How to Navigate a Fiercely Competitive Rental Market

Speed and preparedness are key to finding the right rental!

It's no secret that there are a number of hot rental markets across the country right now. Since 2011, rents have increased in 24 of the 25 largest rental markets, with rent increases topping 10 percent inSan Francisco, Miami, Oakland, Denver, Seattle and Boston. For those of you looking to brave the current rental market, here are some tips:


  1. Don't put it off till the weekend - Jump on the listing! many apartments and homes rent immediately. So don't think you can get take your time to preview the unit on a late Sunday afternoon. Chances are it will be gone.
  2. Be prepared - The competition is tough. It's no longer a renter's market - be prepared for multiple offers and competition from others. Landlords now receive 1-5 applications for any apt or house. If you find an apartment you like, be ready to fill out the application on the spot. Carry all your identification with you.
  3. Who loves you? - Have a list of references ready. Make sure you have complete names, addresses, and phone numbers - even emails of your references. And make sure you offer phone numbers that will actually reach your references. Landlords with a stack of applications are not going to call them more than once or twice.
  4. Have the money ready and bring a check! - In a red-hot rental market - you are going to have to come up with a chunk of cash …fast. Have it ready and waiting. Most Landlords now want first, last and security (which can in some markets be 1 ½ months rent). In NYC, for example, for a 1 bedroom at 2,500/ month that could be close to $9,000! I can't tell you how many times people have come to look at my units and have lost out because they didn't have a check with them for a deposit. Someone else beat them to it.
  5. Don't stiff your last landlord: - Be on good terms with your former landlord - you may need him as a reference, so don't leave on bad terms.
  6. Be up front: If you have recently come out of a foreclose or short sale - be up front. Chances are they are going to run a credit check. When they do, they will find out. It is nothing to be ashamed of, but by neglecting to mention it, you might look deceitful. Always have a letter of explanation to accompany any lease application.
  7. Go on credit patrol - Make sure to check your credit before you go apartment hunting. Now is the exactly the time to try and get any mistakes taken care of. And if there are any blemishes on your credit, have a letter of explanation handy.
  8. Scrub up - It never hurts to meet a prospective landlord with your best foot forward. Look presentable and make a good first impression. Remember, these days - you've got competition and "perception is reality."
  9. Ask Questions - Remember as much as a landlord is interviewing you, you are interviewing him. Ask question about the building, the other tenants, is there a management company, or does the owner personally take care of the building? What about parking?
  10. Have YOUR answers ready - Make sure you have reasonable and honest answers for these key questions.
    • Why are you moving?
    • Where did you live before, and why are you leaving that place?
    • Any pets?
    • Do you work from home or go to an office?
    • What are your regular hours?
    • Are you quiet?
  11. Who pays for what? If you are looking at house to rent, make sure you find out exactly what you are paying for and what the owner pays for? Do you pay all utilities; does he pay the water bill? Who pays the gardener if there is one? What about if something breaks, who will be responsible? Find out first, not after you have moved in.
  12. Go with who you know! - Need more space or just a change of pace? Check with your current landlord and see if they can help place you elsewhere. Need to move from a studio to a one bedroom or a one-bedroom to a two-bedroom? Maybe you want to move to a top unit so you're not hearing the footsteps of your upstairs neighbors? Whatever your reason is, your current landlord might have the solution. Often, landlords and property managers oversee multiple buildings. Perhaps they can get you into a larger unit without a huge price increase. They have history with you, know you pay your rent on time, and may want to keep a great tenant rather than risking it with someone new.
  13. Use technology to your advantage! - Gone are the days of finding an apartment via the classified pages. If you must find a new place, use the Trulia Rentals app for iPhone and forAndroid to find a place. Not only will you be able to search while on-the-go and define your size, location and price parameters, if you're on an iPhone, you'll also get push notifications sent straight to your phone when something new hits the market. The lifecycle of a really good rental property can be as short as 1-2 hours in a really hot market like the one we're in now, so use technology to get a leg up!

I've heard so many stories about how hunting for a rental in the current market is practically a blood sport. Rents keep rising and invetory keeps shrinking. While it's tough out there, it's not impossible. Be prepared, be ready and get that rental!

-Michael Corbett

Michael Corbett, Consumer Expert @ TruliaMichael Corbett, Consumer Expert @ TruliaMichael Corbett is Trulia's real estate and lifestyle expert. He is also the host of EXTRA's Mansions and Millionaires on NBC. In addition to his regular segments on ABC's The View and Fox News, he is a national best selling author with three critically acclaimed real estate books:Find It, Fix It, FLIP IT!; Ready, Set, SOLD! and Before You BUY! His years of experience in buying, renovating, and selling homes have made him a sought-after nationally recognized real estate expert.