The following 5-Step process is the most productive (enjoyable) method – though always evolving – I have found to deliver clients to the best home possible. Please take your time reviewing the steps and let me know if you have any questions.
If you need help, no matter what step you are on, please email or call!
Understand Your Options: Apartment or Privately Owned – House, Townhouse, Condo
Apartments will have a consistent condition, potentially low move in funds based on either move in specials with free rent or low deposit, though the rental amounts can be relatively higher. Apartments tend to be more accepting of applicants with lower credit scores. They have quick turnaround on requested property repair with onsite maintenance staff. Apartments will have a mush denser population with potential for noise because of the denseness, and thinner walls. Singles and couples who work away from home a lot favor apartments.
Privately Owned Condos, Townhouses, and Houses tend to offer a less dense living arrangement and more family oriented lifestyle. The Move-in funds can include the first month’s rent, security deposit that can be equal or twice the amount of rent, pet deposit ($250 -$1000), and a deposit for the association key ($100 – $150) to open the pool, clubhouse, or gym. The condition, the investment objective, and response to repairs can vary greatly among the different owners. Families who spend a lot of time at home tend to gravitate to privately owned homes and the lifestyle they offer.
The steps that follow are specific to renting a privately owned home. If you would prefer to live in an apartment, email me now at firstname.lastname@example.org with the following:
- Ideal move in date
- Number of bedrooms
- Preferred city
Present Yourself, Fully. Aim for the Landlord 2.5:
The application is the most overlooked part of the rental process. While other tenants are submitting a credit report and a 1 or 2 page application, you should also include the following:
- Application to Rent – 2 pages (click to download)
- Fill out every space completely and neatly.
- Every occupant over 18 must fill out a separate form.
- Credit Report with FICO Score
- I recommend going to www.freecreditreport.com, or a site just like it. Here you will want to pay to get all your FICO scores so that you can review it BEFORE anyone else does. If you allow the landlord to run an review your credit report before you are aware of its strengths and weaknesses, you will be at a disadvantage.
- Recent Pay Stubs – Last 2 months.
- Bank Statement – Last 3 months.
- Letter of recommendation confirming the following:
- On time rent payments.
- The property was left in good condtion.
- The landlord would rent to you again.
- Family Picture
- Landlord’s can’t ask for this, but you can give!
- Valentine – Don’t be afraid to express your love – for the home!
- I find it very helpful to take pictures of your current living environment to let the landlord know how well you can keep up a house.
- If you have a pet, include a picture of him/her, along with the breed name and weight – preferably taking a nap in its own bed.
Remember, when it comes to your application – MORE IS MORE!!!
Determine what is important to you.
Start by filling out this questionnaire:
- When do you need to move into something?
- Name the city(ies) and/or neighborhood(s) where you want to live?
- Describe the home you are after:
- Condo/Townhouse/Single family Residence?
- Garage? # of cars?
- Levels? 1,2,3…
- Anything else that is important to you.
- Do you have any pets?
- How many?
- What is your rental budget?
- Any thing else? The more specific, the better…
There are three methods to find rentals:
- Search on Craigslist
- Search on MLS Fed Websites
- Receive automatic emails of new listings direct from the mls.
Craigslist has lots of spam, scams, and old / repeat posts. Owners or real estate agents place ads on this website.
MLS Fed Websites are numerous. Depending on your preferred user interface, you may choose one over another. Realtor, Trulia, OC Register… You can practically mistype a website and find a property search feature. There are strict procedures for listings on these sites. You won’t find repeat or old postings – well, sometimes. The listings are updated as the real estate agent updates the MLS. Sometimes a “leased” update isn’t done until after they accepted money, or the tenant moves in. I would pick your favorite site.
Automatic Email Alerts work great after you’ve determined your ideal place to live. Listings are sent direct to your email inbox typically within hours of a new listing coming on the market. I recommend an automatic email alerts and make this a part of my process in helping tenants find a good home.
You can stay organized with a property tracker like this one:
Use the table below to track the progress of your search. (Select, Copy & Paste into Word Document)
The MLS # will find for properties listed at MLS-fed websites like Realtor.com. The CL#’s you will find on Craigslist.com. Some properties will be found in both CL and MLS Sites. Most MLS postings will include addresses. Craiglist postings do not typically include a street address.
Avail? Confirm Availability
Match? Does the contact confirm that this property matches with what you want?
Appt – Set an Appointment to view.
🙂 – Can you live happy in this property?
Accepted – Pick you favorite from the landlords that accepted you!
Pre-Screen Your Properties – Save your time & gas.
Email the person listed for each property with the following:
- Send a list of your priorities and a bit about your profile.
- Confirm availability AND if they have any attractive applications.
- Confirm move in date and other terms that you require.
- Provide 3 different dates & times when you are able to view the property.
- Ask the owner or agent to reply to you via email.
- Upon the owner or agent’s reply, follow up with a telephone call to confirm the information in the email and the appointment to see the home.
Use the Property Tracker above.
Apply to ALL that you’d be happy living in and pick your favorite from the ones that have accepted you. When considering a property, keep in mind that some landlords will have a “fix up” budget, and if the house is pretty much what you want with only a few exceptions, it may be worth sending in a proposed request of repairs with your application.
Acceptance & Move In
As soon as you receive feedback that the landlord wants you to be their tenant, get ready to sign the lease paperwork and deliver the cashier’s check. After you receive the fully executed lease agreement – signed by you and the landlord – contact the utility companies to switch the service in to your name. Just prior or upon moving in to your new home make sure to protect your deposit as much as possible by filling out in detail the Move-In / Move-Out Inspection form. Photos and video are also recommended to properly account for the condition of the home.
Sample Lease Agreement (Click to Download)
List of Utilities for Orange County (Click to Download)
Sample Move-In/Move-Out Inspection Form (Click to Download)