Improving your chances of securing a rental

With demand for rental properties continually increasing and inventory shortages experienced throughout the country, it might be quite a task for tenants to find the right property, says Susan Watts, Broker/Owner of RE/MAX Living in Camps Bay.

 “It seems that in today’s rental market there just aren’t enough apartments and homes to go around and activity is at an unprecedented high.”
Adrian Goslett, CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, agrees by saying that the rental market in South Africa continues to see growth at healthy levels, with demand often outstripping supply in certain areas around the country.
“It goes without saying that tenants want the best place for the best value, however in our current market these seem rare and most rental agencies are unable to assist due to lack of available properties. Many tenants have gone into an agency and have been turned away because as soon as a rental becomes available there is a waiting list of potential tenants eager to get into the property, especially if the property is within an affordable price range. For tenants that have missed out on the right one or lost a place because another applicant was accepted, the process can be frustrating because they could be running out of time.  However, there are ways in which tenants can increase their chances of finding their ideal rental property,” says Grant Rea, Certified Residential Rental Specialist at RE/MAX Living.
He provides tenants with some basic tips and smart tactics to ensure that they get the property that they want. These tips are especially helpful for good tenants with an excellent credit and track record.
What not to do

Rea says that there is little point responding to online ads that have been viewed over 300 times. “The fact is that the ‘good value’ properties will get snatched up almost immediately. Do not bother with listings appearing after page 10 or that are older than a week, especially if you are looking properties renting for less than R10 000/month. Check property search portals and sites such as MyProperty on a daily basis to ensure that you respond to a good listing as early as possible.”

He notes that with the large number of tenants waiting for property, asking an agent to add you to a list or take your number will not suffice – there are simply too many tenants looking for properties for under R10 000/month. Rea advises tenants to rather get the email address of a reputable agent who is active in the area and email them with the intention of gaining some rapport. Don't be complacent and leave it to the last minute, it's harder to secure the right place than you think.

How to respond to online ads:

Rea advises that it is crucial to respond to online ads efficiently to be noticed. He gives a few pointers on how to respond.

- Keep it brief and ask for an appointment to see the property as soon as possible.
- Do not ask if the property is still available – this wastes time and the property will be gone before you get the benefit of a reply.
- Outline who you are very briefly, noting number of occupants, whether you have pets and why you are moving. Longwinded responses are generally ignored.
- State very clearly that you have a clear credit history and have all documents, proofs and deposit ready.
- Leave the questions about what is included or not until you are face to face with the agent or landlord.
- This is a numbers game, shortlist as many potential places to view to improve your chances of securing one.
- Landlords and agents seek quality tenants and you will need to ensure you have all the necessary documents and proof to show you are a quality and exemplary tenant.
- Be prepared to be asked for the contact details of your last two agents and/or landlords
What you should have prepared to give to an agent/landlord

According to Rea, being prepared and having all the necessary documents in order will not only speed up the process, but also show the landlord that you are serious about the rental. He says that tenants should have the following in order before they respond to an ad:

- Get your own credit check done. Credit bureaus such as TransUnion provide a free credit profile on an annual basis.  An updated credit check should be kept so that it can be offered to the owner or the agent.  They may do their own but at least you will know your credit history and score.
- Most agencies and savvy private landlords will have an application form. If possible, get this document before the viewing and complete it before you arrive.
- Other documents to remember are copies of ID documents, proof of income or a letter from your employer or if you are self-employed have three to six months of bank statements.
- Remember rental agents and landlords seek applicants who earn roughly three times the rental amount as a gross combined income.
- A letter from your past landlord or rental agent is always helpful or at least have their contact details handy and be willing to state how long you have been renting there. Agents/landlords want to know your conduct and payment behaviour at previous properties you have rented.
- If you have never rented or if you previously owned your property, try get a good reference from a responsible authority figure, school bursar, minister etc.
- If you have anything that negatively affects the application, rather be honest and open about it and state what you have done to improve the situation. Being honest about it often shows integrity.

According to Rea there are a few other things that could help make a good impression with the landlord and improve the tenant’s chances such as being on time for the appointment. He also notes that it is also good for the tenant to build a little rapport with the landlord so that they are remembered. “Ask if you can apply immediately and produce the supporting documents in an envelope and ask if there is a formal application to follow. Also offer to pay the lease fee or deposit on the spot provided they can give you a receipt,” says Rea. “It is important for tenant not to give up. If they apply the above tips and keep at it they will eventually find their ideal rental property,” he concludes.

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