Real Estate

6 Little Things to Try Before a Rental Bidding War Breaks Out

published Jul 24, 2022
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Apartment hunting was never exactly a walk in the park, but it’s especially tough right now. In some big-city markets, renters are facing bidding wars (yes, really!), in which they’re offering a higher monthly rent price to secure an apartment and beat out the waves of other applicants. 

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Rental bidding wars are certainly not ideal, but they’re a sign of the housing crunched-times. If you’re interested in avoiding them all together, there are a few things you can do. Avoid getting swiped over in a sea of applicants, and try these six tips from real estate experts. Hopefully, you’ll be happily in a new address in no time.

Get your docs in a row.

“Have everything that you need at your fingertips: your credit report, driver’s license, W2s, two years of tax returns, and references,” says Jamie Nicholas, a real estate agent in Arlington, Virginia. 

Nicholas explains that some listing agents get 600 inquiries and over 30 applications for one property. “If you’ve got 30 applications, you’re going to go through the ones that aren’t filled out properly and blow them off,” Nicholas says. “Just make sure all your ducks are in a row.” 

Dana Bull, a Realtor and landlord in the Boston area, suggests arriving at viewings with documents in hand. “That person who shows up with a folder — here’s everything you might need to know about my credit score, my rental history — differentiates themselves from other tenants,” Bull says. “They mean business.”

Credit: Getty Images/Carol Yepes

Prepare to pounce.

Andrew Conklin, a Realtor in Chicago, recently helped clients win a rental bidding war on a luxury apartment in the Wicker Park neighborhood — one that was walking distance from restaurants, coffee shops, and bars. 

After perusing properties online, Conklin scheduled viewings for the client’s top five choices, all in one day. Then, they offered to sign a two-year lease on the Wicker Park place. 

“Do your homework with your broker,” Conklin says. “So when you do have a place that comes in, that you really want, you can pull out all the stops and get it.”

Consider an escalation clause.

<a rel="noreferrer noopener" href="An%20escalation%20clause%20lets%20the%20landlord%20know%20you're%20willing%20to%20exceed%20the%20highest%20bidder's%20price%20by%20a%20certain%20amount.%20</p>%0A%0A%0A%0A<p>%E2%80%9CIt%E2%80%99s%20something%20that%20used%20to%20be%20mostly%20used%20in%20sales,%E2%80%9D%20Conklin%20says.%20%E2%80%9CBut%20I%20list%20properties%20for%20landlords,%20too,%20and%20I%E2%80%99m%20seeing%20more%20escalation%20clauses%20in%20rental%20bidding%20wars.%E2%80%9D%C2%A0</p>%0A%0A%0A%0A<h2>Get%20a%20guarantor.</h2>%0A%0A%0A%0A<p>A%20<a%20href=" https: target="_blank">lease guarantor is someone other than the tenant who legally commits to pay the rent if you can’t. In a bidding war, an applicant with bad or thin credit might need a guarantor to secure an apartment. 

Nicholas helped a couple who recently immigrated to the U.S. land an apartment using their two sons as guarantors. “Their sons had good credit and had been in the U.S. longer,” Nicholas says. This can help a prospective tenant make their application more solid. 

Make personal connections.

Marika Landreville, a Realtor in Azle, Texas, includes personal touches about her client when contacting listing agents. 

“I’ll give them a run-down on my client. ‘She’s a teacher; she has two kids and a small dog.’ Then I’ll send a picture of the dog,” Landreville says. “You can relate to another person better than a piece of paper.” 

Sometimes, that kind of connection speaks more than a few extra dollars. “One of the biggest mistakes I see renters make is in their first interaction,” Bull says. “They’ll shoot me a message through Zillow and ask, is this still available?”

Instead of inquiring, make a pitch. “Tell me a little about you and your situation,” Bull says. “Say something about the character of the unit.” 

Follow up a fail.

Follow up with the listing agent, even after you lose a bidding war. 

“Too often, people lose a bidding war, scratch it off the list and go back to Zillow or A lot of these listing agents represent other properties,” Bull says. “I have vacancies in September. I’m already back-filling those with people I met in June. So I’m not going to put some of these units on the market. I already have qualified prospects from a previous rental.”