Renting guide: How to find a rental property

The most common and convenient way to find a property to rent is to search online.

You can search within specific suburbs and price points and browse properties for lease from multiple real estate agencies. Mobile apps make the search process even more accessible.

Within each search, you can specify the number of bedrooms, bathrooms and parking spaces, the type of property – such as a house, apartment or townhouse – and search for specific keywords such as “balcony”, “garden”, or “art deco”. You can then directly inquire with real estate agents about inspecting an advertised property.

It is also possible to visit a specific real estate agency’s office or website to discover any properties they currently have for lease. Still, they will only be able to inform you about properties managed by their agency. Many real estate agencies also advertise properties for rent by displaying a sign in front of available properties.

Should you rent a house or an apartment?

The process of finding, inspecting and applying for a rental property is much the same regardless of whether you’re seeking a house or apartment, but deciding what type of property is best for you is a personal choice.

Generally speaking, a house is usually larger than an apartment but often costlier to rent. Homes may also cost more to heat in winter and cool in summer.

On the other hand, some apartment buildings include gym facilities, a pool and a building manager who takes care of general maintenance, making an apartment more appealing.

Apartments are likely to be more secure and may feature lock-up parking. The lack of privacy in an apartment may be an issue as you’ll likely be sharing walls and a roof with neighbours, which can be noisy at times.

If budget is an issue, renting an apartment may be more beneficial, especially if you’re searching within a popular area.

Another factor to consider is the provision of outdoor space, as most apartments will only feature a balcony rather than a backyard. If you rent a house, you may be responsible for keeping lawns and gardens tidy and maintained.

How do you know if a rental property is a good value?

Searching for a rental online provides a good snapshot of the marketplace. Users can easily compare the types of properties on the market and the prices they can expect to pay.

You can use Domain’s Home Price Guide to search a property’s past rental history to see how rent has increased over time. If rent has grown significantly in a short period without any renovations since – for example, rising $100 a week over 12 months – the price may be overinflated.

How to inspect a rental property before applying

It is expected and advised that a prospective tenant inspect the property before deciding to apply and eventually sign a lease.

A property may have specific inspection times which are advertised online. Alternatively, the property manager or real estate agent will contact people who have inquired about letting them know if a time has been scheduled to inspect the property.

These inspections will typically be a specific 15 or 30-minute block as specified by the real estate agent. You may be asked to register for a review online in advance.

In some instances, real estate agents may allow prospective tenants to inspect a property privately at a time that is suitable for them. You can contact the real estate agent responsible for leasing a property to determine if this option is available.

When attending a property inspection, it’s a good idea to arrive early. Many other parties interested in seeing the property, and time in the parcel may be limited.

It is also advisable to keep the specified move-in date in mind if this doesn’t align with your circumstances. You can ask the real estate agent if there is room to negotiate on this date.

Should you hire a renter’s agent or broker?

Unlike other countries, hiring a renter’s agent or broker to secure a suitable rental property on their behalf is very uncommon in Australia. These services are sometimes marketed under names such as “rental sourcing”, “renters’ advocate”, or “relocation service”, but these are typically sold to those relocating from another city without the time to search for a property in person.

Rental inspection checklist

It’s a good idea to make a checklist of features to look at it when inspecting a rental. These can include:

  • Parking – Is it available, and if so, how big is the car space or garage? Is there somewhere to park a bicycle or motorbike?
  • Heating/airconditioning – What rooms does it service? Does it operate on gas or electricity? Is the property insulated?
  • Natural light – Which way do the windows face, and at what time of day is the light optimal?
  • Kitchen – What appliances does the home have, and which ones will you need to bring? Is there enough bench space and storage?
  • Bathroom – Is there a bathtub or only a shower? How many bathrooms are there?
  • Outdoor area – Is there a space to relax or entertain outside? Is it covered or in the elements?
  • Furniture – Does the property come furnished, or will you need to supply your furniture? Will the table you have fit, or will you need to buy new items?
  • Condition – Is the property well maintained? Is it likely you will need to request repairs from the landlord?

