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 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.

As well as searching in the right places, there are several steps you can take to ensure 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, many of which take place on property portals. Letting agents list their stock of rental properties here, 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 leading 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 a highly competitive market, you must be one of the first on the scene.

You can also search these websites by features, such as furnished or unfurnished, or near a park or tube station.

Letting agents

Another helpful option is finding a property directly via a letting agent rather than a third-party portal. 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 to indicate what's available.

You want to ensure you're on all the local agents' mailing lists so that you're notified when new properties come to market. 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 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 prevalent 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 suitable for tenants looking for houseshares - you'll often have the opportunity of a meet and greet or interview before moving in, which can be helpful.

Private listing sites are also likely to provide a broader 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.

When using these sites, you must be aware of 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?

  • 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, you should identify the path which works best 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; therefore, considering the above guidance when searching for your property could improve your chances of securing the home you want.

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