Six tips for securing a perfect rental property

How to get ahead of the crowd

Updated: 

Female house buyer outside estate agents window

With many people completely priced out of the property market and a desperate shortage of council housing, private rentals have become the norm.

The number of households renting more than doubled between 2001 and 2014, and at least 1.8 million more will be looking to rent rather than buy a home by 2025, says the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics).

See also: Renting cheaper than buying in 54% of major cities and towns, study finds

See also: The five stages of renting

Unfortunately, the number of properties simply isn't keeping pace, meaning that finding the right place is getting harder and harder. It's time-consuming, frustrating and expensive.

There are, though, ways to make the process a little easier: here are some tips from the experts.

Headache: It takes hours to trawl through listing sites
A surprising number of listings and ads are fake, designed to lure renters in and scam them out of a deposit. If a property looks too good to be true, then it probably is. Only having one photo is a common sign.

You can also trim your list of potential properties by checking the listing date, says Octavian Pop, co-founder of The Urban Collective tenant concierge service company. The firm's iOS app allows househunters to refine their search criteria by lifestyle categories.

"If there's a listing from three months ago and the rent is not reduced, then most probably the property is gone or there is something wrong with it," he says.

Headache: There's never enough time for viewings
"What many people don't realise is that agents may line up additional properties to show their clients during one viewing. This is to maximise their chance of closing a deal with you," says Pop.

"So make sure you find out in advance from the agent what other properties they are planning to show you and ask for as many details as possible prior to the viewing to make sure they're relevant."

Headache: You don't know where to look
"It's worth taking the time to ask yourself exactly what you're looking for before you seriously start looking; this will help you to firm up your requirements and narrow the options more efficiently, says Rightmove.

"We often find ourselves living in one part of a town or city just because that's where we ended up when we first arrived; it doesn't necessarily mean that it's the best match for your needs or your lifestyle now."

You should consider your commute, the amenities you really want nearby and what you like and dislike about where you live now.

Headache: Places get snapped up too fast
Many rental properties are snapped up within hours of the listing being posted, but it's possible to get ahead of the crowd.

"Ask agents about 'off market' properties. These are properties that are not yet listed and that well-connected agents have the inside scoop on," says Pop.

"Also, scrolling through listing platforms really early in the morning is also a good idea because agents add the new properties the night before, so you will get first dibs!"

Headache: House-hunting as a group can be a nightmare
"It's really important," says Jake Butler of Save the Student, "that you make sure everyone agrees on the house first. If there are disagreements, the only option is to agree to go separate ways or to keep looking. No one should be talked into living somewhere they don't want to."

However, it's not always easy to even make sure that all of your group can see the place.

"If you don't have the UrbanCo app, which allows tenants to share photos, videos and comments, have the person visiting the property Skype call everyone else so they can be there virtually," suggests Pop. "This will help you to make a decision as quickly as possible, and avoid seeing the property getting snapped up by someone else."

Headache: Getting documentation together causes delays
It makes obvious sense to get everything ready in advance: photocopies of ID, bank statements and the like. You can also alert your current landlord and employer that you may need a reference from them.

"Having this information gathered together early will help you move quickly when you find the right property," says LettingWeb.

"But if your situation is different, the main thing is to discuss it with your letting agent or landlord. They may be able to suggest another piece of documentation you can use instead, or offer another way around so that you can still get your hands on the keys!"

The most expensive rental property in the UK

The most expensive rental property in the UK