Hi. In markets where there are extreme "seller's markets" or with extreme supply demand imbalances in both the sales and rental markets, as is the case all over Central Texas right, you see the screening criteria for tenants run to the very conservative in. In most basic terms, occupancy rates are through the roof, there are many more tenants than properties in most area, particularly rentals with desirable features whether it be location, school or price, so the landlords are able to be very selective.
Although many understand the recent economic downturn was hard on a lot of honest, hard working families, they see it through the lens of their risk only, and therefore it is a difficult situation. My advice is as follows:
1. you will need to "work the edges" of the market. unfortunately, going through traditional agent / MLS driven or property manager held channels will be difficult. I am not saying impossible, but you will have a tough time as they see it in a pretty mechanized fashion and dont spend much, if any, time getting to know or empathize with your personal circumstances. Look for independent owners via craig's list and such
2. Look for properties that have some "flaw" making them harder to rent, and therefore less competitive
3. If you are able to make contact with an owner, sell yourself and your story. Be up front. Explain your circumstances, make it personal, and ask the owner what you can do to help "offset the perceived risk". Provide any info ( past landlord/ employer recommendations) that helps support your being responsible tenants. If need be, offer an additional deposit or other financial incentive to help give ease to the landlord.
I know it can be frustrated and I personally think it is a shame that people who were battered in an economy that was crumbled by greedy Wall Street banks has now cast an undeserved shadow on many hard working , upstanding families, and that the world we are now living in most only see you as a series of numbers, which does not sum up the whole of who a person is. But that is the case most times. You need to look hard for one on one interactions with individual landlords and then try to "make the sale" about your being responsible tenants with completely explainable and understandable circumstances.
I hope that helps, and good luck.