Increase Your Chances of Renting In A Tight Rental Market

We are experiencing an extremely tight rental market in Portland right now. Not only are rents going up but competition is getting stiffer as well. This article is a guide to help you beat competition and get your application accepted for a rental house.

To start off, I want to tell you about an absolutely charming 3-bedroom bungalow that we recently rented. It was in a nice neighborhood, but far enough from the scorching hot inner eastside. The marketing went live on a Tuesday night and by Wednesday morning we had already received three applications. By the open house on Saturday we had received more than 15 applications that met all of our initial screening criteria.

As a property manager it’s nice to have great applicants to choose from, but as a potential renter it can be a frustrating experience. It’s becoming all too common in this market for management companies never to return phone calls or emails, to charge exorbitant application fees to everyone that applies, or to completely remove the human element out of it by only offering a pay per self-guided tour scheme.

I was on the phone yesterday with a nice guy that we had passed on his application for the 3-bedroom bungalow. He wanted to know what he could do to make his chances better since he wasn’t having much luck finding a place. The advice I gave him comes from a property manager’s perspective, and hopefully it will help you too:

1.     Call the landlord or listing agent

Some landlords only want to be contacted by email so this is irrelevant. However, if they list a phone number in the ad then give them a call.

Emails are too impersonal. Introduce yourself upfront by saying your name and that you are very eager to talk to them because you saw their ad for the rental and are looking for exactly that kind of a place.

This is your chance to make a connection and build rapport. Don’t just ask about lease terms and showing times. Tell them briefly a bit about yourself and what you are looking for. Thank them for their time and promise to follow up.

If you get the person’s voicemail leave a nice message stating your name, why you’re calling, and a good number to reach you at.

2.     Follow up!

The follow up is the most important part of all of this. If you make an appointment, show up ahead of time. If you said you were going to fill out an application, then fill it out with a follow-up email with more details. Do it immediately and do not delay. Time is not on your side.

 3.     Go the extra mile

This is the step that separates the wheat from the chaff. Applications are designed as a screening tool that looks primarily for a few key items. It does not leave a lot of room for you to show off your personality or to show them how prepared you are.

Here are three examples of things that are nice to include in an email in addition to an application:

1.     A nice, short letter with potentially some pictures of yourself and your spouse or roommates. Include information about yourself, your job, your pets, or your hobbies.

2.     Attach pay stubs or proof of sufficient funds. It’s nice to show that you are verifying the information up front that you’re going to be asked about later on.

3.     Send a picture of your pets along with corresponding vet details.

 4. Look presentable

There is something called the primacy effect. Essentially, it says that opinions are formed within the first few seconds of experiencing something. We rely upon our senses to guide our opinions. This relates to sights, smells, appearance, sound, etc.

How does this relate to you? Make sure to show up looking presentable. Adapt your look accordingly. If you are going to rent a luxury apartment downtown and it’s 2pm on a Tuesday afternoon then you will want to trade your flip-flops for something more business casual. Going to an open house on Saturday morning in a neighborhood? Wear something comfortable but clean. Pajamas are not recommended.

This is not to sound shallow, because you’ll see the reasoning behind it in the next step.

5. Talk to the landlord

Do not just show up to the open house and have a quick look around. Ask the landlord or leasing agent questions. Start conversations. Find common ground. This does not include berating them with questions regarding concerns regarding the property. There is a time and place for those questions after they have accepted your application. Talk yourself up as why you would be a great renter. Point out features that you love the place. Tell them about where you would put your furniture. The name of the game is to build rapport.

6. Leave a lasting impression

Wait an hour or two after your showing and send the landlord a thank you email. Thank them for their time and again express your genuine interest in the place. If the landlord is part of a property management company then tell them that you left a nice review for them on Google Reviews or Yelp and you appreciate their helpfulness.

7. Talk with your current landlord

Make sure you give your current landlord a heads up that you are thinking about moving. It’s generally nice to leave more of a notice than just 30 days. Ask them if they will provide a reference for you in your search. People generally respond positively when asked with a direct question. If you find a place then expect that your current landlord will get a call. When you are on the opposite side of that equation as a property manager and you call a current landlord it does not look very good if this is the first they are hearing about their tenants moving out.

Remember to follow these seven pieces of advice. It is not impossible! Get your ducks in a row so that you aren’t just scrambling at the last minute.

Please be sure to leave a comment or get in touch with me at It would be great to hear what strategies work for tenants or what other landlords look for!