Renting guide: How to apply for a rental property

When you’ve found a rental property you like, you’ll need to use it to secure the property.

This generally involves filling out a form and providing as many details as the property manager or landlord required.

Once you’ve found a property you like, it’s best to provide as much information as possible and apply quickly to give yourself the best chance of being accepted.

What do real estate agents look for on rental applications?

Applying for a rental property can be competitive, especially if multiple parties are interested in one parcel.

The application will usually require prospective renters to provide the following details:

  • Identification – property managers may want to conduct background checks.
  • Renting history – landlords may prefer to rent the property to tenants who have a proven track record of paying rent on time and looking after a property.
  • Employment – landlords will want to ensure tenants can pay the rent on time.
  • References – property managers may contact referees such as previous managing agents, employers or character references.

Be sure to answer every question on the application correctly. Real estate agents report up to 30 per cent of applicants leave details off, which is often the difference between a successful application and a rejected one.

It is recommended to provide as many financial details as possible to show your ability to pay rent. Payslips, bank statements and a current employment contract or a letter from your employer stating your salary are all ways of providing evidence of your regular income.

If you’re applying with other people, try and provide all your details together to make this process as simple as possible for the property manager.

If you have previously rented, ask your past property manager to provide a rental ledger, which is a complete statement of every rent payment you’ve once made. You can include the rental register on your application to show proof of being a reliable past tenant.

How to get the home: six tips for a successful rental application

Have you been knocked back for yet another rental property? Join the club. To help make your next rental application a success, we asked landlords and property managers to reveal what they look for in a rental tenant.

Complete the application

It should go without saying, but filling out a rental application in its entirety is a must.

Dion Verzeletti, director of Ray White Thornleigh, estimates that 30 per cent of rental applications received by his office are incomplete.

It’s a competitive market, and property managers don’t have time to be following up applicants for forgotten details, so make sure all your paperwork is accounted for and clearly outlined from the get-go.

Simply finishing the application puts you in good stead for rental property success.

Provide as many financial details as possible

Property managers generally favour applicants who have been stably employed in one job for at least two years.

For those who are self or unemployed, Stephanie Barbanti, business development manager at Stockdale & Leggo Epping, suggests providing the details of your accountant, a bank statement showing savings, or references from a past employer.

“For those who are out of work, an explanation as to why would help. You could be between contracts or jobs, sold a business and taking some time off, or recently made redundant from a current position,” Verzeletti says.

Also, ensure you’re applying for properties within your financial reach. Property managers look for tenants whose rental payments won’t exceed more than 35 per cent of their income.

Update your social media accounts

Savvy property managers will always look up potential tenants on social media to verify their details.

“Property managers need to go beyond the normal means of reviewing an application as the applicant will always put the good stuff on and leave the bad stuff off,” says Honor Borg, managing director at C-Vue Property Group.

Suppose the information on your social media accounts differs from what’s included on your rental application (such as your place of employment). In that case, this can raise serious questions, so check your details are up to date.

Be a responsible pet owner.

Some landlords will flat out refuse pets in their properties due to past experiences, so find out if this is the case before applying.

“Renters must understand their responsibilities. Most landlords have had dreadful experiences with non-paying renters, animal damage issues and smoke penetrating through the property,” says Karen Phillip, an NSW landlord with multiple rental properties.

For those who can’t bear to part with their beloved cat or dog, be open about your situation. Verzeletti recommends including a pet reference and photo of your pet in your application. While it may be tempting to lie about having a pet, this may jeopardise your relationship with the property manager, making it even more challenging to rent in the future.

Stick to procedure

Offering a wad of cash upfront or asking the property manager not to contact your previous agent will automatically raise concerns.

“An immediate red flag is when someone has trouble getting together their supporting documents, starts telling us bad stories about where they are living at the moment, or just doesn’t engage with us when we are showing the property,” says Robert Riddell, property investment manager at Response Real Estate Riverstone.

