1. Improve your credit score before looking for a flat
Even if you've never rented an apartment before, landlords will want to see how responsible you are with your finances, and one of the main ways they do this is by measuring your credit score.
This number represents how well you have done in paying off past debts such as credit cards and university loans. For this reason, it is vital that you develop as many good habits as possible to improve your credit score before you apply.
According to FICO, your credit score is calculated based on the following
Payment history (35).
Amount owed (30%).
Length of credit history (15%).
New credit (10%).
Credit portfolio (10%).
Most landlords require a minimum score of 650 to be eligible for a flat, but this may vary.
You can check your credit score for free at CreditKarma.com, or get a full report at AnnualCreditReport.com.
It's wise to check both reports before you rent to see how your credit habits are affecting you - and to determine how you can improve it.
If you have a large credit card debt, you can make payments to reduce it before you apply to rent.
2. Prepare important paperwork in advance
Preparing the necessary paperwork is key to finding your dream flat in a competitive market.
This will give you a head start in having all the forms and records ready, making it easier for you to get ahead of other interested renters.
Make a list of the following documents.
ID, driver's licence, state ID or passport.
Income, pay stubs or bank statements showing your monthly income.
Letters of recommendation, references from previous landlords, employers or credit agencies.
Letter of employment or letter of acceptance. This is ideal if you have recently started a new job or moved to school.
Tax returns: 1099 tax return if you are freelance or self-employed.
Pet Resume. List your pet's breed, size and vaccination records.
Store your documents in a secure folder so you don't lose them, or add them digitally to an online renter profile.
Platforms like Avail allow you to create an online renter's profile which can include the information, screening reports and important documents normally requested in a rental application.
You can send your renter profile to more than one landlord via a shareable link.
3. Apply for the rental you are most qualified for
The beauty of rental listings is that most include the landlord's requirements for eligibility.
For example, landlords usually expect tenants to earn about three times the rent or have a minimum credit score of 650.
To determine how much rent you can afford, consider your monthly income, whether you plan to have pets while you rent, and the health of your credit score. You can then use apps such as Realtor.com® to find available rentals near you.
Filter listings by price, property type, number of beds and bathrooms, move-in dates, whether pets are allowed and more.
You can add multiple filters to make it easier to find available rentals that meet your criteria.
4. Consider getting a co-guarantor
If your credit score is below 650, your landlord may ask you to get a co-signer to approve your application. A co-signer is willing to take on financial responsibility in the event that you are unable to pay your rent.
This can be anyone, from a family member to a personal friend. However, this is an important commitment so you need to find someone who is willing to take on this responsibility.
5. Make a good first impression during an apartment showing
Flat showings are a great opportunity to make a good first impression on your landlord or management company. For example, make sure you turn up on time for your appointment and be prepared to answer questions about your background.
It may also be helpful to inform your landlord if you have a low credit score or have had trouble renting an apartment before.
You can share your story, what you are doing now to improve your credit, or how you have resolved previous problems.
6. Give yourself time to explore your options
Depending on the market and your criteria, finding your next flat can take anywhere from a week to a few weeks.
To avoid panicking about renting or settling for any old flat, give yourself as much time as possible to explore your options.
Planning can also give you time to improve your credit score (if needed) so that you have the best chance of getting approved.