Monday, 27 June 2011 4:48 PM
Finding your dream rental property is difficult enough, but in today's market, when there are often 20 other people desperate to become the lucky tenants instead of you, house-hunting can become the stuff of nightmares. Find out how to find – and secure – the perfect rental home with our quick, no-nonsense guide.
Register with as many agencies as possible
It's essential that you register with as many local agents as you can so that you've got all bases covered. If possible, do so in person as you'll be more memorable – and therefore more likely to be the first person that the agent calls when a new property comes onto the books.
There's no point saying you'd like a property anywhere in the town centre if there are certain areas you wouldn't dream of venturing to alone. An agent won't take it personally if you issue no-go neighbourhoods, in fact they'll be glad you've been honest so they don't waste their time sending you details of apartments you're not interested in.
That said, if you're on a deadline (eg if your current tenancy is set to expire soon), you'll need to be flexible to a certain extent or you could find yourself without a roof over your head. Is loft space really a make-or-break factor? If not, be prepared to sacrifice it.
Don't sit around waiting for the estate agent to call you: the rental market is incredibly fast-moving at the moment and in the most competitive areas properties will be snapped up within hours (or less) of going onto the agent's books. Call the agents for an update every day, and don't forget to be friendly – they're far likelier to help you out if you've shown your human side.
Don't rely on the internet
While portals such as Zoopla and Rightmove are useful for giving you an idea of the types of properties you'll be able to get for your money, they're not always up to date. This is because rental homes are flying off the books so quickly, especially in London, that agents simply don't have time to update their websites and remove the details of places that have already been let for a good few days after the event. That said, it's still worth registering your details on the sites and sending a message out to the relevant agents explaining what you're looking for – again, it's best to cover all bases.
Be prepared for dirty tricks
It's an unfortunate fact that gazumping – where someone else who wants the property outbids you, paying more than the advertised price – is increasingly common in the rental market. While some agents discourage this practice, many of them will turn a blind eye as it secures them a higher commission. If you're planning to rent with other people, make sure you all agree a maximum budget before getting drawn into a bidding war or things could get complicated.
Speed is the name of the game when it comes to securing that dream rental home: if you like it, don't procrastinate – put in an offer on the spot. If you don't, someone else will.
Have all your documentation and references ready
Even if you're the first person to view the property and you put an offer in, the agent is within his/her rights to continue showing other people around the property until the landlord has accepted your (or someone else's) offer.
If there are a few different parties all interested in the same property, the landlord is likely to take the easiest option – and that's usually going to be the group who've got all their money, documentation and references ready. If possible, carry proof of address, photo ID and a letter from your employer outlining your salary and terms of employment with you at every viewing. It's also worth asking your current landlord for a reference in advance. Finally, make sure that you have the cash for your deposit readily available in your current account.