Finding a rental apartment can be difficult, especially during a global pandemic. As a renter, you need to use every tool at your disposal to win the apartment of your choosing. When people look to purchase a house, several people choose to utilize the skills, labor, and expertise of a Realtor or buyer’s broker. People do not think to employ one when renting, but in an increasingly competitive housing market, renting is just as competitive as buying. Realtors or renter’s agents are just as good helping renters as they are buyers.
When helping a prospective buyer purchase a home, a Realtor’s job is to help the client identify other professionals they will need to successfully close a transaction, help them prepare to submit a timely and competitive offer, and not to screw up. When taking on a renter as a client, the Realtor as renter’s agent must help the renter navigate similar waters.
How to prepare to apply
The first thing the Realtor will tell you to do is to prepare the following so you have all of the information any landlord would ask for in an application.
When screening applicants, most landlords start with analyzing the tenant’s income. They want to see that rent is between ¼ and ⅓ of the tenant’s monthly income. Compile at least a month’s worth of paystubs, last federal tax return, and/or proof the money is coming from somewhere, like a voucher or reward letter. If you are moving to a city and are starting a job with a new company, make sure to receive a letter from the company stating how much money you will be making per year, including possible bonuses. These documents should be digital and clear to read.
Know your credit
Several landlords take credit into consideration. Obtain a current credit report to speed things along. If you provide a credit report, some landlords may even wave the application fee. The credit report should be no more than 30 days old. If you have a few dings on your credit don’t take it as a loss. Be honest with yourself about what you can afford and if you have bad credit you may need to bring down your monthly expenditures, including rent.
Social media tune-up
You are free to be your own person, and landlords are free to make decisions on tenants based on character, at least for now. Most applications start with a quick social media search. Maybe it is time to take down that awesome picture of you jumping through folding tables from your feed. You are trying to portray yourself as a responsible and polite person. The landlord/tenant relationship is a partnership. The landlord needs to know he or she can count on you to fulfill your end of the bargain.
Yes, landlords do call references. At the least make sure your references know they are such. Regarding landlord references, the best one is the landlord you had BEFORE the one you have now. Your current landlord is irrelevant. If you were a bad tenant of mine and someone called me to take you off of my hands, I will tell him whatever he/she wants to hear to get rid of you.
Now more than ever, landlords are asking tenants to supply renter’s insurance. If you don’t have renter’s insurance now, get it. If you are able to show a history of insurance this will look good for you. Having existing insurance shows you are responsible.
I am prepared, why do I still need a Realtor?
As a landlord, I can tell you, the large amount of tenant requests generated from just one property requires weeks worth of man-hours to process. So much so, it is difficult to give everyone proper attention as the quantity is so overwhelming. A Realtor can help prospective tenants circumvent these hurdles.
By knowing what landlords are looking for, a renter’s agent can help tenants prepare for the application process. Speed and polished presentation are the keys to winning highly competitive lease applications. Bidding wars are not just for real estate sales.
Cost of an agent?
In markets like Buffalo NY, Realtors acting as renter’s agents get paid by the landlord’s broker and do not charge the renter a fee. So in essence, it is a free service, but you can pay the Realtor up front as well if you need extended service. In markets like New York City, these broker’s fees are pushed down to the renter. In some instances, the landlord even tries to have the renter pay for the landlord’s broker. Know the rules for your market. They can be found at your local Association of Realtors, NAR. In New York State, a broker shall not be paid by both sides of a transaction, unless both sides agree that both will pay the broker.
A good renter’s agents can bring:
Knowledge of the specific landlord’s vetting process
Provide landlords a “pre-screened” application that can help you jump to the next step
Additional man hours making contacts, scheduling viewings, and other tasks that take up more time than you want to admit