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May 9th, 2022 at 11:00 am

Apartment hunting can seem like a full-time job. You scan the online listing services between work meetings, show up to every open house, and follow up with brokers. Yes, you’re well on your way to finding your perfect apartment—but how can you be sure you’ll be approved once you find it? 

Getting approved for an apartment in California can require some strategic effort and organization, especially since experts are foreseeing even more competition in the rental market going forward. 

So how do you stay ahead of the curve? Start with this guide on how to get approved for an apartment. 

Come prepared

Given tight inventory in California and a growing number of renters, you’ll want to be ready at any moment to deliver a comprehensive and compelling application that goes above and beyond the rest—even if you just found out about the apartment within the hour. 

To prove to your potential landlord that you’re a perfect fit, you should be ready with:

Let’s unpack the best ways to get ahead of the pack.

Prove you’ll make rent

As tempting as it may be to apply for that sparkling, spacious loft that’s just outside of your budget and hope for the best, you can save time and stress by ensuring that you apply for apartments that fit within the framework of your financial realities.

The first thing that a landlord or property manager will consider when reviewing your application is whether you’ll be able to pay rent in full each month throughout the lease. 

Many landlords will run a simple rent-to-income ratio to check whether you’ll be able to afford their space. 

The general rule is that monthly rent should be no more than 30% of a tenant’s pre-tax income.This means that someone who makes $7,500 per month before taxes should spend no more than $2,250 on their rent. 

To prove to landlords and property managers that their apartment is within your budget, you’ll need to provide pay stubs and proof of your employment.

Here’s what you should have on hand:

Ask your employers for copies of your paychecks, or avail yourself of any online payroll records that you may have on hand. If you’re a freelancer or independent contractor, copies of your 1099s and client contracts may prove useful as evidence of regular income despite irregular hours and pay periods.

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties tip: Various monthly financial obligations can make an impact on how much you should spend on rent. When you need help landing on the perfect number—and landing the perfect lease within your budget—you can count on the knowledgeable and experienced real estate experts at California Properties. 

Know your credit score (your landlord will want to know it, too)

To get a clear picture of your risk factor as a tenant, the person who reviews your rental application will likely run a credit check. Your credit report and score will reveal important information about your financial history, quantifying your ability to manage payments. 

Some renter red flags that a credit check can reveal include:

It’s a smart idea to check your credit at least three months before you apply for apartments so that you can address any potential issues and pay down any lingering debts that might be negatively impacting your score.

Shoot for scores above 670—the baseline for “good” credit—for likely credit approval.

What if you have poor credit?

If you have poor credit, or you have yet to establish your credit, it doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to get approved for an apartment or find a wonderful place to live. It just means that you’ll want to approach your applications with some forethought and some flexibility. 

Here are some tips for landing an apartment when your credit leaves something to be desired:

If you’re looking for a common and effective way to build leverage, ask a close friend or family with solid credit to be your co-signer on the lease. Make sure to honor their goodwill by keeping track of your payments. 

Perhaps you can replace a roommate in a group home, take over a friend who wants to move in with their significant other, or fill in for a tenant who’s been relocated for work. Either way, you may not need to undergo a credit check in these scenarios.

Have references on hand

It might help to think of your rental application process as the first dinner with your in-laws. You’ll want to provide a clear picture of who you are and what you can offer. You’ll also want to come across as professional and gracious—timely in your communications, organized with your materials, and motivated to succeed. 

Keeping your interactions with the landlord and management company courteous and taking care to submit a neat, easily readable application can go a long way. But to further flesh out your dependability and integrity, it may be worthwhile to provide a set of references.

Consider soliciting reference letters from the following parties: 

Alternatively, reach out to your references and ask them if it would be alright if you passed along their contact information on your application. 

Be flexible

Landlords are eager to fill vacancies—and start pulling in rent checks—as soon as possible. 

By emphasizing that you’re willing to hasten your move-in date or sign a non-standard lease (whether it’s multi-year, half a year, or month-to-month) that serves the interest of the management company, you may stand out from other applicants and rise to the top of the pile. 

Be ready in an instant

Sometimes scoring your dream apartment comes down to being in the right place at the right time with the right materials in your tote bag or loaded on your phone. Picture this: a teeming open house with dozens of desiring applicants, each vying for their name on the lease. 

In these scenarios, time is of the essence. Submitting your application on the spot is a savvy move that can help avoid competition and hasten your approval, given that landlords are highly motivated to get their listings off the market and secure new tenants. 

Here’s what you should always have on hand the moment you arrive at an apartment showing:

Stay on top of your research

In a hot rental market, it’s beneficial to dig into what your approval process might entail before you get started. That way, you can save precious time accumulating materials and get your application in front of a reviewer as soon as possible. 

Begin your research by considering:

The answers to these questions might color the application process, and with a bit of foresight, you’ll be able to anticipate what you’ll need to provide to make a strong case for your approval. 

Make sure your pet is welcome, too

As you research, make sure that the apartments you pursue specify that pets—explicitly the species and size of pet that you own—are welcome. 

Online listing services will allow you to filter available rentals by whether they allow pets, but be sure to confirm with a broker or landlord that your pet meets size, species, and breed requirements before you apply. 

Then, bolster your strength as a potential renter by going the extra mile. Gather materials to keep at the ready that might show that your pet will make a friendly addition to the building:

If you’re having trouble finding apartments or landlords that suit your specific needs—or the specific needs of your beloved four-legged friend—get in touch with a Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties lease agent. Our team of dedicated brokers and real estate experts will streamline your search, bringing you the properties that tick every box on your wish list. 

Anticipate security deposits and hidden fees

Between organizing, packing, and subtly soliciting help from your strongest friends with free pizza and refreshments, moving takes time, effort, and care. It also takes funds—and more than just to cover your first rent check. 

When you’re applying for apartments, make sure to do your research into potential and hidden fees and payments. 

While you may have already discerned that you have enough room in your budget to make rent each month, you’ll also want to be sure that your coffers are sufficiently padded for common upfront charges, including:   

Want to get a clear picture of how much your move might set you back? At California Properties, we know that some moving costs are unavoidable—but that it pays to be prepared. Our knowledgeable team will clearly lay out the numbers so that you can avoid any painful surprises. 

When you’re ready to put down roots, we’re here

Finding your dream apartment isn’t easy—it requires loads of research, introspection, and number-crunching. But once you discover a rental that you want to call home for a little (or long) while, it only gets more complicated. 

Between intricate applications and tough competition, the rental approval process can feel equal parts demanding and demoralizing, especially if you’re working with leasing companies and building managers with unclear applications or unprofessional standards. 

We know that the process of finding a home can be rife with emotion—and confusion. Whether you’re looking to put down forever roots or find the right lease for the moment, our dedicated team of experienced real estate experts and brokers will be there for you at every step of the way, simplifying your search with virtual tours, biweekly newsletters, and a mobile app. 

Ready to revel in the joy of a new beginning—and leave the stress to the experts? Discover your dream California rental property with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties today.  

Looking for more information about rental properties? Check out our latest blog, What’s the Difference Between a Condo and an Apartment, today!

Sources: LA Times, Curbed, US News

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