Preparing for apartment hunting

During this time of year you need to give your current landlord notice if you’re interested in finding a new apartment. Once this is done, you join thousands of other candidates in the cut-throat race to find the ideal home. Moneybags journalist, Isabelle Coetzee, has a look at how you can stand out from the crowd.

“The demand for rental homes is unprecedentedly high, while there is simply not enough properties to go around,” says Adrian Goslett, regional director and CEO of RE/MAX.

“If a rental property is within reasonable price range, there is often a waiting list of potential tenants eager to get into the property,” he explains.

Goslett points out that the process can be frustrating for tenants who have missed out or lost a place because another applicant was accepted – especially when they’re running out of time.

In light of this, he offers the following tips when responding to online ads:

  • Be 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.
  • Briefly, outline who you are, note the number of occupants, pets and why you are moving.
  • State that you have a clean credit history and have all documents, proofs and deposit ready.
  • Leave the questions about what is included until you are face to face with the agent or landlord.
  • Shortlist as many potential places to view as possible 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 to show you are a quality and exemplary tenant.
  • Be prepared to be asked for the contact details of references

Goslett advises that, “Listings that appear after page 10 or those older than a week, will probably already be taken, especially rentals under R10 000 per month.”

“Check property search portals on a daily basis to ensure you are responding to ads as quickly as possible,” he says.

With so many tenants competing in the market, Goslett suggests finding the email address of an active estate agent in your area and making them aware of what you’re looking for.

According to Michelle Dickens, managing director of TPN, “While there may be an oversupply of tenants, there is not an oversupply of quality tenants.”

“Tenants can stand out as one of the few quality tenants in the market by offering more than the required deposit amount as security and, most importantly, having an impeccable payment history on other credit agreements such as their cell phone or DSTV accounts,” she explains.

Dickens believes that taking the initiative to provide six months’ bank statements when applying to rent a property is another way that a tenant can attract the attention of a landlord.

When applying to ads, many agencies will require a positive credit record before renting out an apartment.

“A future tenant can actively build a positive credit record by co-signing a lease agreement with a parent or sibling so that each positive payment reflects favourably on their own credit history,” says Dickens.

“So, if a parent is paying for student accommodation, it is the perfect opportunity to start building that student’s credit profile by simply co-signing the lease on their student housing,” she adds.

Micarle van Heerden, senior associate at Gillan and Veldhuizen, points out that, according to Section 4 of the Rental Housing Act, the landlord does not have the right to unfairly discriminate against future tenants in terms of race, gender, age, or disability.

“However, properties are usually let out as an investment and, as such, the manner in which future tenants can stand out is financial stability and assurance that they will not cause damage to the property beyond reasonable wear and tear – this usually includes aspects such as the tenant being a non-smoker, not having pets, and being a working professional,” says van Heerden.

“Usually landlords have a general ‘feeling’ about the prospective tenant and as such although these may be aspects which could assist in the hunt for the best apartment it usually depends on the landlords choice,” she explains.

Which documents do you need? 

Besides a good credit record, both agencies and landlords may require you to provide them with a list of documentation. Goslett suggests preparing the following before approaching either:

  • An updated credit report 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. 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 to 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 shows integrity.

Bianca Arnsmeyer, who is the sales manager for Berman Brothers Property, says that aside from proving that you have the financial wherewithal to honour the lease agreement, the best way for a potential tenant to stand out is by having great references from previous landlords or agents that you have maintained the rental property appropriately and have well managed financials.

Goslett encourages, “During the process, it is vital not to lose hope and give up. While it may take some time, if you apply the above tips and keep at it you will eventually find the ideal rental property,”

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