A first timer’s guide to renting

12 March 2013

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So you’re in your early 20s and it is no longer socially acceptable to live with your parents. There is a simple solution. Rent. Yes, it’s more expensive and the quality of your meals will dramatically decline, but surely this is an acceptable price to pay for independence.

Unfortunately as a baby faced youth eager to impress, you are a prime candidate for a good old fashioned swindling. But with the help of Barry Plant Real-estate Senior Property Manager Di Bryan, here are a few do’s and dont’s to assure your first step towards adulthood is a success.


1) Don’t dress like a homeless person

Before any of these shenanigans can begin you must first do some swindling of your own. Dress to impress. Nothing says bad hygiene and ‘I’m never paying my rent on time’ like greasy hair, board shorts and tardiness. When you go to an open house, you want the real-estate agent to see you as mature, reliable adults. Not as the dirty adolescents you most likely are.

“First impressions are lasting no matter what, so when tenants turn up looking tidy and neat and smelling good… obviously that’s an indicator of how they live,” says Bryan.

Being punctual for an Open for Inspection is also a very important factor.

“People think that because it’s a 15-minute open house that it’s okay to turn up at quarter past 10 when we’re locking up. That’s not the case. Be there at the time that is advised.”


2) Don’t get lazy

Application forms are undeniably tedious and digging up those old bank statements for the identity check can seem like a great deal of effort. However, this is not the time to cut corners.

Don’t assume that what applies to one real estate agency will be sufficient for the next. For example, while a driver’s license is worth 40 of the 100 points for proof of identity needed at the Ray White real estate agency, it is only worth 25 at Barry Plant. Even if this house isn’t your first preference, Bryan advises you should always act as though it is. One mistake could have your application thrown aside.

“Whether by hand or online, make sure every aspect of the application is filled in and includes all of the supporting evidence. So do it completely. No half-baked applications,” says Bryan.


3) Ask the right questions

How much is the rent? What date will it be available? Would the landlord consider pets? What are the upkeep requirements? Questions like these all seem relatively obvious, but when you may only have two minutes of the realtors time, they can be easy to forget.

“It would be useful [to know these things] before you waste your time. I would recommend that anyone who is going to rent a home get a hold of Renting a home: a guide for tenants. You will get a copy at the time of signing but it’s a bit late then,” says Bryan.


4) Don’t ask and you won’t receive

If you’re interested in a house that’s just outside of your price range, don’t be afraid to make an offer anyway. Negotiating rent can be a delicate process, especially for us youths who are known for being ‘financially unstable’ but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Bryan says that haggling is perfectly acceptable, as long as you go about it the right way.

“We won’t negotiate rent here unless we have an application form. What’s the use of [the real-estate agent] talking to the landlord about a reduction in rent if we haven’t got anything in front of us? Put on the application form what you are offering. That way we can negotiate.”


5) Just read the contract

Before you start complaining about the word count on the lease, remember that your signature has a direct link to your wallet. Small aspects of the lease can prove largely expensive. Yes, the majority of the form can be attributed to the Real Estate Institute of Victoria, but there are still certain factors added by the realtor. And when it comes to large sums of money, you can never be too careful.

“Make sure that things like the rent and how it’s being paid are correct. For example, if it were three people going by thirds on a $1000 rent, there might end up being one that pays half and the others $250 each. Just make sure that anything added by the agency is correct,” says Bryan.


6) Document everything

Now that you have secured your very first leased home away from home, be wary of the condition you find the rented home in.

You have the house and envision a celebratory day of drinking yourself silly. But instead you are forced to spend your first day chasing (or rather running from) spiders and scrubbing some stranger’s pubic hairs off the bathroom floor. If this is the case, it’s not exactly fair that you should pay for the house to be professionally cleaned when you leave.

A rental house is expected to be left in the condition in which it was found. So just document how you found it. According to Bryan, when there is a large sum of money such as a bond involved, you can never be too careful.

“Go through the condition report. Check that what [the agent] put down marries with what you are viewing. If there’s a crack in a tile or whatever, take pictures – your own pictures. If there’s anything that you are disputing you have three working days to get back to the agent with that report,” says Bryan.


Take this advice and you’ll be out of your parent’s bungalow and into your very own (leased) bachelor/bachelorette pad in no time.

For any further information read ‘Renting a home: A guide for tenants’. You can find it at the Consumer Affairs Victoria website or download it straight from here.


Timothy Arendshorst is a third year Bachelor of Journalism student at the La Trobe University and is one of upstart’s staff writers. You can follow him on twitter: @TimArendshorst