Tenants: How to search for a rental property
Whether you are new to renting or a seasoned tenant, the first part of moving into a rental property is finding the one most suitable for your needs and your budget.
Years ago, you would just look for a property in newspapers and letting agents' windows, but now there is an even greater abundance of searching options for you to choose from, with online options overtaking on numbers.
As well as searching in the right places, there's also a number of steps you can take to make sure you give yourself the best possible chance of securing your first-choice rental property.
The property portals
There is a widely-quoted statistic that over 90% of property searches now start online and a large proportion of these take place on property portals. It is here that letting agents' list their stock of rental properties, leaving these websites with the largest cross-section of what is available at any one time.
Rightmove has the most listings, followed by Zoopla and OnTheMarket. There are other smaller portals, but it's unlikely you'll need to steer away from these three main websites.
One of the handiest features of these sites is the option to set up property alerts. These alerts notify you when a property in a particular price bracket or location becomes available. In an extremely competitive market, it's crucial that you're one of the first on the scene.
What’s more, you can also search these websites for properties by features, such as whether you want the property to be furnished or unfurnished, near to a park or close to a tube station.
Finding a property directly via a letting agent, rather than a third-party portal, is another useful option. As well as going into the office to speak to an agent face-to-face, you can also look in their windows and use ‘To Let’ signs as an indicator of what's available.
You want to make sure you're on all the local agents' mailing lists so that you're notified when new properties come to market. What's more, it can be beneficial to speak to the agent and ask them to personally contact you when properties that fit your criteria become available.
Building a personal relationship with a local agent can be really beneficial and, in some cases, could see you being informed of properties as, or just before, they go to market.
Private listings websites
These websites have become more popular in recent years. The listings on these sites will often be directly from landlords or existing tenants who are moving out.
Sites like Gumtree and SpareRoom are good for tenants looking for houseshares - you'll often have the opportunity of a meet and greet or interview before moving in, something which can be really useful.
Private listing sites are also likely to provide a wider range of tenancy lengths and options - you may find something a little cheaper or a particularly short-term agreement if that's what you're looking for.
One thing to be aware of using these sites, though, is rental scams. Before agreeing to pay any money or attend any viewings related to listings on these platforms, make sure you do a bit of background research to confirm that the opportunity is genuine.
What can you do to prepare for a move?
Once you've found your perfect property and made an offer, there are a few things you can do to make sure the next stages of the process run quickly and smoothly, while increasing your chances of being accepted as the new tenant for your home of choice.
Here are our top four pieces of advice:
- Have your security deposit and holding deposit ready for payment
- Make sure you are easily contactable by phone and email
- Find your most recent bank statements and payslips and gather them together
- Fill out all paperwork provided as soon as possible
When looking for your rental home it's important that you identify the right path for you. For many tenants, the traditional lettings route is best as it involves less work and can offer more security. However, depending on your criteria and circumstance, you may need to go for a more unconventional rental.
Either way, it's a very competitive market and therefore taking the above guidance into account when searching for your property could improve your chances of securing the home you really want.