Renting used to be considered an option only used by those who couldn’t afford to buy property. However, times have changed and today the benefits are far more comprehensive. Renting allows you to live to a standard you may not be able to afford to buy right now. It also buys you a lifestyle that you may only want or need for a short period of your life – such as an inner-city warehouse conversion, a cottage in the country, or a studio space in a foreign city.
Because renting is much more flexible than buying, you have the freedom to be specific about what you want. Take some time to think things through first and follow these 5 tips on finding a rental property that’s perfect for you. You’ll be living in your dream home before you know it!
1. Know your budget
This should be the very first thing you work out, before anything else. But don’t just think about what you can afford right now. Really analyse your budget and see if there is any incidental money in there that’s currently being wasted. An extra $10 - $50 a week could really boost your result and give you anything from a balcony to an extra bedroom. The best way to really connect to your budget is to document it. You could use a basic spreadsheet, that outlines your current income and expenses and tells you how much money – if any – you have leftover each month. There are also a number of really useful personal budgeting apps out there that help you track your spending and even encourage you to save.
2. Prioritise what you need
Chances are you’ll need what you have now and a little more, or a little less – depending on why you’re moving. Be clear - before you start looking for a rental property - about what you need. If you love to cook and eat at home all the time, then a decent kitchen may be your highest priority. If you work from home, then maybe you need a spare room for a home office? Smokers will probably want balconies or outside areas and families may want a separate living space for the children to play in. It’s important to be clear on these specifics so that you can focus your search on the things that matter, rather than waste time wading through a lot of unsuitable properties.
3. Make a shortlist of locations
Choosing the right location to live in can be tricky. You may just instinctively look for a rental property in the same location you’re in now, but is that still the best location for you? Maybe you have a different job now, or something new in your life that has you spending more time elsewhere. Searching for a new rental property does not only provide you with the chance to try out a different home environment, you can also take on a different lifestyle. The day to day experiences of living in the suburbs, compared to an inner-city suburb, compared to beachside are considerably different and now’s your chance to try out a whole new version of your life!
You could move closer to work and cut back the commute, or away from busy major roads, if noise has been a factor at your current property. Living in a hip suburb full of cafes, bars and clubs may be appealing, or you may want to move away from that to something a little more routine and suburban. Your priorities might be that there is a train station, a supermarket, a café and a gym all within walking distance, or you might want off street parking which will narrow down your choices of locations, particularly where the inner city is concerned. It’s best to start with a decent list of say 5 to 7 suburbs, so that you can scale back as you search. When you’re clear about your budget and what you need, it won’t take long for you to refine it down to just 1 or 2 locations, as you discover the others just don’t offer what you need, within your budget.
4. Use Filters and Saved Searches
When searching online there are loads of tools that make the process super focused and organised for you. Because you did your budget you know the maximum amount you can pay per week. You prioritised what you need, so you know how many bedrooms, bathrooms, car spaces and what indoor and outdoor features you might like and you have your shortlist of locations. Now you can begin the search! Most property websites will allow you to create a rental property custom search with all of this information, using ‘filters’ or ‘refinements’. You can then save that search, or create alerts so you get emails when properties fitting your specific criteria are listed. This will save you a huge amount of time and also help you to refine things as you learn more about the locations and price bracket you’re searching in. In the first day of searching you will learn for example that $250 a week will not rent you a 5-bedroom house in the inner city, or an apartment with a rooftop pool. You may discover however that your budget of $400 could actually get you much more than you thought it would.
5. Start Early and Do Your Research First
As soon as you know you have to move, you should start researching the market. There are lots of shonky listings out there and the more research you do, the better equipped you will be to spot them. Starting your search early gives you time to see the patterns in the market. You will see new properties come onto the market and can refine your search terms as you learn more about what’s available and what the current prices are. It may be that most properties are marked as ‘Available Now’ which means things could move pretty fast. Alternatively, availability dates may be a few weeks away, giving you time to book in for viewings, make a plan about seeing a few properties in the same area on the same day and get your paperwork together, in case you want to apply for the property immediately after inspecting it.