Finding the right place to live at the outset of your career is getting even harder. According to the Rental Protection Agency, 2,654 new renters are entering the market on a daily basis. At the same time, the rental vacancy rate has dropped from the 5.5 percent reported at the end of 2013 to around 4.3 percent forecasted by the end of 2017.
When it gets down to it, looking for your first rental home is not unlike shopping at Nordstrom Rack: The chaos and disarray is overwhelming as you navigate the store, trying to decide where to start. As you eliminate possible outfits, you despair you’ll never find the hidden gem somehow no one else has seen. When something catches your eye, you head over, determined to make a connection. You try it on, ponder, and then move on to the next visually stimulating item. But buying clothes from a discount store doesn't take much commitment at all — looking for an apartment, on the other hand, is more like searching for the perfect partner.
Turning to Tech
These days, you don’t go to the bar to find a partner — instead, you use a dating app. Believe it or not, it’s quite similar to searching for an apartment. There are so many options, but it feels impossible to find the right one for you. Repeatedly scrolling through dozens of websites and hundreds of listings is exhausting. Thinning out your options will add some clarity to your search so you can swipe left on those you rule out.
When it comes to searching for your perfect apartment, pictures tell a thousand words, but all of them could be lies. Your Tinder profile shouldn’t feature a picture that’s three years old, and an apartment listing shouldn’t, either. There’s no excuse for not having updated, unfiltered pictures — and not just of your good side.
Once you've gotten comfortable enough with a landlord to reach out and make contact, hold him or her to the same standard you would hold a potential date. What may have started out as charming has become a bit condescending, and prompt responses have turned into uncomfortable delays. There’s nothing worse than not knowing what’s going to happen next, so remember that people who truly respect one another keep in touch and don’t leave the other party hanging.
Whether you feel a rental is sustainable or not, it’s probably going to last, at the minimum, one year. Take your time, and focus on finding these three things:
1. Landlord or property management company is verifiable: Know who you’re working with. If you choose to “date” and sign on the dotted line, you’re signing up for a minimum commitment of one year. Even if the house seems like the perfect fit upfront, don’t be afraid to dig around for some dirt to protect you from a potentially horrible experience. Bad reviews or tips from others could save you a ton of heartache. Make sure you’re in the know. Ask to interview the potential landlord, just as he or she interviewed you. Dating is a two-way street.
2. Consideration and professionalism is obvious and prevalent: When you request some changes to ensure your comfort level is met, are they well received? Are you treated like a problem or like the beautiful, unique creature that you are? If you’re clear and upfront about your own personal standards and boundaries, it’s easier to identify when you’re being mistreated. Just as there are millions of people you could be dating, there are also millions of homes across the globe for you to consider living in; don't settle for a landlord who doesn't treat you right.
3. Clear communication and documentation: It seems like simple math. We talk, we agree, and then we execute accordingly — in a perfect world, maybe. Be on the lookout for people who are overly eager to make agreements but are less than willing to put their commitments in writing. We’re searching for authentic, truthful people, not empty houses with empty promises.
While your search should gravitate toward the above qualities, it should just as surely avoid the next items:
· Rushing: Slow down, and don't act out of emotion. It’s a tight market, but it’s not a race. Avoid anyone who wants to rush you, the process, or your next move. Don’t push it, and don’t let others push you.
· Promises: If they’re promising you the world and something just doesn’t feel right, always trust your gut. Don’t get caught up in other people’s stories — if a promise comes out of their mouth, hold them accountable and get it in writing. No one wants to argue over he-said, she-said down the road.
· Potential: I get that everyone and everything has potential, but be realistic about how much of a project you’re willing to sign up for. Don't fall in love with potential. If you already can’t stand the neighbors, there’s not much to be done about them. If you really don't like the exterior, know it’s not for you.
Fortunately, rentals don’t have feelings. If there’s something about a property you don’t like, say so — if it can’t be changed or fixed to your standards, it’s time to move on. While there are some striking similarities between finding a place to live and finding a partner, remember that one is all business.
Kass Rose is a real estate entrepreneur and founder of three companies including Rent My Way, a leasing automation platform for renters in the property management industry. Over her 24-year career in both the real estate and auto industries, Kass financed, distributed, or sold more than $380 [...]