Rental applications: How To Stand Out

28.11.23 | Marc Barlow | News

Renting is tough. While laws are slowly changing to give renters more certainty and protection, it’s still an owner’s market. Just getting a rental is harder and harder, with limited supply driving prices sky high.

In Melbourne, many would-be renters report competing against literally hundreds of others. The problem is worst in the inner suburbs, but even in Geelong, Ballarat and regional Victoria, the competition is high.

Temporary or lifestyle renting?

In many parts of the world – especially European capitals and coastal US cities – the idea of home ownership has almost disappeared. But with long-term leases, rent control and other rules in place, renters are far more secure in these locations.

Here in Australia, renters can legally be asked to leave for any number of reasons by the owner. Owners certainly deserve rights and control over their property, but with renting becoming a life-long reality – rather than a stepping stone to ownership – a swing back towards renters’ rights seems fair.

But the ‘Aussie dream’ of home ownership still endures. Most of the approximately 30% of adults in rentals still aspire to owning their own place. But the idea of renting and saving at the same time is especially difficult when rentals are in short supply and commanding record-high prices.

The path from renting to home ownership

Mortgage Broker Melbourne exists to help people move into home ownership as quickly, easily and confidently as possible. Many of our clients are renters, and we understand that renting is the most common springboard to ownership. So while our expertise is in finding the best loan for our customers, we’re also here to help renters streamline their finances ahead of that ultimate dream of owning a property.

Bad tricks and shady operators

Prospective renters are faced with some tough choices when the market is tight. Slightly shady (or – at times – really shady) practices have been employed by agents and owners looking to maximise and guarantee their returns. If you’ve been looking for a rental for any more than a week or two in Melbourne, some of these tactics will sound familiar:

  • “A little bit more”: Those employed to rent out properties have been known to solicit for an offer of rent above the advertised asking price. $500 a week? Maybe offer $550 and see what happens…
  • “A bit in advance”: Renters are required to pay a month’s rent in advance, plus another month to cover their bond. It’s not uncommon, however many renters are being ‘encouraged’ to offer several months’ rent up front. Four, six and even 12 months are not unheard of. 
  • “Bump up the bond”: Bonds protect owners from small amounts of damage and non-payment of rent. It’s typically one month of rent, held in trust until released by the owner. Some owners might try securing an extra amount as added ‘insurance’ against a bad tenant.
  • “You don’t need to see it”: Amazingly, people are taking out leases on places they haven’t even seen. When there’s a scramble to rent, some agents don’t even bother holding inspections.

On the flip side, it’s illegal to refuse to rent a property to someone because of certain personal characteristics, including age, race, disability, sexuality or religion. This is unlawful discrimination. But we know it happens. 

Are these ‘techniques’ legal? Mostly not. Are they ethical? Certainly not. Do they happen? Every day.

So if you’re up against dozens of other applicants and some questionable practices, what can you actually do to improve your chances of securing a place to live?

Tips for securing a rental in Melbourne

Gather your paperwork

Renting is possibly harder than getting a passport. You’ll need the government-defined 100 points of ID, rental history (if you have rented before), work history, payslips, personal/professional/rental references. Oh my! 

There’s a recent move to using private companies to centralise applications. Agents love this, but privacy advocates aren’t so sure. Also, 50 applicants from one platform can easily hide any advantage you have. Sometimes would-be renters have no choice but to sign on to these third parties. Be careful and always ask an agent if you can apply directly.

Know the agents

If you’re looking in a specific area, you’ll probably notice the same three or four agent names popping up. Introduce yourself at a property inspection, or – better yet – call them and explain your situation. 

If you feel that you’ve been discriminated against by other agents, mention this in a friendly way. Ask whether this agency has any anti-discrimination policies.

Ask when a decision will be made on any property you’re interested in, and signal your intention to apply and to follow up (if that’s your plan). It can’t hurt to email the agent after the viewing, and let them know you’ll phone in 2 days to see how your application is progressing.

Get ahead of listings and inspections

Call regularly: Call again. Remind them of anything that might help: a secure job, great references, rich parents … anything! Specifically ask if they could let you know of properties before they hit the market.

It might seem like you’re bothering the agents, but that might give them an incentive to get you into a place sooner!

Contact us

While we can’t help you secure a rental directly, we can help you sort out your finances and paperwork when you’re ready to start looking for a property to purchase. Some of this work might also help your rental applications, as you’ll have a good sense of your spending and saving history and potential budget.

Once you’re in a rental, we can help you understand what your target is for making the leap onto the property ladder. Best of all, our service is FREE to you. You’ll never pay us. Of course, once we help you into a home loan, bank fees and other charges will apply.

Call us any time.