Any other strategies that have helped you secure a rental in a tight market?

Here are some specific ideas we've thought of, but we're not sure if any of them are good ideas. Should we offer the deposit and first & last month's rent as soon as we tour? (If so, do we need some sort of contract?). We have excellent credit and references - should we bring printouts of our credit reports? Is there anything else we could/should do to secure the rental right away?

While these questions probably sound a little nuts, we've been looking for so long that we're really beginning to worry we'll never find anything in our price range, so thanks for any advice you can offer!
posted by leitmotif to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Offer the deposit right then, yea. Several landlords I've had wouldn't take a credit report and wanted to do their own.(and the whole application/credit check fee thing is kind of a gross racket in Seattle that keeps going up in price). I'd bring it, but don't be surprised if they still want to go through the whole rigmarole.

At my current place, which I never would have gotten if I hadn't viewed it the day it was listed maybe a couple hours after the fact(ugh, shades of sf or something) I offered to do whatever they wanted right then. I ended up paying the fee and deposit on the spot.

I previously lost out on a place which wouldn't take a deposit right then despite being the first to view it and doing all that. they never even told me why.

It's a tiresome crapshoot. The stuff you suggested can help, but some landlords just want to collect a huge pile of applications(and the fees!) and cherry pick, rather than just take the first solid person who comes along. If they won't take a deposit right then, don't get your hopes up.

Oh and on your final comment, I've felt that way the past 4 or 5 times I've moved. It's worked out right pat that point every time. Last time, I started looking several months in advance and ended up having two places at once for a little while rather than get super desperate. It's super tiresome though, I agree.
posted by emptythought at 12:19 PM on June 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

I live in Seattle in a very competitive neighborhood for rentals and (thus far, knock on wood) I have always gotten the places I want by doing the following:

1. Go see the property on a weekday, preferably during work hours. Yes, I have taken PTO for a few hours just to go visit places. The benefit here is many other people won't do this, and will wait until the weekend, at which point you are competing against way more people when you throw in your application.

2. Bring everything you need to complete an application on the spot, including a checkbook for the application fee, ID, and any information the application may ask for (contact info for previous landlords from the last 3 years, contact info for current and past employers' HR department for income verification, etc).

3. Offer a deposit on the spot, but honestly, in Seattle I've been told by every landlord I've had that they can't take the deposit until they have reviewed your application, run your credit report and chosen you as the tenant. My last landlord specifically told me this has something to do with fair housing practices - landlords here have to process applications in the order in which they are received and not based on cash incentives offered up front to move someone to the front of the application line. I have no idea if that particular landlord was just extra careful or if they all follow this rule. But this also explains why tip #1 above is so important. Get there first!
posted by joan_holloway at 12:25 PM on June 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Another thing that finally helped me (albeit in a prior rent bubble) was to try to get an appointment before the actual advertised times. If not an actual day early, then maybe a little earlier on the day of their showing. This might be easier if the landlord is on site, but it can't hurt to ask.
posted by sevenless at 12:35 PM on June 24, 2014

joan_holloway: "I've been told by every landlord I've had that they can't take the deposit until they have reviewed your application, run your credit report and chosen you as the tenant. "

This is a Washington State thing. Taking a deposit gives you a claim to being the tenant and they also have to provide a move-out checklist along with a statement of where the deposit is being held. Most landlords do this as part of the move-in process but that's also where they collect the first check. I've seen some corporate landlords be willing to accept a deposit up-front but that's because you also sign an agreement saying that this is a holding fee which is refundable if the apartment isn't leased to you. Smaller and individual landlords don't feel like dealing with that.
posted by fireoyster at 12:38 PM on June 24, 2014

+1 try to get in to see before the weekend. Both of the great places I found in Seattle, I found because I obsessively refreshed Craigslist housing listings, called IMMEDIATELY, and set up a viewing for the very earliest possible time, that day if possible, that HOUR if possible. It really is a game of who gets there first, and by the time the weekend rolls around, if even one other person has been able to snag an earlier viewing, your chance might be gone.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 12:43 PM on June 24, 2014

In addition to the above, if you have reference letters from previous landlords, bring copies of those along with contact info for the landlords.
posted by quince at 12:44 PM on June 24, 2014

1. Get in early

2. Look like the best renters. Dress up. Bring a page with your bona fides (not SSN or anything but employers, length of employment, number to call to verify employment, number of at least one personal reference).

