4 Strategies to Making a Winning Rental Application

Studio Shot Of Young Man Holding Keys To First HomeIf you’re ready to submit applications for your first apartment, congratulations! You have searched rentals, scheduled showings, and you have finally narrowed it down to a few “ideal” apartments you’d love to live in! The hard part comes now, where your potential landlord needs to make a decision to pick the best possible tenant for the apartment. Unfortunately, if you’re in a competitive market, that decision can be between at least 10 different people or groups competing for one apartment, all well qualified to rent it. How do you make yourself stand out from everyone else and hand in that winning rental application? It can really be frustrating if you keep losing apartments to other applicants, but here are a few proven tips to try if nothing seems to be working out!

1. Turn in a pre-assembled application immediately after the showing.

Credit report with scoreWe have already discussed in detail here what documents are needed to apply for an apartment, but having these documents ready to go saves time processing your application. It also shows your potential landlord that you are prepared and ready to rent this apartment right now. For the past several weeks on my hunt, I brought with me an application including: rental references and contact information, proof of income (pay stubs, checks, etc.), a copy of my credit score (I provide a screenshot of it from my free Mint account), employment information, and personal references. I keep this packet with me and if I end up wanting to apply to the apartment, I have the information ready to go. If the apartment is less than ideal, no harm done keeping these papers for the next one! If an apartment has their own application, then I have all the information to transfer over right there. The point is that being quick in turning over required application materials can help you tremendously in a fast paced market.

2. Offer to pay a little extra on rent per month or cover certain utilities in an “all inclusive” rental.

Unfortunately, in some competitive markets and cities, some home owners/landlords allow money to influence their decisions on who receives an offer on an apartment. If you are financially able to do so, offering to pay an extra $50 -$100 per month on rent could make you stand out from everyone else. The homeowner or landlord could politely decline your offer, but the gesture itself signals to them that 1.) this apartment really means a lot to you and 2.) that you were willing to do a little extra effort to ensure the apartment is yours. Of course if you cannot make this work financially, then obviously it’s ok to apply for the rental price advertised! But if the apartment is below the top of your budget, it could be worth the extra money to get the apartment you want.

3. Be prompt, be polite, and be patient.

Sometimes, you may be in a situation where the current tenants make it difficult for the landlord to schedule a showing at an ideal time for you (i.e. Monday, 2 pm sharp since that’s when they’ll be around). The landlord may also take 3-5 days to respond back to your follow-up email.  Then, you may need to make a decision in half a day to take an apartment and sign a lease. Throughout all of this, it’s important to keep the three “P”s in mind. Promptly respond to emails and follow up phone calls. Make sure to be polite, even if the landlord/lady is being rude and treating you like another “number” in the sea of housing applicants (but double check if you really want this person as your landlord in this case!) And of course, practicing patience can reduce the overall stress of house hunting. On the bright side, this attitude shows a potential landlord that you’re cool, responsible and collected enough to manage the apartment. Something will work out with enough determination and patience so don’t give up!

Ed. Comment: Here at My First Apartment we want to add #4.

4. Mind your personal presentation

First, use a neutral or professional email address when you communicate with the landlord. This seems like a no-brainer but when we run giveaways or our  readers comment to posts, we see email addresses (other readers don’t see them) that make us wonder. If your email address is [email protected] and you are disappointed  because landlords never reply to you, perhaps you should set up a different address for apartment (and job!) hunting purposes. Second, when you go to open houses and showings, don’t wear that ripped “I shoot to kill” t-shirt, even if it’s your lucky one. Clean, neat and inoffensive is the order for the day.

Check here for more tips on how make the landlord pick you.


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Author My First Apartment
Anna R.

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Anna R. is currently a research assistant in a biology lab in the Bay Area and is interested in pursuing a Ph.D in Genetics. When she’s not daydreaming about food and browsing recipes on Pinterest, she likes to spend her free time dancing, paddle boarding and swimming. She’s been through a number of different housing situations and is eager to share her experiences with other MFA readers!

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Comments (3)

  1. Avatar Derek Dewitt

    I am looking into renting an apartment for school next year, so this guide was really helpful! I like your point about being patient and sending a follow-up email in 3-5 days. I will be sure not to be too pushy when applying so I don’t give the landlord the wrong impression. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Avatar Pam Lassila

    Picking out your first apartment can be a little intimidating but it should be more exciting! I like these tips and I think if you follow them you should be fine. I like the one about coming with the application assembled and be on time! That shows maturity, responsibility, and respect.

  3. Avatar Ross Adams

    Great tips. I have not much to add, except that you need to dress smartly. It will also help you to make a good impression on prospective landlord. And this article https://rentberry.com/blog/rental-application-tips claims that you awareness of neighborhood will play the important role in getting the apartment you want. Meanwhile, your topic is a good guide for renters that want to find their dream home, albeit it’s a temporary home.