There are actually a lot of benefits to renting a place- you get all the privacy and space you want without the worry of unexpected expenses or the long-term commitment that comes with home ownership. However, when you’re looking for that perfect home to rent, time is of the essence. In some markets, rental property is in high demand so you need to know a few things so you are ready to snap up the one you want quickly when it becomes available.

Get ready ahead of time

Before you even begin to look for a property, compile all the documentation and data a prospective landlord might want. This list can include:
  • Prior landlord references
  • Income documentation
  • Personal references
  • Rent payment history (receipts, bank statements)
  • Pet records (vaccinations, size, breed, weight, etc.)
If any of these items are negative, like the reasons you had to leave your last residence, or maybe your credit isn’t where it should be, be sure to have a good explanation ready. Some landlords are flexible and some aren’t. You’ll never know which you’re dealing with until you ask for them to consider your circumstances.
This is also the time to figure out your rental budget. Knowing how much you can afford before you start looking can keep you from looking at, and falling in love with, properties you can’t afford. And don’t forget to add in the cost of renter’s insurance, security deposits, and pet fees.

Identify needs vs. wants

While a hot tub and a back patio might be nice, they probably aren’t absolutely necessary in your next home. Before you start looking, make a list of things you can’t live without and another list of things you’d love to have, but could live without.

Must Haves

  • Number of bedrooms
  • Number of bathrooms
  • Appliances
  • Allows Pets
  • Office space if you work from home
  • School district
  • Air conditioning
  • Neighborhood

Would Be Nice to Haves

  • Fenced yard
  • BBQ grill
  • Finished basement
  • Swimming pool
  • Hardwood floors
  • Etc.
Of course, your list may vary from the ones above but you get the idea. Once you have your lists, prioritize your wants so when you go looking you can score each property based on how many of these things it has.

Do your homework

The next thing to do is to get an idea of what’s typically available, even if you aren’t quite ready to move yet. By keeping an eye on the neighborhoods and the available rental listings there that interest you, you’ll have a good idea of prices and amenities when the time comes for you to actively search for the right home.

Use the right listing service

Make sure you’re looking in the right place for your community. Check both online nationwide listings, as well as local online classifieds. Make sure you narrow down your options so you only get a list of properties that meet your criteria. Some services let you actually apply for a property online, making the process even easier.