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How to Play it Cool in a Hot Rental Market


playing it cool in a hot rental market

Unless you’ve been living la vida Unabomber in some remote part of Montana, you know the housing market is hot, hot, hot. It’s a curious alchemy of pandemic-driven housing ennui, attractive interest rates, and seize-the-moment exuberance that has people everywhere putting down serious cash for their dream home. We are herd animals for all our individuality protests, which means we’re making the same decisions as everyone else. Fast forward some months, and buying a place is a gladiatorial contest of blood, sweat, and life savings.

I thought I was safe. I wasn’t interested in a property as my last experience had left me squinty-eyed and suspicious about all the things that could go wrong. Unfortunately, my landlord gave me notice that he was selling the house, and I am now on the hunt for a new rental accommodation. So far, it isn’t Christmas in August.

The Unfortunate Truth About Privacy

Trends have changed since I was last in the market, and the first difference was how people arranged viewings for their property. Instead of simply setting an appointment to see a space, I am met with landlord requests to fill out an application so they can “pre-screen” me for suitability.

The problem is the applications are comprehensive and involve handing out enough information for some internet random with colorful house pictures to steal my identity. There’s no way to verify who these people are, yet this seems to be a new standard for doing business. At best, it’s inappropriate and, at worst, unsafe for renters.

When I encounter this, I explain that I’m happy to provide some basic information about my situation – number of people, general household income, and pets – but would not go beyond that basic description. Most don’t get back to me, but the real problem is that some of these practices aren’t being adequately policed. I’m researching this, but I know there are privacy laws about why and how information is being collected.

The Price is Just a Suggestion

The second challenge I’ve encountered is the sly side comment about how other applicants offer over the asking rate. I get this is pretty common if you’re trying to buy a house in a competitive market, but it’s rare for the rentals in my city. I was surprised the first time I heard this and politely informed the person I had my price range and was sticking to it.

Despite having an unemployment rate of 10 percent, people are frantic to rent better and buy up. Actually, frantic – it’s a legit description from a realtor quoted in the Calgary Herald. While I don’t agree with some of these practices, I still have to navigate this process for the time being. Luckily, I have started my search early, so there is time for the trials and tribulations of finding a new home.

Their Word is Not the Last Word

Things became less stressful when I accepted it might be challenging. Something that I found helped was planning out a worst-case scenario. For example, I can put most things in storage, so I have more flexibility if I need to settle for a smaller place. I really don’t like being at the mercy of public hysteria – it doesn’t matter if it’s toilet paper or property – so I changed my situation. Of course, it’s far from ideal, but at least it’s on my terms. Not everyone can go this extreme, but it’s just one instance of seizing back some control in a crazy situation.

Another useful strategy is keeping things simple. While there might be some things about the property I don’t like, trying to nickel and dime the landlord sounds like a great way to get passed over. This isn’t the time to channel my inner-Karen – there’s just way too much competition right now.

I am also ensuring that I have my damage deposit and first month’s rent (or first and last month’s rent) ready to go right away in the event something comes together. Waiting for my next paycheck so I have all the money means I might miss out on an opportunity. I know this isn’t feasible for everyone, but putting aside as much as you can help you feel more comfortable.

I’m just at the beginning of this rental odyssey, but I believe it will all work out in the end. I will keep you updated on my epic saga.

Do you have any rental horror stories of your own?

Photo by Jose Alonso on Unsplash

So, what do you think ?