How to find the perfect home to rent

by Gerry Farrell

Whether you’re a seasoned renter or just starting out, you’ve probably noticed that the lettings world is fast-paced and can be a little tricky sometimes.

Demand for homes is high which may mean you’ll be facing competition when you find the property that has your name on it, and you’ll have to move fast if you want to walk away with the keys.

Here, we’ve put together a list of tips to try and help you.

Before you start searching

It’s worth prepping beforehand because once you start going on viewings things can happen very quickly.

Know what you can afford

This is really important, not only because you don’t want to stretch yourself financially, but also because you’ll need to pass a reference check.

Aside from the rent, there are other expenses that you should work into your budget. Some are upfront costs of moving, others will be part of your monthly overheads:

  • Security deposit – a deposit of up to 5 weeks’ rent for annual rent below £50,000, or 6 weeks’ rent for annual rental of £50,000 and above. You’ll get this refunded at the end of the tenancy, subject to terms such as the condition you leave the property in.
    To figure out how much the deposit will be, take the monthly rent, multiply it by 12, divide it by 52, then multiply it by the number of weeks needed for the deposit. (For example, if your rent is £800 per month, and you’ll need a 5-week deposit: 800 x 12 = 9,600/52 = 184.61 x 5 = £923.07)
  • Utilities – with few exceptions, you’ll be responsible for all utility costs, including electricity, gas, water, broadband, and council tax.
  • Credit card and loan repayments – if you are paying this monthly, don’t forget to take it into account when working out how much you can afford to pay in rent.
  • Moving costs – this includes van rentals, buying new furniture, or potential home-repairs.

In some cases, you may have a few days or weeks when you’re paying rent for two places while you’re moving. Try to avoid this if possible, but if you can’t, make sure you factor it in.

Prepare for reference checks

The purpose for these checks is mainly two-fold: to see if you can afford to pay rent on the property you’ve applied for, and to check for any adverse credit linked to you.

One way agents and third party referencing companies use to work out if you can afford a property is to check if your monthly gross salary is at least 2.5 the monthly rent, or thinking about it another way, your gross annual salary should be at least 30 times the monthly rent.

If you have a partner or housemates who will be sharing the rent, their incomes can be taken into consideration too.

If you’re not sure you’ll pass the checks on your salary alone, and have any additional income (e.g. you receive child maintenance payments, or universal credit) make sure you make the letting agent or landlord aware.

Your employer may be contacted for a confirmation of your employment details and salary, so you may want to let them know in advance.

It is important to be transparent in all this, as part of the checking process will be to validate the information that you have supplied.  If you fail to disclose something important and this is subsequently flagged up, it will count against your application and increase the risk of you failing the referencing.

Search like a pro

The first thing you should do when starting a property search is to have a clear vision of what you’re looking for, based on your most important needs.

The three top criteria are likely to be:

  1. Price – how much can you afford to spend per month/week?
  2. Location – where do you want to live?
  3. Size – how many bedrooms do you want? Do any of them need to be doubles?

But there are a number of other questions you can ask yourself that will help finesse your search:

  • Do you need to be near any particular transport links?
  • How far do you want to travel to work?
  • How far are you prepared to travel to meet your friends?
  • What do you love about your current home?
  • What are the things you don’t like about your current home that you would like to avoid next time?
  • What are the ‘must haves’ that will make your next property feel like home?
  • What amenities do you want on your doorstep?
  • How long do you want to stay in the next property?
  • If you have hobbies, is there somewhere you need to get to regularly?
  • Do you want to furnish the property yourself or have it already furnished?

Make the most of the viewing

The viewing is the ideal time to get answers to all your questions about the property, area, type of tenancy agreement, and anything else.

What’s the parking situation like? How much will the utility bills be? What about council tax? How’s the house heated? Can they tell you anything about the neighbours?

Move fast

One of the reasons to get as many answers as possible at the viewing is to save you time.

Don’t rush it, but be prepared to move fast if you fall in love with the house. As soon as you’re sure that’s the one, make the offer and tell the agent you want to go ahead.

You may need to put down a holding deposit, a sum equivalent to a maximum of one week’s rent, so the agent takes the property off the market and begins the referencing process.

This is usually deducted from the first month’s rent.

Good luck, and happy home-hunting!

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