The relentless housing crisis is hitting renters hard and the already limited number of vacant properties is now colliding with the beginning of the year — often described as the busiest and most competitive time as a new wave of eager tenants come into the mix.
Stories have emerged of people searching for months without any luck and a government report in September highlighted the "demeaning and competitive" process as a problem. Yet no change is on the horizon forcing those wading through the market to speak up.
Highlight the 'person' behind the application
It's important for a prospective tenant to demonstrate they can afford to rent the property and ideally show a rental history, but underestimating "personalisation" can often be costly, real estate agent Alicia McCulloch says.
"There's an About Me section in the digital software for the application... I'd recommend to put there what someone would say to me at a viewing. It's your elevator pitch almost," she said.
When showing owners the list of potential tenants McCulloch shares this information, meaning anyone who hasn't included it is already at a loss. A short one paragraph is all that is needed.
"When there are heaps of great applications it's literally sometimes flicking a coin [to decided], which is horrible, but the About Me section is really an extra thing you can do to stand out from the crowd."
Sydney renter Katie Treasure created a "rental CV" for her successful application — a one page snapshot of who she and her partner are, alongside employment and rental history, to let the agent know who would be living in the property.
McCulloch confirmed this was a "good idea" but the About Me section is a quicker option which can be just as effective.
Applications with gaps are put on the 'back burner'
McCulloch explained applications which include obvious gaps are the first to be dismissed, recommending for people not to "shy away" from addressing things.
"It might be for a legitimate reason but at the moment, if we're getting 20 applications, we just physically don't have the time to be chasing up information," she said. "You're very much on the back burner and it's unlikely you would get the property."
A prospective tenant explaining it was more economical to live with family over a period of time, for example, simply helps the the agent and property owner to understand the full picture and eliminate any doubt.
Check-in at each stage of the application
Treasure is an advocate for attending viewings in person, believing introducing yourself and asking questions to the real estate agent will help them remember you and boost your chance of success when your application lands on their desk.
A follow-up call after sending the application can also be effective.
"I would recommend calling up after you have submitted your application to confirm that the agent has actually received it," McCulloch said. "It's just confirming, so you're kind of asking about it without asking about it."
Other factors to consider
It is best for prospective tenants to be "reasonably presented" at viewings.
Be flexible on move-in dates if at all possible.
Ask for feedback if your application is rejected — agents don't always provide this information but if they do you can use it constructively to move forward.
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