* Get "Pre-Qualified!
Do you want to get the best house you can for the least amount of money? Then make sure you are in the strongest negotiating position possible. Price is only one issue reviewed by property owners in the application process, and not necessarily the most important one. Often, other terms such as the strength of the buyer or tenant, date of closing on a sale or lease are critical issues to a property owner. In years past, I always recommended that buyers get "pre-qualified" by a lender. Tenants can do something similar by having evidence of their financial qualifications (such as pay stubs, w-2 copies, employment acceptance letters,etc) available to attach to rental applications.
* Tenants with pets
Many home owners are pet owners and pet lovers. However, their feelings for pets in their personal homes may be different than in their rental properties. Pets can cause additional risk to property and people. To that end, many property owners will prefer not to accept rental applications that have pets as a part of the residing family. If you have a pet, there is action you can take in presenting your situation for a landlords consideration.
1.) Get reference letters from neighbors who know your pet, from your vet and most important, from past landlords. 2.) Have a detailed description of your pet including age, breed, gender, distinguishing marks, etc. 3.) Provide copies of shot records and license information. 4.) Provide certificates of insurance to show the type and limits of your liability coverage. 5.) Pictures tell a thousand words. Take some with you. 6.) Provide this inforamtion to your agent or the property manger. Discuss up front if this will be considered or if pets are an absolute prohibition. No sense taking time to see properties or getting excited about a home that you are not qualified for up front. 7.) Discuss up front and understand if your pet would cause any additional deposit requirements or any additional required services such as pest treatments, carpet cleaning, etc.
With this information in hand a Landlord may be more open to considering accepting your application with a pet. Additionally, a responsible pet owner and quality pet references may cause a Landlord to be more flexible in considering the pet in your application review process.
* Sell First, Then Buy
If you have a house to sell, sell it before selecting a house to buy! Let's pretend that we go out looking for the perfect house for you. We find it and you love it! Now you have to go make an offer to the seller. You want the seller to reduce the price and wait until you sell your house. The seller figures that's a risky deal, since he might pass up a buyer who DOESN'T have to sell a house while he's waiting for you. So he says OK, he'll do the contingency but it has to be a full price offer! So you see, you paid more for the house than you could have because of the contingency. Now you have to sell your existing house, and in a hurry! Otherwise you lose the dream house! So to sell quickly you might take an offer that's lower than if you had more time. The bottom line is that buying before selling might cost you TENS OF THOUSANDS of dollars. I always recommend that you sell first, then buy. If you're concerned that there is not a house on the market for you, then go on a window-shopping trip. You can identify possible houses and locations without falling in love with a specific house. If you feel confident after that then put your house on the market. Another tactic is to make the sale "subject to seller finding suitable housing". Discuss this with your agent or attorney advisor. Essentially the goal here is that you do not want to be committed to selling until you find that home of choice. A dramatic downside to this conditional sale is that this will no doubt impact the appeal and marketability of your home to the broad market pool of prospective buyers who want to know they can gain control of an asset if they make the offer, not have to sit around to find out later if the home they chose may not be available to buy.
* Play the Game of Nines
Before house hunting, make a list of nine things you want in the new place. Then make a list of the nine things you don't want. I call this "NINE OF THIS AND NONE OF THAT". You can use this list as a scorecard to rate each property that you see. The one with the biggest score wins! This helps avoid confusion and keeps things in perspective when you're comparing dozens of homes. When house hunting, keep in mind the difference between "SKIN AND BONES". The BONES are things that cannot be changed such as the location, view, size of lot, noise in the area, school district, and floor plan. The SKIN represents easily changed surface finishes like carpet, wallpaper, color, and window coverings. Buy the house with good BONES, because the SKIN can always be changed to match your tastes. I always recommend that you imagine each house as if it were vacant. Consider each house on its underlying merits, not the seller's decorating skills.
* Agent Representation
It is critical that you understand whos interest is being represented by the individual or firm you contact for your property search. Is the agent representing you as the buyer or tenant or the owner of the property? Discuss the relationship with the agent up front so you both will be clear of each others responsibilites in the relationship. If you have engaged an agent as a buyer or tenant representative and you inquire on a property advertisement, be sure to identify your situation up front to the person you are contacting.