Tips for finding a rental property

Hunting for a house is a shit fight of post-apocalyptic proportions. The ultimate test of stamina and rat cunning, it pits you against hordes of affluent working professionals, career renters, young families and well-financed international students. The stakes are high but so are the rewards. The chance to call a place home for the next 12 months beckons. Only the strong, ruthless and well prepared will survive. Following a few simple rules will give you the edge you need.

Waiting for an 'Open for Inspection' in North Fitzroy with eighty other punters.

Waiting for an ‘Open for Inspection’ in North Fitzroy with eighty other punters.

1. Before anything else, preparation is the key to success

The process should start in front of a computer. Take your time trawling the online rental listings. Many hapless souls have underestimated the importance of this task but the ability to sort the wheat from the chaff will save untold hours spent traipsing from one inspection to another.

“143 Park Street, Carlton North. Just a hiccup away from great coffee.”

“19 Station Street, Fairfield. High on lifestyle, low on affordability.”

“3/75 Brighton Road, Richmond. Just a shallow fart from public toilets.”

Are examples of the listings that you’re likely to encounter. Making sense of a well-crafted byline is crucial. Knowing that ‘comfortable’ actually means ‘claustrophobic’ could save you a trip to West Coburg. Seeing a grainy bedroom photograph for the broom closet it really is will help you avoid a two-hour ride on a peak-hour tram.

2. Enjoy the little things

Once you have your shortlist finalised it’s time to hit the inspection trail. You’ll be zigzagging your way across the city so it’s best to block out your evenings and weekends from now until eternity. To break the monotony, try to savor the little things. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying the hope and optimism rising in your tummy on the way to an inspection that has a good location, reasonable rent and photos of a nice looking courtyard. The place may well be your home for the next twelve months. You might have amazing times there. But remember to guard your heart. You must be ready to face a mass of prospective renters skulking about on the street fingering their iPhones. Keep your head up. Don’t let the steaming shit dropping from the sky crush your fragile spirit.

A disingenuous but impeccably dressed real estate agent will be along shortly. Grabbing the ‘Open for Inspection’ sign from the boot of their shiny new Beamer they will shepherd the hapless would be tenants’ through the over priced, under maintained property. People will walk through the house, often in pairs, discussing the pros and cons. Good sized BIR (Build In Robes) but not much light. It has a dishwasher but the stove and oven are electric. The courtyard would be great for barbeques except when a ten-carriage train rattles past. Joining the throng, you will see the people from last week’s inspections in Northcote and Abbotsford. A nod of acknowledgement costs you nothing.

3. Prostitute your suitability

Make sure to take your turn accosting the agent. Prostitute your suitability as a tenant. Kiss arse shamelessly. Improve your prospects. Things like,

“We currently rent with your agency. Ruth Andrews is our Property Manager. Do you know Ruth? Is it easy to transfer from one lease to another via the same agent?”

or

“My brother in-law is in real estate. Says it’s a great job, he really enjoys the diversity. How do you find it? When is the place available?”

can work nicely. Or, if you are felling audacious, you can try bluffing the agent:

“This place definitely isn’t our favourite. The carpets are a bit tacky and worn, aren’t they? The dishwasher is old and there is only space for one bike in the front courtyard. You must be struggling to lease it. I trust the landlord is open to reduced offers?”

4. People are all the same

Don’t be disheartened when you realise that each and every inspection is full of people exactly the same as you. Young, working professionals and students need to keep their finger on the pulse. Gotta be in the action, live where things are happening. North and South are discussed as if the Yarra is a post-war stockade separating people of opposing ideologies but you won’t see any difference between punters looking at cottages in Prahan and those sniffing around the terraces of Brunswick. They are all the same. They’re just competition, a bunch of scaly charlatans looking to snake you out of your rightful claim to a decent and affordable rental property.

5. Don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story

The only thing that will differentiate you from the bung-eyed hordes is your application. Pre-fill your forms. Fudge your rental history. Lie about your wage. Arrange bogus references. Fuck them all. It’s a jungle out there.

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