Take the time to think about what you are looking for in a rental property and prepare a list of requirements. Consider things such as location, property type (e.g. house, apartment, townhouse) and utilities. Knowing what you are looking for will speed up the search process and will prevent you from looking at properties that do not meet your needs.
It is always a good idea to prepare the necessary documentation that will accompany your rental application in advance. Doing so means that when you find the right property, you will be able to submit your application without delay, giving you a head start on other applicants.
Consider how much you can afford
Taking your weekly income and expenses into account, work out how much you can afford to spend each week on rent. Also consider any unexpected expenses that may arise, such as car repairs or medical costs, and ensure that you are not stretching yourself too thin to cover these in the event that they come up.
It is also important to make sure that you have sufficient funds to cover the costs that fall due at the beginning of a rental. This may include a bond (up to 4 weeks of rent), a holding fee (up to 1 week of rent), and rent in advance (up to 2 weeks of rent).
Put together a list of references to be included in your rental application. Aim to get the name, business address and phone number of one or two real estate agents you have rented a property through in the past, as well as work and personal contacts. Make sure that all of your contacts have agreed to provide you with a reference and are expecting to be contacted.
Research properties ahead of time
Start searching ahead of time to ensure that you have enough time to find the right property and attend open homes. Find out what is available on the market by searching online, in newspapers and contacting real estate agencies in your preferred area. Doing so will give you a clear idea of the type of property you can afford and leave you with enough time to find the one that's right for you.
Be prepared to move fast
Good rental properties do not remain on the market for too long, particularly in sought-after areas. Once you have found a property that you like, be sure to move quickly with your application to secure it before another potential tenant does.
Call agents to arrange mid-week inspections
Don't wait for agents to call you; take the initiative to call them yourself. Quite often there are properties that have not been updated online, for which you could be one of the first people to know about. This also gives you the opportunity to ask the agent if there are any other properties available or coming onto the market in the near future.
More often than not you can arrange a mid-week inspection with the agent. Open homes are most commonly held on Saturdays, attracting large groups of people. Viewing properties during the week means that you could be the first (and sometimes only) person to see a property, rather than being part of a large group.
Read the fine print
Once you have successfully secured a property, the next step is signing the lease. Ensure to read all documents thoroughly, taking this opportunity to ask questions and clarify any confusion before signing. It's important to understand what your rights and responsibilities are as a tenant to avoid problems that may occur down the track.
Get permission before decorating
Always keep in mind that while you are renting a property, you don't own it. You are generally required to return a rental property in the same condition as you found it. In the event that you want to make any permanent changes to the property, ensure to get permission from your landlord in writing first.
Ensure you get your bond back
Refer back to your rental contract to check for any requirements that you must meet in order to have your bond refunded back in full. Make sure that the property is thoroughly cleaned and free from any damages. It's always a good idea to take photos as a form of proof that you left the property in a high standard, should any disputes arise.