The SMART Guide To Renting
by Hal Feldman (MiamiHal.com)
So, you find yourself looking to rent. Understand, for a number of reasons, renting in the Miami metro and surrounding areas has become significantly more competitive, so you need to be prepared. The keys to completing a successful rental transaction comes down to (a) understanding the market and required timing, (b) making yourself stand out from the crowd, which really means preparing and polishing the necessary background paperwork and (c) acting without delay.
Rentals are not difficult to complete, but they are time-consuming and filled with paperwork. Unlike a real estate purchase where the closing serves as a completion mark, a lease marks the beginning of a relationship between a lessor (landlord) and a lessee (tenant). As your Realtor®, it is my job to create that relationship under agreeable terms.
To guide you to success, let’s break down the process into simple steps and processes. Each Landlord and rental will have unique characteristics, but the principles remain the same. If you understand the following steps, you'll be on your road to a successful rental.
Step 1: Know The Market and Required Timing
Each community within Miami-Dade County has its own rental pace and rules. Brickell, South Beach, and Midtown are white hot nowadays and landlords have their choice of tenants. Kendall, South Miami and Coconut Grove provide a little more flexibility for tenant negotiation, but not much. When you work with me, I will explain what terms and negotiations are possible for a particular area or building.
Regardless of where you want to rent, be aware that the landlord is always king. To successfully lease, you must satisfy the landlord’s two main concerns: (a) can this tenant pay rent on time and complete the term of the lease and (b) will this tenant take good care of my home. A lease is an agreement to “borrow” an owner’s home. Owners have their own personality and it is your job to get along with them. No real estate agent can overcome a landlord/tenant mismatch.
If you are renting in a condominium, you not only need a lease with the landlord, but will also need to apply to the condo association. Small fees are also likely as part of the application and move-in. Expect a two-week period for the approval process.
With both a lease and potentially association approval required, don't wait until the last minute to find your perfect place. If you have a required move-in date, start your search about five weeks earlier. This gives you two weeks of searching and making a choice, followed by three weeks to enter into a lease and get any condo/association approval completed. Timing is critical to avoid surprises.
Many would ask why not start my search earlier? Quite simply, few (if any) landlords will sign a lease and then have their home sit empty for more than a few days. I will assess timing and only show you homes that match your timing requirements.
Today, with few exceptions, the list price is the likely rental price. Landlords don’t want to have their properties sit idle, so they carefully price at market and have lots of prospective tenants to choose from. If you are looking for bargains, don’t expect to live in any of the desirable neighborhoods. You’ll get outbid every time.
Finally, expect that you will be required to pay first and last month rent plus a one-month security deposit up front. Many Landlords have now switched to first month’s rent and two months of security deposit (and no last month’s rent). Regardless, if you can’t afford three month’s worth of advance payment, look for a lower priced rental unit.
Step 2: Standing Out From The Crowd (with paperwork)
Remember, the landlord is king. They will be (potentially) selecting you from several prospective tenants. So, when you find the perfect rental, you need to be ready to show the landlord you are the perfect tenant for them.
Each person over the age of 18 that will reside in the rental is required to be on the lease. Therefore, each resident must individually satisfy the landlord’s criteria and comfort level. Every landlord will have different criteria, but knowing what to prepare is pretty simple. Put yourselves in their shoes and the more you can provide to show who you really are the better off your chances of landing the rental.
The two questions you want to provide satisfactory answers for are: (a) is this a quality tenant who will care for my home and (b) is this tenant going to have any problem staying for the full term and paying on time? You'll support this with good paperwork.
The following documents are good ways to stand out from the crowd (in approximate order of importance):
U.S. Government-Issued ID (required) – You’d be surprised how many people try to be tenants without proving who they are.
Recent Credit Report (likely required) – Shows a landlord if you have a good history of paying bills.
Recent Pay Stubs and/or Employment Letter – The Landlord is going to want to know you have a steady income that will allow you to pay the rent on time.
Current/Prior Landlord Letter/Email – A simple letter stating (a) how long you’ve lived there, (b) that you pay on time, (c) that you are a good tenant and (d) that they can be contacted for a brief conversation will go a long way.
Recent Bank Statement – shows that you don’t spend every dime and are fiscally responsible.
Police Report - some Landlords will ask that you go to a local police station and prove that you don't have a sinister record.
If you are in school and without significant income, a parent or guardian will likely need to sign the lease with you to provide a financial guarantee for the rental payments.
You'd be shocked at how disorganized most other tenants can be. Simply having your documents ready and allowing me to submit them at the same time you make your offer will set you apart in a significant way. I will also use my knowledge and communication skills to help make sure you have the competitive edge.
Step 3: Act Without Delay
As a renter, you should keep a few things in mind while finding the right place to lease.
First, when you start your search, a lot of effort is required. Plan times to go see potential places and stick to the schedule. The rental market changes every day. If you find something you like, go after it immediately with 100% effort. If you get it, great. If not, another one will come along. If you find a building you like, but the unit is not to your liking, let me know. I'll focus our search there. The key is to work in perfect coordination with me, your Realtor, because that allows me to schedule lots of good showings.
Second, once you identify the place you want, the rush is on. An hour delay on submitting an offer can often mean losing your perfect rental. Be prepared to review documents, sign and talk with me so that we get things together as fast as possible. Too often, I see great rental properties get snapped up due to a minor hiccup in communication. I'll work diligently to make you successful.
Rental market success is measured solely on "winning" the rental. Armed with education and guidance, my clients are highly successful. Make no mistakes, I may push you to get me this document or that, but it is for one purpose only...winning you that perfect rental.
Under most conditions, I use a Renter/Broker Agreement. It is a simple piece of paper that protects both you and me as we start to work together. But more on that when you call me... [MiamiHal Renter/Broker Agreement]