How To Find A Rental: A Guide for First-Time Renters

So, you’re ready to leave the nest. Aww! How sweet, you are really becoming your own person. Well done for thinking about making a big step forward in your life, here are some tips that you might want to think about.

Finding a house or apartment can be difficult. If you have a friend or person in mind that you want to move out with, it is a good idea to come to an agreement on a few things:

  • Where would you like to live?
  • What is one feature you need?
  • How much would you like to pay?
  • When do you want to move out by?
  • Where do you find a place to rent?

These questions will help both parties, even if you are moving out by yourself, to find potential places. So, we will go a bit more into each of these questions and more below.

Area Matters More

Why do I say this? Well if you are in a house you love, but the area you hate, that can be a problem. Let’s say you’re a beach bum and go to the beach a few times a week. But you go for your dream home that is an hour from the closest beach. If you make a compromise and find a place that you would still be happy to live in but is only a 20 min walk from a beach. You’ll enjoy your time there much more.

So, a good idea is to have a few suburbs in mind, don’t get too fixated on one area, because you might miss some golden opportunities a few suburbs away. For me, I just wanted some nice parks and hills, and where we have landed is just right.

What Is A Feature You Need?

Like to cook? A big kitchen is a must then. Have a large energetic dog? A big backyard might do it some good. Like to throw gatherings? A larger living space might be better for you (maybe not at the moment with this Corvid-19 going round). The point is, that whatever you enjoy doing in your spare time you will have to account for a space that will allow you to do that.

So, when looking for a place, if it doesn’t have your “need” stop looking and move on to the next one. Because if you go with a place that doesn’t have that one feature you will not enjoy living in it as much as you would a place that does have that big kitchen or that large living space.

Give Yourself A Min and A Max

Agree on a minimum amount that you would be happy to pay, and a maximum you would be willing to pay. Usually, somewhere around 30% of your income is standard, obviously, you can choose to reduce that down to 20% of your income or increase it to 35%, but no more, as you might not be able to afford food! The point is to be flexible.

You can use some simple maths to help you figure it out. Let’s say that you earn $800 a week, 30% of that can be found using this method:

800 divided by 10, which will give you 80. Then 80 multiplied by 3 = $240 a week

(For all you maths geeks: (weekly income/10) * 3 = weekly rent

If you earn $1000 a week, your weekly rent should be around $300.

Alright, I hear you, enough with the numbers. Of course, this will help give you an idea about what you can comfortably afford. If you are studying and not working you will have to do some massaging of the numbers. But there is Government assistance available here in Australia. You should be able to find other similar government-assisted programs in your country of living.

I won’t lie, I am in a good spot and are very lucky with where I am. I can hear people complaining right now. “But Carlos, I don’t have money to move out to a place I want to live.” I get it, I have been there. I have been the student with no money, that’s why I stayed at home for so bloody long. This post is not about money, its about finding a place you can enjoy for an extended period of time. With friends or by yourself. I might cover in a later post about how to save and organise your money.

Moving on!

Set A Date

This will help determine if you can take your time or not in finding a place. It also keeps you accountable. It gives you a date to have all your shit together. All your kitchen utensils, all your laundry gear, shelves, bookcase, your wardrobe, and that guitar you never play. All the things you probably won’t think about. It’s okay I’ll be making a list of the things you need for each area of your apartment or house at some point. For those who have moved out, what are some things every house needs?

Finding Your Rental

Okay, so you have your list of suburbs that you like the look of, you have your one essential feature, you have your budget and you have your date. Now, how to find a damn place.

So, there are several sites that display rental properties. Our housemate found ours on, but you can find yours through your local real estate site, like,,,, etc.

So, what helps here is to create a list, have a favourites function, where you can create a shortlist of properties. A list of properties that you, either by yourself or with your housemates, will go to inspect. Contact each of the agents, either by phone or by an online application to set up an inspection time and date.

The rest is somewhat straight forward. If you like the place and it fits your given criteria, put in an application. Then all you can do is hope that you get the one you want.

What You Need for Your Application

Here a list of things you will need for a standard application form:

  1. Your personal details:
    1. Name, email, number, driver’s license, passport, current address
  2. Rental history:
    1. Why you are leaving your current address?
    2. Any previous rental address, landlord or agents name, and weekly rent paid
  3. Employment history:
    1. Current occupation, employers name, contact name and details
    2. Previous, their contact details.
  4. Most forms will have a student only section:
    1. Place of study, course length, course contact, Parents name and contact details.
  5. References:
    1. In case of emergency
    2. Personal references, usually 2.
  6. Other information
    1. Make/Type of car
    2. Any pets

Bonus Tips

Here are some tips for finding and securing a rental property:

  1. Don’t believe the pictures, it’s amazing what a good photo can do. But a photo is just that! Go see it in person, you might have a different idea about what you could do with the space once you are there. This can go both ways too, sometimes photos may not do a place justice.
  2. If you have made your list of places you’d be happy with and put in a few applications. Go with the first one you get.
  3. Try to get some midweek viewing in, you never know how it might turn out. Also, there will be far less competition. And don’t be surprised if you go to a Saturday inspection with 20 other people attending. Let’s say that you go to the inspection on a Wednesday, apply the same day, then get approved Friday. You have just snuck in before anyone else has been able to look at it.
  4. Be proactive, contact agents. Give them a call, I know it can be nerve-wracking, but it’ll put you ahead of the pack by creating that human connection. Not just some words on a screen. It is also a good idea to ask them if you could see the property mid-week, or if they could advise of any other properties in the area.
  5. Have all your application information ready. Why? Not only will you not be trying to dig up the information and wasting precious time. You can bring along some application forms to inspections and fill them out there and then, hand them to the agent, and boom, front of the line right there. (A full application that has been thoroughly filled out, that the agent can’t fault will often do better than one that has been half-arsed.)
  6. Be polite. I know this kinda goes without saying, but its just the right thing to do. Real estate agents are people too you know.

Hope this helps you find and secure a rental property, just know that there is always help around the corner. If you have already moved out let me know if you have any other tips for first-time renters.

Enjoy the journey.


Leave a Comment