Ask for feedback

If your application is unsuccessful, don’t be afraid to contact the property manager and ask for feedback on how you can improve next time.

“I will always try and give feedback where I can,” says Borg.

First-time renters: How to apply for a rental property if you’ve never rented before

Having no rental history is something every prospective renter faces during their lifetime, so don’t feel deterred from entering the market.

For those in this position, it’s essential to provide as much financial information as possible and references such as current or previous employers.

By providing adequate evidence to support your ability to pay rent, most landlords and tenants will have no issues renting to a tenant with no history.

In most states, renters can also appoint a “guarantor”, otherwise known as a rental guarantee. A guarantor is a person or entity, such as a family member or employer, who agrees to be responsible for the renter’s debt should the tenant fail to pay.

In some states, there are rules regarding whether a bond can be charged in addition to having a guarantor. In Victoria, for example, a landlord or agent cannot ask for a guarantee as well as a bond unless the rent is more than $350 a week, or the tenancy agreement states that the tenant is renting the landlord’s principal residence and the landlord will resume living there at the end of the tenancy.

Casual workers, students, low-income earners and pet owners may find it challenging to secure a rental, but it’s not impossible.

How to apply for a rental property if you’re a casual worker

If you’re a casual worker and don’t have a regular salary that provides stable income, property managers and landlords will want to see:

  • Bank statements showing recent payments from simple work
  • A recent tax return showing your annual earnings
  • A letter from your employer verifying your income and character
  • A rental ledger showing proof of previous rental payments made

It can also be helpful for your application to nominate a guarantor such as a parent or relative who agrees to cover rent repayments if you are unable to.

How to apply for a rental property if you’re a student

It is against the law for a landlord to stop somebody from renting a property based on their age. With that in mind, so long as you can afford the rent, there is no reason being a student should limit your chances of renting a property.

Students need to provide evidence of their income to support their ability to pay rent, such as payslips from a casual job or statements showing Youth Allowance or Rent Assistance payments.

How to apply for a rental property if you’re a low-income earner

When using a rental property, real estate agents and landlords look for evidence to support a person’s capacity to pay rent regularly and on time. This may include allowances from Centrelink that provide a regular income along with payslips from recent jobs for low-income earners.

Applications are often rejected because property managers determine that the property is outside the applicant’s price range. If the rent comes to more than 30 per cent of your household income, consider searching for properties in a more affordable area or alternative accommodation options such as warehousing.

There are also affordable housing initiatives, such as the National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS), which provides people on low to moderate incomes with an opportunity to rent homes at a rate that is at least 20 per cent below market value rent.

Applying for social housing – short and long-term rental housing owned and run by the government or not-for-profit agencies – is an option for low-income earners. Priority for housing is given to people who need help because of homelessness or other critical circumstances.

How to apply for a rental property if you’ve been blacklisted

Several “blacklists” in Australia, otherwise known as tenancy databases, list “bad tenants” as reported by real estate agents and landlords. These databases are run by private companies and require a membership or fee to be accessed by both agents and the public.

If you are on a blacklist, you will already be aware of this. Real estate agents and landlords need to let tenants know, so they have a chance to dispute the listing. In addition, if an agent finds a prospective tenant on a database when applying for a property, the agent is required to notify them. The agent also needs to let future renters know which databases they intend to search when tenants apply for a property.

The criteria for being blacklisted differs from state to state but generally requires a serious lease breach such as:

  • Owing more rent than the total of the bond
  • Seriously damaging a rental property
  • Endangering neighbours’ safety
  • Causing physical harm to another person
  • Using a rental property for illegal purposes
  • Sub-letting a rental property without consent

It is possible to have your application be successful even if you are on a blacklist, either because the real estate agent or landlord didn’t check the relevant database or they’re willing to overlook the listing. If you are currently on a blacklist and intend to apply for a rental property, it’s advisable to be upfront about your situation and provide an explanation if possible.

Being blacklisted lasts a maximum period of three years in every state or territory.

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