Renting your first place is a right of passage and marks an important milestone.
Moving into a new place is exciting but there are many expensive pitfalls to trip you along the way. But don’t worry, this blog post has got you covered.
Read the following guide to make your first renting experience less stressful.
1. Do A Site Visit Before The Inspection
Prior to the inspection date, visit the location to get a sense of its surroundings.
If you have time, go during the day and in the evening. In particular, if there is no dedicated car park for the property, observe what the parking situation is when people return from work.
If the rental property is on the main road, take note of how the loud traffic noise is. Also, if the apartment or unit is on the main road, expect to get a lot of black soot to accumulate on the window frames and on your furniture.
One of the biggest stressors of life is neighbours. When it comes to renting a unit within a complex (medium-high density), neighbours can make things very difficult.
Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing until you have moved in. However, you can get a sense of what the residents are like by inspecting the common areas such as the garbage area.
Do you see a lot of household garbage piled up in the collection area?
Do the bins look clean?
Have residents placed their garbage in the bins or have they left them on the ground or on the lid?
Looking for these small things when you do a site visit can tell you a lot about the people you will spend the next 6-12 months with.
2. Find Out Which Direction The Main Living Area Face
Unlike properties for sale, it is rare for rentals to provide a floorplan of the property. Usually, the floorplan will have a compass that can help you identify which parts of the property are north-facing.
In Sydney, a north-facing home is something all people desire. This is because as the sun moves from the east to the west during the day, spaces that are north-facing can maximise natural light.
If the property is east-facing, the mornings can be very warm and bright. However, past noon, all that natural light will begin to disappear very quickly. In the winter months, this will mean the property will be especially cold in the afternoon and evenings.
If the property is south-facing, you won’t get much sunlight at all. The implications for this are very serious as moisture can quickly develop into mould. You can usually tell once you step inside the dwelling – there is heavy dampness in the air and it is not comfortable at all to live in.
West-facing properties enjoy the sunset, however, the afternoon sun will come at a horizontal angle and can be very intense.
3. Remember That The Property Agent Works For The Landlord
As this is your first time renting a place to live, you will have a lot of questions.
Here’s the thing, the property agent does not get paid to answer your questions. They only get paid a small commission once they can find the landlord a suitable tenant.
What this means for you as a first-time applicant is that you need to do as much homework as possible so that the questions you do ask the property manager are ones specific to the property itself.
For example, you should ask how soon the landlord wants someone to start the lease. Is it within a month, a few weeks, or longer?
Similarly, ask the property manager to clarify what furnishings or appliances are included. This is particularly useful to know if heating and/or air-conditioning is in working condition.
You can either ask these questions via email or when you are inspecting the property.
After the inspection, let the property manager know that you are interested.
If possible, stick around to the end of the inspection to chat with the property manager. Let them know your intentions and a little about who you are. Essentially, you are trying to convince them that you are a reliable person who will (i) always pay the rent on time, and (ii) take care of the property.
This will let you stand out from the other applicants.
4. Give A Great First Impression
I recall my shock when I went to my first rental application. There was a long line of applicants queued from the door and all the way down the 3 flights of stairs!
Competition for reasonably priced properties is fierce and the impression you leave the property agent in the first few seconds of meeting him/her can make a big difference to you gaining a competitive advantage over other applicants.
Put yourself in the shoes of the landlord – the property is their investment and a means to make a living. They want to have a tenant who is reliable and trustworthy and on top of making rental payments on time, the landlord wants a tenant who will respect their investment property.
Little gestures can go a long way.
For example, taking off your shoes when you inspect the property is something that a property manager and landlord will notice. It may not mean much but it can infer that you respect someone else’s property.
Secondly, dress well when you inspect the property. Convey that you are presentable and not someone who will create a mess.
First impressions matter so make it a great one.
5. Write A Personal Cover Letter To The Landlord
Renting a place is a business transaction. The landlord agrees to allow you to use their property for a period of time and in return, you pay for the privilege to do so.
When you find the apartment that ticks all the boxes for you, go one step further to increase the success of your rental application. You can do this by writing a simple one-page letter to the landlord explaining why you are the best candidate.
At the end of the day, a landlord wants minimal stress. All they want to do is to collect their weekly rent to offset their mortgage. So put yourself in the best light by explaining why your occupation and lifestyle habits make you a safe choice for their asset.
6. Review The Lease Agreement (Carefully)
The lease is a legally-binding agreement that will state how much you will pay the landlord, the frequency of payment, the duration you will be renting the property, and the things you can and cannot do.
Most lease agreements will share the same template. You will normally find a tenant checklist
For example, if the lease period is longer than 12 months, be
7. Be Thorough With The Property Condition Report
8. Get Permission To Move In
Most modern apartments with body corporate will require that you put in an application to move in. This is so that they may allocate and reserve an elevator for you to use when you move in your furniture and belongings.
Review the property’s by-laws to see if you need to notify body corporate as this will vary from property to property.
9. Connect Utilities In Advance
10. Get Appliances Delivered
Most rental properties do not come with any appliances other than a stove. Newer apartments and developments may come with a dishwasher, stovetop, microwave, and a clothes dryer.
It is common for renters to provide their own essential appliances.
A washing machine and a refrigerator are 2 essential appliances you will need to buy when you move into your first place.
Instead of buying from an electrical retailer, you may be tempted to pick up a secondhand refrigerator for cheap on Gumtree or Facebook Marketplace. However, remember that you will be responsible for the pickup of the item, delivery of the item, and installation of the item.
Both of these white goods also happen to be extremely heavy and if you’re renting a 1930s Art Deco or 1970s flat, you will not have the convenience of an elevator. In fact, the staircase for these buildings tend to be extremely narrow, and carrying a 70kg washing machine up 3 flights of stairs can easily cause serious injury.
Therefore, if you’re going to buy a washing machine and/or a refrigerator, make sure that you purchase one that comes with home delivery and installation.
What is the general timeline for renting a place in Sydney?
To give you an idea of what to expect, upon finding a suitable house or apartment, you will need to:
- Get all the necessary documentation ready for your rental application.
- Register for an inspection with the property manager.
- Inspect the property.
- Submit a rental application.
- Repeat this process until you are accepted.
- Review the lease agreement, tenant agreement, and contract.
- Agree to fortnightly or monthly rent payment.
- Submit the completed contract to the property manager.
- Agree to a move-in date with the property manager.
- Pay the specified bond amount.
- Pay for the first 2 weeks of rent in advance.
- Collect the keys and go through the condition report with the property manager.
Can I negotiate for lower rent?
Depending on the situation, you may be able to haggle with the landlord or property manager for a rent reduction.
The key to negotiating cheaper rent is doing your homework to find out what other comparable properties are charging.
Medium to high-density apartments tends to be easier to ask for cheaper rent due to an excess of supply. Therefore, if you notice that there are many apartments or flats in the neighbourhood, you can use this as a negotiating tactic.
Generally speaking, if the landlord believes that you are a suitable tenant, they are willing to reduce the rent by $5 t0 $10 per week. It may seem not to like very much but over 12 months, this can represent savings of $260 to $520.
My wife and I rented our first place in 2016. Then a few years later, wanting to own our own place in Sydney, we began inspecting apartments and learning on-the-fly. On both instances, I quickly realised finding the right information on what to do and when was missing. Thus I began Angus Porter.