Posted November 30, 2020 | by Keaton Bessey, Managing Broker
We have been providing free tenant coaching since we began operating in 2018, and we have learned that while supply of available rentals is an issue in Vancouver, you can definitely get an upper hand to give yourself more selection, better responses, and find a better place for your next home. Below is a list of practical tips and tricks we have offered to tenants to help them in their search...
1) Online Platforms - In Vancouver, Craigslist still reigns supreme as far as number of listings. Kijiji is less popular in Vancouver, but platforms like PadMapper, Zumper, and Facebook MarketPlace are making a push as well. What you may not know is that all the posts on these three platforms are shared amongst each other. We suggest when searching that you use both Craigslist and Facebook MarketPlace. Facebook has a great user interface and messaging capabilities, and you don't have to download another app. You can find Facebook MarketPlace in your Facebook app "menu". Facebook and Craigslist will give you the most choice!
2) Filtering your search - When we meet with tenants for coaching sessions, we ask them what they "filter" for when they are searching. I cannot recall a tenant who has not named 10 different things they filter for: asking rent range, pets, location, number of bedrooms, bathrooms, housing type, carpet, dishwasher, in suite laundry, etc. What they don't understand is that this filtering significantly impacts the available listings and the information available. Also, because the platform is open to everyone, many people posting are lazy and their written description does not match the boxes that they checked when they posted the ad to begin with. We always suggest to pick a budget range (take your maximum budget and add 20%) the number of bedrooms you are looking for, and the area or postal code radius you are looking in. Thats it. If someone did not check pets, but they would consider pets, and you filter for "pet friendly" you will never see their post and you will miss out on applying. Filter less, find more!
3) Reaching out - These online platforms are made to engage Landlords and Tenants. Searching for a new home or a new tenant can be a stressful thing, so any messaging and interaction is paid attention to. When you "check availability" or "contact" in Facebook Marketplace, it sends an email to a potential landlord. Many of these emails do not have a phone number or custom message to them, which is a deterrent for most landlords and its not always worth the time to reply to people's email addresses. People in general are notoriously awful at email correspondence and a phone call or text message is much more effective for getting in touch and arranging a meeting. We strongly suggest including your phone number, email, and a custom message when you reach out to potential Landlords. It will make you easier to get a hold of and it will make you stand out amongst the crowd. If you don't like someone who reached out to you, its pretty easy to block a number nowadays, so just get it up there and you'll have more success and better responses. Also, if you don't hear back, reach out again, be diligent and keep pushing forward. These platforms push so much junk to landlords that its hard to manage for a small or first time landlord which is who posts most of the currently available listings.
4) Go to the listings that are overpriced - This is a big one. Many tenants we have talked to have gone to showings only to find a ton of people there and they don't get the place. It was underpriced and the Landlord wanted their pick of people. This will always happen as long as there is low vacancy in Vancouver. Our suggestion is that when you are looking, you get to become an expert on the area and type of home you are looking for you and you know pretty quick who is asking too much for their place. No one reaches out to these Landlords and they eventually drop the price. What we suggest is reaching out to these Landlords, setting up a showing (they have more time because no one is inquiring) go take a look, and submit an offer lower than asking rate. They will reject, and all you have to do is thank them for their time, and follow up. Again, if they are asking too much, they will not have much interest and they will be compelled to take your offer or at least discuss further and negotiate. This gives you an advantage and its also why we suggest filtering to 20% higher than you budget so that you can capture these over priced places and get in and haggle them down. Its an expensive market, but tenants will only pay what the market demands, not some ridiculous made up price unless you're seriously desperate. There is enough information out there for you to know what is overpriced and what is not. Go to the overpriced and haggle!
5) Prepare your documentation - This is a big one. Showing up with all your documentation says "I mean business" and will encourage Landlords to keep the conversation rolling with you. Trying to coordinate pay stubs and references from a potential tenant who is not prepared can be very frustrating for a Landlord and they know it so they like to deal with people who come prepared. We suggest preparing the following information:
- Printed landlord reference with contact information
- Printed employment confirmation with contact information
- Paystubs showing your last 2 months' of pay (or last years t4 with SIN number redacted for those who are self employed)
- A brief letter explaining yourself, your family, your pet, why you are moving, your future plans, and whatever you want to disclose that you think a potential landlord would like to know about you and would make you an attractive candidate (remember the word "professional" basically means you are paid to do something so if you have a job you are a "working professional").
- A printed copy of your credit report. You can pull your own credit online once per year for free and this reduces the number of times potential landlords will check your credit. Many Landlords in Vancouver are inexperienced, and if you provide your own credit report, they might just accept that information as part of the application process.
Having these items physically on hand and in a drafted email will help you move forward quickly on a place that you really like. Many deals break down due to timeliness of paperwork, don't let it happen to you!
These are just some of the tips and tricks that we have provided tenants during our free tenant coaching sessions. When we meet with tenants to help them, we discuss other items such as how to discuss their income, a bad credit report, pets, and other items specific to their situation. If you liked the information above and wish to setup a free tenant coaching session for yourself, reach out directly to me by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
We can set up a phone call, google hangout, or in person meeting anywhere in Greater Vancouver.
Happy Hunting 🍻