We included a little "about us" blurb that talked up all our selling points - we work from home (less likely to burn down/get robbed), we've owned a house before (so maybe we won't trash it/ignore serious issues). We also said flat out that we don't have kids, because while they can't discriminate out loud about it, they all do. The landlord for the place we just moved into is a geek of some sort, so I used a friend who works at FB for a reference. I have no shame.

3. Have everything you need to apply right then, *including* a smartphone or tablet in case they use an online background check service that you need to fill out.

4. Offer the most money.

On point 4, say you want to begin renting the first available day. Asking the landlord to hold a place, income-free, for two weeks or whatever is the best way to get passed over for someone else. It doesn't matter if it's going to sit empty for two weeks, as long as it does so in your name.

You could also offer to initially lease for two years, as it assures the landlord they won't have to go through all this again in a year.

Also, offer more money if you have to. That's very possibly how you're getting scooped on the places you want in highly-desirable areas.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:46 PM on June 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Write a quick note about why you love the place and put in a few basics about yourself/your family that make it obvious you're a nice person and would make a stable, desirable tenant. If you have a nice picture to include, do so.
posted by Dragonness at 1:14 PM on June 24, 2014

Yeah, in a tight rental market, the #1 thing you can do is be the first person to see the apartment. Generally I've found landlords -- esp. small landlords -- don't want to spend their weekend showing the property, so if they find someone who's willing to look at the place on Wednesday after work and who seems sane and qualified, then bam, they're in. (Last time I looked, I was offered three apartments by jumping on the listings and offering to come over that afternoon/evening -- all decent places at decent prices, and I live in a tight market.)

Beyond that, have excellent references from your past landlords (you say references, but not who they're from).
posted by pie ninja at 1:47 PM on June 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

We rent in Sydney; nth seeing it first and bringing all the paperwork with you: application and everything it asks for, bank details, copies of ID, proof of employment, pay stubs, references (we used past landlords/real estate agents)etc.

When we were looking I made up 12 packets with usual required docs + extra that I could whack an application form to.

Good luck!
posted by jrobin276 at 1:56 PM on June 24, 2014

Wow i completely missed the "see it on a tuesday" thing, i've always done that. In fact, the places i went to on the scheduled time have been the places i didn't get. I guess i just never thought about that being a factor, since some people will show a place right now/tomorrow and some go "nah, show up on friday".

I got three places, off the top of my head, by just leaving work and seeing them on some day early in the week. I never realized that was that big of a factor, and figured it was something everyone did. Apparently it works/is a big deal though, and based on my anecdotal thinking through of previous renting processes it does seem to have a high success rate.
posted by emptythought at 2:11 PM on June 24, 2014

I have been told by landlords that they check out prospective renters' cars as an indicator of whether they are neat freaks or slobs. It's anecdotal, but if you are trying to get every detail right, it might not hurt to make sure your vehicle is looking sharp.
posted by agentofselection at 4:07 PM on June 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

We have provided a 'housing resume' with rental history, employment information, and references to potential landlords in the past. It has literally always secured us the rental we wanted.
posted by bq at 9:59 PM on June 24, 2014

Thanks all for your feedback. We followed all of the advice here (except offering more than the listed rental price - I just don't want to contribute to the San Franciscification of the Seattle rental market). Unfortunately we didn't get the place I posted about here. However, a week later I saw another one posted that listed a weekend open house time. I followed your advice and emailed to see if I could tour the house worked, and we got the house!
posted by leitmotif at 11:45 AM on July 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

« Older finding feijoa: fruitless / great guavasteen...   |   Cuenca to Quito in eight days Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.