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Scoring that Apartment: 5 Factors that Matter


According to USA Today, the number of renters has increased by almost 70% in some states, so it’s no surprise that we’re living in a landlord’s market. For some, looking for an apartment can be as difficult as finding a job. Be a competitive candidate. Present yourself in a unique way. Know what landlords look for in a tenant. Our team at Trulia has come up with these five things landlords consider before they’ll ask for a deposit.

1. Your Credit Score

This one may seem obvious, but even if you’re aware that a potential landlord might look at your credit score, you may not know what number they have in mind. In a poll, 38% of landlords said they’d accept a credit score in the 620-679 range. Know your number before you start knocking on apartment doors. This will keep you from having to run your credit over and over again. If you have a bad score, openly and honestly explain the circumstances which got you there, then demonstrate current financial responsibility while reiterating your other virtues.

2. Your Clothing

As shallow as it may seem, what you wear says a lot about you. According to Forbes, “what you wear can inform passersby of your type of employment, as well as your ambitions, emotions and spending habits.” If you show up in a wrinkly, stained shirt, you may send the wrong message about everything from your lifestyle to your bank account. Opt for an understated outfit that’s put together and, more importantly, clean.

3. Your Car

With the exception of major metro areas, cars are a big deal to landlords. They don’t care about the make or model or even what year it is, but they will sneak a peek to see how clean it is. A car is one of the best predictors of how you will take care of the home. It’s not a deal-breaker, but know that landlords are less willing to take chances on obvious signs of poor judgement, so take it for a wash and keep it clean.

4. Your Background

If getting an apartment is as competitive as finding a job, and potential employers perform background checks, then why wouldn’t a landlord? They can have their pick of tenants, and that means they’re more likely to weed out those with a criminal record. Although, if you do have a criminal record, don’t lie about it and lose money in application fees. Be prepared, anticipate potential questions, and prepare a good, honest answer that reduces concern and gives you a chance to prove your potential as a responsible renter.

5. Your References

Have a list of references ready. It should include former landlords, current employers, and even old roommates (sorry, family members generally don’t count). And don’t forget to vet your own references to ensure their reliability. The last thing you want is to lose out on an apartment over a roommate with a secret grudge.

Now that you know the most common things landlords look for in a tenant, educate yourself on your state’s housing rights to make sure that everything a potential landlord is requesting is legal and within reason.

What are some of the craziest things a landlord requested before approving your application? Share your thoughts in the comments below.