Three ways to snag a bargain home rental

Just over one in three American households live in a rental property and that number is rising. As a result, there is a shortage of available rental housing, and rental prices are rising faster than home prices due to supply and demand.

If you want to snag a bargain, your best bet is to make yourself look as appealing as possible to the landlord, preferably to the actual owner of the property. Here to show you how to do just that is Real Estate Expert and longtime landlord, John Adams.

Question:  John, you’ve seen literally hundreds of rental applications over the years. What are landlords looking for?

Adams: In the landlord and property management world, there are only two types of applicants:

  • A. Hard-working upright citizens who pay their bills and carry their own weight and
  • B. Unemployed bums who expect to live in luxury for free and then complain about it.

You want to make sure that the decision-maker believes you are an A, not a B (regardless of what is the actual case.

Q:  How can we do that?

A:  Here are three steps that will actually help:

1.  Impress the LANDLORD with your story. (I recommend that, before you ever talk to a landlord, you prepare a pdf version of an applicant résumé)

This résumé should include:

  • A copy of a generic rental application filled out online with all your personal information. No handwritten illegible application, please!  Generic application form at
  • A recent copy of your credit report, available on a daily basis for free from and/or
  • A letter of reference from a recent landlord, with a phone number for verification.
  • A copy of your most recent house or apartment lease.
  • Employment verification, including three recent pay stubs and your most recent W-2 or tax returns. Include a phone number for verification.
  • A one-page summary of yourself and your lifestyle. For instance, do you travel a lot? Why are you moving? Are you a troubled loner who collects rifles?  Are you a felon?
  • Details about your dog, cat or any other pet. If you have a pet, up-to-date vaccination report from veterinarian. If you have a pit bull, get rid of it.

2.  Impress the Landlord with your FINANCES. Even if your financial picture looks a little grim right now, try to paint an organized, forward-looking picture:

  • Offer to pay 60 days rent in advance. If you don’t have it right now, try to borrow it from a friend or relative and pay them back over time.
  • Offer to make a larger security deposit, even if you have to build it over time.
  • Provide evidence of a savings & checking account, no matter the balance or age of the account. Preferably from a local institution like a credit union.
  • If you have bad credit, include a statement on how you intend to improve it over the next 24 months.

3.  Impress the Landlord by overcoming his/her greatest fears.

  • The landlord’s greatest fear is that you won’t pay rent on time. Come right out and say that you would prefer to pay by online debit payment on the same day every month. Banks offer that for free.
  • Their second greatest fear is that you will move after 10 months. Turnover costs them big time. Show them you have specific plans to stay for at least 24 months.
  • Their final great fear is that you will destroy their property and demand repairs constantly. Tell them you’re far from a craftsman, but you love to go to the BIG BOX STORE on weekends for the free home improvement classes. Your next goal is to master ceramic tile.

Each of these areas is designed to touch a hot button in the landlord. The smaller the landlord, the more important the hot buttons. In other words, if a part-time landlord owns just one house, he is very protective of it. In contrast, a rental agent at a large apartment complex has much less latitude when it comes to approval. Even so, being prepared is always the right way to approach the process.

BOTTOM LINE: Presentation is key.