Words by Katia Iervasi.
Renting can sometimes feel like throwing money in the bin, but for many of us, it’s a fact of life. Here’s how to get the most bang for your buck – and have something sweet to celebrate at your housewarming!
Create a checklist.
What are your non-negotiables? What can you live without? Before you go househunting, write a list of your needs and wants. For example, if you’re looking in Pyrmont and have a car, you need a parking spot. If you rely on public transport, you’ll want to walk to work, or need to live near the train. If you’re all about convenience, you might want a gym in the building – but it’s not a dealbreaker. If you can’t handle living in another sharehouse, you might need to cut down to 1-2 roomies (for your sanity). Most leases are 12 months, and that can feel like an eternity in a place you don’t love.
Also, some buildings have restrictions on pets, noise, smoking and subletting, and breaking those rules can have serious consequences (aka homelessness). If you’re planning to buy a puppy, throw parties or puff on the property, add those things to your checklist.
Set a budget.
You can’t enjoy your home if you’re stressed about money. Experts say you should spend no more than 25-30% of your take-home pay on rent. Say you make $1,000 a week (after taxes). That means you should spend $250-$300 on rent – and ideally less, so you can start saving. Remember, you’ll also need to pay a deposit and application fee, and cover utilities. You might have to buy furniture, too. When you’re crunching the numbers, factor in these expenses. Check out our guide to creating a budget.
Research and make a shortlist of places.
Now that you have your priorities and budget, hop online and scope out apartments in the areas you want to live in. Think about price and convenience. If you can find a place that’s close to work, public transport, supermarkets and amenities (like a laundromat), your life will be a whole lot easier. Consider the neighbourhoods you like to go out in, too. It’s great to find a well-priced place in Alexandria, but if you spend all of your time in Manly, those Ubers are going to add up. All of this research will help you decide a) where to live, b) what you can get with your budget and c) how many roomies you’ll need.
Then, narrow down the places to see in person. There are professional photographers whose job it is to make apartments look bigger, brighter and better, so if the photos look terrible, there’s probably no point in checking it out.
Put out feelers with people you know.
Your friends and family might have leads on a place that’s about to hit the market, or know someone who’s looking for a roomie. The best bit? If they’re hanging out with your crew, they’ve already passed the test. #nocreepers
Rent in the off-season.
To score a good deal on your rental, look when the demand is low. When landlords are struggling to fill a place, they’re more likely to lower the price.
Most people make big life changes in the summer. They’re graduating, moving out of home, or starting uni/work for the year. People are on holidays and have flexible schedules. Apartments get snapped up quickly, especially in uni towns like Glebe and Kensington, and suburbs that are close to the CBD, like Waterloo and Woolloomooloo. So, the prices tend to be highest then, and lowest in the winter. If price is your main concern, rent when it’s cold outside.
Want to get even more specific?
Look at the end of the month. Most leases expire then and require 30 days notice before vacating, so they’ll be going on the market.
Look online between 9-10am. That’s when property managers post new listings for rentals. Boom.
Inspect every nook and cranny in the apartment.
We mean everything. Turn on the taps, lights, oven and air conditioner to make sure they work. Flush the toilet and run the shower. Check the location of power outlets and play with the blinds. Scan the walls and ceilings. Bring a measuring tape so you can figure out if your furniture will fit.
Tune into the surrounds, too. Is it noisy? Are there strange smells? Do you have reception inside the apartment?
There’s no point getting a great deal if everything’s broken and you’re going to be calling the landlord every 2.5 days. If you spot something – like peeling paint or a dripping tap – you might be able to use that as leverage to negotiate the rent down (more on this in a min).
While you’re inspecting, take photos and write down any defects. If you decide to move in, you’ll have evidence of any pre-existing damages, so your landlord won’t be able to blame you for them (and deduct the cost from your security deposit later on).
Be presentable and prepared.
First impressions matter! Chances are, you won’t be the only person looking at the place. When you meet the property manager or landlord, leave the ~sexy~ bodysuits at home and wear clean, well-fitting clothes. Stuck? Dress like you would for a job interview. Avoid chewing gum or eating.
Along with presenting well, you want to prove you’re a reliable tenant. Bring along these docs:
- A driver’s license or government ID.
- A copy of your most recent lease, if you have one.
- References from past landlords or employers.
- Proof of income and employment (e.g. pay stubs and tax returns)
If you love the place, you’ll be ready to fill out an application on the spot!
Negotiate the rent.
Ok, so you’ve found a place that ticks all your boxes. Before signing the dotted line, search similar rentals in the area to find out if the price is fair. If it is, go ahead. If it’s a little high, you might be able to negotiate.
The key is to present the ways that negotiating will benefit both you and your landlord. Here are a few ways to do it.
- Offer to pay a few weeks/months’ upfront.
- Time your lease to end in the summer, when it’s easier to find a new tenant.
- Sign a longer lease. This will save your landlord the time, effort and money that come with quick tenant turnovers.
- Ask for other concessions. If a price drop is out of the question, you can try asking for a free parking space or storage.
- Refer a friend who wants to move in.
- Highlight your strengths as a tenant. If you’ve always paid your rent on time and have excellent references, make sure the landlord knows.
Whatever you do, be polite and ask, don’t demand.