How to land an apartment in a tight rental market


Published June 19, 2013


In cutthroat rental markets like New York, Washington, and San Francisco, it can seem impossible to land the perfect place -- or even any place at all. With hundreds of applicants flocking to every open house and private showing, making yourself stand out as a good, responsible tenant can be difficult, but not impossible. If you want to win over a finicky landlord and beat out the competition, here are some tips.

It’s All in the Numbers

A central part of any rental application, your credit report will let a landlord know whether you’ll be a good, stable tenant or a financial risk. If you have some blemishes on your record, make sure you have a good way to explain them. A clear and forthcoming explanation is going to be a lot better than stuttering and stammering about financial difficulty. You can also often overcome a bad credit report with a little extra cash. If you can afford it, offer to compensate for your past mistakes by putting down an extra security deposit.

Refresh, Refresh, Refresh

In a tight rental market, many new postings will be open for a day or two at most. Even in this short period of time, a landlord can be flooded with hundreds of interested applicants. To make sure you’re not missing out, hit refresh on those online listings constantly. By being among the first to see the newest places on the market, you’ll increase your chances of closing the deal before the deluge of other applicants hits.

Bring Paperwork

To land that perfect apartment, you don’t want to waste a minute of time, so it’s a good idea to bring some documents to a showing. By coming prepared, you can quickly reassure a landlord that you’ll be a hassle-free tenant. Recent pay stubs, a letter from your employer confirming your salary, and your checkbook are all good things to bring along with you.

Be Ready to Pounce

The best is the enemy of the good. Sure, it might not be the perfect place. But at some point you have to decide if a place is good enough. Many people make the mistake of passing on a pretty good place in the hunt for the ideal apartment. But once they realize how competitive the market is, they find themselves regretting that decision.

Skip the Line Entirely

The best way to land an apartment is to get one that isn’t even on the market yet. Talk to family members and friends to see if they plan on vacating their apartments any time soon. Or perhaps they know of a place opening up in their building. Many landlords are happy to find a new renter without having to go through the time-consuming process of screening new applicants, and with a current tenant to vouch for you, you can skip the competitive rental process altogether.  

Ace the Interview

Sure, your current landlord might be a jerk, but that’s not an appropriate response to the question of why you are relocating. Keep the interview light and conversational. Tell the landlord that you’re moving to find a place with more space or you want to shorten your commute. You also want to clearly communicate your interest in an apartment, so come armed with plenty of potential questions about the space. An awkward, silent walkthrough tells a landlord that you’re probably not that interested.

Be Flexible

Many people miss out on great apartments because they restrict their rental search to evenings and weekends. While it can be tough to take time off work, you can increase your chances of landing an apartment if you keep your schedule flexible. You don’t want to miss out on your dream home because the landlord is only available to show the place on weekday mornings, so talk to your boss ahead of time and see if you can make up for missed work while you look for a place to live.