Yeah, you. Come ‘ere.
You lookin’ to score a rental? Yeah? I could tell by the crazed look in your eye. It’s been awhile since you’ve slept, hasn’t it? And you’re twitching like you’ve spent 36 straight hours staring at your computer screen. Don’t worry, it’s not obvious to everyone; I just know the signs.
I can help you out. Don’t worry, it’s free… this time. You’ll come back when you’re ready to buy and I’ll get mine then. You’ll see I’ve got the good stuff: The Truth. You won’t want to live without me.
Step into my ‘office’ right here around the corner and take a load off. I’ve got some advice for you. That’s right, my dear. Mama’s gonna make everything alright. Here’s what I’ve got for you:
1. The rental market does not revolve around the MLS.
I know this goes against everything I’ve been preaching to my buyers (The MLS has better information than Realtor.com, I swear!), but the rental market is just not the same game. Not nearly all of the properties available are listed on the MLS. In fact, if you really want me to make up a statistic, I would say not even 50% of them are. Many are being rented by private owners with no agent involved. Others are being managed by property management companies who have a large enough client base they can usually find tenants on their own without getting involved with an agent who represents tenants.
You need to cover all your bases. Have an agent set you up with an MLS rental search for your criteria, but don’t stop there. You’re going to need to keep an eye on Craig’s List and Hot Pads and all those other sites, too. I know it sounds like a lot, but that brings us to number 2…
2. Finding a rental is your full time job for a week or two.
Here’s the thing, in case you haven’t heard, the rental market in Metro-Phoenix is on fire. There was this thing awhile back called the housing market crash. You know, where all these people lost their houses to short sale or foreclosure? You know what I’m talking about? All those people they keep talking about on the news? And your work colleagues who told you about their foreclosures? And your neighbors who abandoned their houses and left you to live next door to their weeds? Those hoards of people are your competition.
If you find a house brand new to the market and it looks like it fits your needs (right area, right size, right price, accepts pets, etc), you need to drop everything and be the first one in the door. Don’t wait until it’s convenient for you. Don’t wait until after work tomorrow because you’ll be in the area. Get your butt in that house however you have to. This is where you’re going to live; make it a priority.
3. You have no allegiances.
Agents who specialize in this one aren’t going to like it, but it has to be said. Like I said in number 2, the rental market is a battlefield. You’re not going to get that house that is right for you and your family if you aren’t prepared to fight for it. If you have an agent (who likely specializes in sales and is just doing the rental to help you out or because the market dictates that all agents have to get involved with rentals in some capacity right now) that you’re relying on to get you into rental properties you’re going to run into one of two problems:
1. A house will come on the market that’s perfect, but the agent already has showings or appointments or something else to do at that minute and you’ll lose out on the house just because of timing.
2. You’ll find a house that looks perfect on another website and it turns out that property manager doesn’t offer a cobroke for a tenant’s agent, so you’ll end up having to see the house without that agent anyway.
The system is broken. Agents who represent tenants only make a small amount of money for each tenant they place, but it often requires quite a bit of time an energy to get the tenant into the right house. The only way for the agent to make a living wage is to offer to show you 5 houses when he is available and you must pick one. Does this sound like how you want to find the house you’ll spend the next year or so living with your family?
I’m not saying you should find an agent and be prepared to lie and take advantage of him. Here’s what I’m proposing: Find an agent you trust. Make a deal with her. Ask her to set you up with an auto-search on the MLS for your rental criteria. Then when a house comes up on your search that you really need to see, email her and ask her to send you the listing agent’s contact info. Then you can contact the agent directly to get in ASAP. The listing agent or property manager has more financial incentive to get you in quick and get the property rented. If your agent has time or it’s convenient for her, she can show you a property here and there, but then you’re not dependent on her availability. Explain to her that you’ll compensate her by referring her to all of your buying and selling friends and family and that when you’re finally ready to buy again in a few years, you’ll go back to being her loyal client. And maybe if she does show you a few houses, but not the one you end up renting, offer her a couple of hundred dollars for her time. She likely wouldn’t have made much more than that in commission on your rental anyway.
4. Be prepared.
You’ve got to be ready to strike when the iron is hot, but you don’t want to waste your time on properties that don’t work for you either. When you call a property manager to ask if you can view a house, be ready with your list of questions:
1. Do you have any applications you are already reviewing for this property (if they do, it’s likely a waste of your time)?
2. Do you allow pets?
3. Do you require a credit check?
4. Will you take a personal check for your credit check or do you need certified funds?
5. Can you email me an application or point me to the website where I can download it (if the house looks really perfect and well priced you might want to fill it out ahead of time and pick up your certified funds for the credit check)?
6. What kind of appliances are included in the rent?
7. Does the rent include HOA fees and/or any utilities? Will I pay taxes on top of my rent?
8. What deposits do your require and which are refundable?
5. Be decisive.
Make a decision quickly. If the house seems like what you want be ready to hand over your payment for the credit check and application immediately. You don’t need overnight to think about it. You need a place to live. They’re going quick. Remember you’re not living here forever. You can move in a year if you realize you hate it. And if the pipe under the kitchen sink springs a leak, you can call the landlord.
6. Keep a list of your arsenal of websites.
If you find a property management website that has a house you might like listed on it, bookmark it in case that house isn’t right, but they have another that is. Here’s a list of local sites compiled by one of my super organized and lovely friends/clients when she was looking for a rental in the last few months:
See there, aren’t you feeling better? Now you’re armed and ready to take on the rental market. You know how the system works. Tell your friends. I’ve got The Truth and it’s priced well.