What to look for when inspecting a rental property The number one rule of rental properties is: Always view the place before signing the lease. Most people will start their search online. This will usually involve trawling through listings on the major real estate sites and coming up with a shortlist. More often than not, this is based on two criteria – the location and the photos. However, a rental ad rarely ever gives you the full story. That’s why it’s so important to visit the property and get a sense of exactly what it’s like. More than just making sure it has sufficient space, you need to check the property suits you, your family, and your lifestyle. In particular, pay close attention to:
- The surrounding properties: The condition of the neighbourhood will tell you a lot about the local area. Often, suburbs can vary greatly between different areas, so take a stroll down the street and make sure it feels safe and comfortable.
- The parking situation: If you have a vehicle, you’ll need somewhere to keep it. Secured, off-street parking is best and side-by-side spaces are easier to use than tandem spaces or a car stacker. If parking is on-street, check whether it is a permit zone and how far away you’re likely to find a park.
- The property’s orientation: If you want lots of natural light, look for a place that is north facing. This is especially important in winter when light is limited and needs to be maximised.
- The condition of the walls: Generally speaking, walls are one of the first places you’ll see signs of age. Even the most careful tenants will leave behind a few scratches and scuffs and this shouldn’t cause too much concern. However, issues like water damage and holes cannot be overlooked, particularly in older houses, as they usually indicate more serious problems.
- The climate control: Far too many tenants move into the “perfect” property, only to find it has insufficient cooling when Summer rolls around. Always check what heating and cooling has been installed and what state it’s in. This may not be a deal breaker but could be a critical consideration when choosing between places.
- The outdoor space: While a large backyard may sound ideal, it usually means extra maintenance. Unless a gardener is included in the lease, looking after the lawns and trimming the hedges will be your responsibility. It’s important to understand this expectation and to make sure you can fulfil it.
- What’s over the fence: Further to checking out the broader neighbourhood, it’s worthwhile checking out the property’s immediate surrounds. This is particularly important for ground floor properties, where there are usually extra privacy and security concerns.
Make sure you do your research before the inspection and know what to expect from property in the area. This is particularly important if you are new to the city (or country) as property can vary greatly from place to place. You should also make sure you understand local tenancy laws (often easily accessible online) and what will be expected from you as a renter. This could include how much rent and bond are required upfront to secure a property, when payments are due (weekly / fortnightly / monthly), how payments are made, and to whom. And when you are approved for a property, ALWAYS read the lease agreement, even if you have rented before, because tenancy laws can change. What to ask a Property Manager At its heart, the rental application process is a competitive one. With that in mind, many tenants are encouraged to speak to the Property Manager/Leasing Agent running any inspections they attend. While this could help you stand out from the crowd, it’s not always practical. Inspections can be extremely busy for Property Managers. They have to open the place up, take tenant details, monitor interest, provide application details, and lock up when they’re done. Many also run multiple inspections a day and usually need to get away on time to make their next appointment. As such, you should only ask questions if time allows and try to keep it brief. I recommend focusing on key features of the property and things you wouldn’t otherwise be able to find out, like:
- Why the current tenants are vacating – though they may not be able to share this with you.
- If the property is owner occupied, are the owners planning to renovate or demolish in the near future. If you are looking for a long-term lease, such plans may make a place unsuitable.
Perseverance is the key The best advice I can offer anyone looking for a rental is not to get discouraged. The process can take time and getting knocked back is always disappointing. However, with careful research and a little perseverance, you should be able to find – and secure – somewhere you love.
As Principal of Your Home Hunter – Australia’s premier renters advocacy service – Wendy Eva-Scott works with time poor professionals to find the right rental property. As the first point of call for property managers looking for quality tenants, she takes the stress out of securing a rental by managing the entire process – from working through the wish list to securing the lease, and following up after the move in date. So, if you’re considering alternatives to full-service relocation, and are wondering whether working with a Renters Advocate could be beneficial to your company, give Wendy a call.