Posted Nov 12, 2015

5 Ways to Stand Out While Apartment Hunting

When you’re apartment hunting in a competitive market, it can start to feel like finding a good place will be impossible.

5 Ways to Stand Out When Apartment Hunting

Luckily, there are ways you can make a great impression. Here are five ways you can stand out when you’re applying for apartments:

1. Think ‘Job Interview’

Although apartment hunting and job searching have seriously different results, they’re pretty similar when you’re renting in a competitive market. In both situations you have to make a great impression and convince someone you’re worth their time. Also, both come with the added stress of leaving your livelihood in the balance; so it makes sense that you should take both situations seriously.

5 Ways to Stand Out When Apartment Hunting - Think 'Job Interview'

When you go to an apartment viewing or open house, arrive looking neat and well-dressed. Be friendly and positive during the tour, and be sure to ask plenty of questions that show you’re actively interested in the unit. Just as you would in a job interview, don’t say or ask anything incriminating or anything that will give a bad impression. Now is the time to ask about the pet deposit, but it’s not the time to mention your cat’s penchant for peeing in radiators.

2. Come Prepared

Renting in a competitive market means that you should make decisions as quickly as you can. Although you won’t always be able to tell on first viewing that an apartment is the right fit, be prepared just in case you know immediately. This will give you a jump on the competition and help your application sit at the top of the stack.

5 Ways to Stand Out When Apartment Hunting - Come Prepared

Whenever you’re taking an apartment tour, bring the appropriate documents along with you. Find the rental application online, or ask for one beforehand so you can have it filled out and ready to go. Make sure you have a form of photo ID on you– you can even go an extra step and photocopy it in advance for the landlord’s records.

Although building management will probably run its own credit check, it’s worthwhile to bring your own along to give the lessors an idea of what to expect. You can print out a free credit report online and include it in your application materials.

Finally, bring along pay stubs and your checkbook to show you mean business. Your pay stubs will prove you can afford the rent, and you’ll need your checkbook to pay for application fees and deposits.

3. Ask Questions

Make sure you ask plenty of questions throughout the entire process. From the very start, you should be getting as much information as you can about the application. Ask your contact if there are any surprising documents or steps potential renters need to do to get in the door. You can also ask about things like pet rules, floor plans, and rent due dates well before you step foot into a unit.

5 Ways to Stand Out When Apartment Hunting - Ask Questions

During your tour, take the opportunity to fill in any gaps you had about the apartment itself. Don’t worry about coming off as irritating or overly inquisitive– as long as the questions you’re asking are relevant, you’re letting the landlord know that you put thought into your decisions. This is exactly the quality landlords want in a tenant.

Once you’ve applied, it’s OK to ask what to expect going forward. Building management should be able to give you a rough time estimate, which will help you as you’re looking at other places. It’s also a good idea to be blunt: Ask what you can do to get the apartment. Sometimes buildings are willing to prioritize people who can take the unit quickly or sign a longer-term lease – this information will help you know if you can give yourself a boost.

4. Offer More Money

It’s a simple fact that negotiations are often driven by money. When you’re talking about renting an apartment, being able to give more money up front makes you a much stronger candidate. If you can, offer to pay two months’ rent ahead of time, to be applied to the first and last months of your rental period. This shows the landlord you’re fiscally able to take on the responsibility of the unit, and it stands as a measure of good faith.

5 Ways to Stand Out When Apartment Hunting - Offer More Money

If you go this route, make sure you offer to put more down in rent, not deposit. Asking to place a larger deposit can actually make a bad impression, since it seems to say that you’re planning on causing some amount of damage. No one wants the deposit to be higher– after all, the landlord is theoretically going to be giving that back.

5. Be Willing to Work

Another way you can stand out against other potential renters is to offer to take the apartment before it’s cleaned or painted. This is a bigger commitment, as it means you’ll have to do your own initial cleaning of the unit (and painting, if that matters to you). Not all buildings will allow this since it does go against some companies’ policies, but it’s worth a shot.

5 Ways to Stand Out When Apartment Hunting - Be Willing to Work

On the same note, if there’s anything you can do to reduce the landlord’s time commitment, you should. For example, if you’re going to be moving in at an odd time or on a weekend, offer to pick up the key during normal business hours. This way, the landlord’s time off isn’t impacted, and you stand out as a thoughtful tenant.

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5 Ways to Stand Out While Apartment Hunting

Michelle Brandstetter


Michelle Brandstetter graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a degree in Journalism. She enjoys cat gifs, photography, and thinking about jogging. Her true calling in life is to pet as many wild animals as she (safely) can: So far she's touched lemurs, manatees, and bears, and has tentative plans to play with penguins.

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