7 valuable tips for a successful rental application

How to make your application stand apart from the crowd.

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Anyone who’s tried to rent a property in one of Australia’s capital cities can tell you it’s a brutal, cutthroat business. It’s common to show up to a property inspection to find a queue down the street and a property that doesn’t come close to matching its listing photos. The whole process can be demoralising, and the competition can seem insurmountable, especially with vacancy rates across the nation sitting below 3%.

Even with all this competition, there are a few simple things you can do to move your application to the top of the pile.

Be on time

For the purposes of rental inspections, “on time” means early. If you’re looking for a rental property in a particularly popular suburb, odds are there will be a queue formed before the real estate agent even arrives. It can’t hurt to be near the front of that queue. Most importantly, though, don’t arrive late. The real estate agent conducting the inspection is likely to have back-to-back inspections booked throughout the day, racing from one to another. If you’re the late comer that throws off their entire day’s schedule, you’re not going to make a very good impression.

Make an impression

Make a good impression

Speaking of making good impressions, there are a number of things you can do to make yourself memorable. First, introduce yourself to the real estate agent. Dozens of people will likely be filing through the property through the course of the inspection, and you don’t want melt into the crowd.

Dressing the part can also help. It might sound shallow, but classier attire can communicate the impression of responsibility and financial stability, two of the biggest factors landlords and property managers are looking for.

Finally, ask a question about the property. Be courteous and polite, of course, but engage the real estate agent with a question or two to stand apart from the masses and to show your interest in the property.

Have references

The importance of good references can’t be overstated. Real estate agents, property managers and landlords want to know you’ll be a reliable tenant, that you’ll pay your rent on time and that you’ll treat the property as if it were your own. Potential tenants who can’t prove this with a strong track record of rental history are at a significant disadvantage.

It should be noted that references from real estate agents or property managers carry far more weight than references from landlords. A landlord is not seen as a qualified professional, and could be a friend or family member.

Though not essential, it also can’t hurt to have references from co-workers, employers or former neighbours.

Write a great cover letter

Write a few paragraphs about who you are, what you do for a living and perhaps the reason for your move. If you’re applying as a group for a property you intend to share, briefly introduce each housemate. Be professional, but not so overly formal that your personality doesn’t shine through.

Give a brief rundown of your rental history, and make sure to mention any special circumstances such as pets. Even if you’re applying for a number of properties, it’s a good idea to specifically tailor each cover letter to mention features of the property that appealed to you.

Sample cover letter

Having trouble coming up with a cover letter? Try using this sample letter as a template.

Dear Graeme,

We are Jim and Jill Williams. Please find attached our application and supporting documents for the property at 14 Any Street. The property is a great fit for our needs, as it’s close to work for both of us and sits on a quiet street.

Jim is a project manager at Big Company, where he’s worked for the last five years. Jill recently started a job as a web designer at finder.com.au.

We lived at our last property as 4/152 Broad Street for six years, where we paid $550 a week in rent. We’re looking to move so we can be closer to work. We have attached a reference from our property manager.

Thank you so much for your consideration, and we look forward to hearing from you.


Jim and Jill

Be prepared

Have everything you need in order when you arrive at the inspection. This includes copies of all your identification documents, proof of income and pay history and proof of employment. Bring along a resume of your previous rental history, including the aforementioned reference letters. You can also stay a step ahead of the competition by bringing along a completed application form. Most property managers will have standardised application forms on their websites.

Alternatively, you can use 1Form, a free online rental application platform. 1Form is handy if you’re applying for a lot of properties, as it will pre-fill your details on subsequent applications after you’ve applied once.

Another way to make sure you’re prepared is to have money for bond and a holding fee on-hand on the day of the inspection. A real estate agent is highly unlikely to accept your application on the spot, but knowing that you can pay the bond immediately upon acceptance is a big tick in your favour. Also working in your favour is a willingness to move in quickly.

Be honest

Don’t hide anything on your application letter, in your cover letter or in your discussions with the real estate agent. Start off on the front foot by proactively raising any issues that could be potential stumbling blocks. Do you have pets? Put it in your cover letter, put it in your application and discuss it with the agent at the inspection (it’s also helpful to get references for your pets from previous property managers). Do you have a rough patch in your credit history?

Be upfront about it and explain it to the agent. If there will be a number of people living in the property, make sure they’re all at the inspection. Any details about your tenancy you try to hide are sure to come out eventually, and can lead to some pretty severe consequences if you’ve signed a lease under false pretences. It’s much better to be honest and open from the get-go.

Perfect properties for pets

If you have a pet, it doesn't have to put you out of the running for rental properties. Read our guide to finding pet-friendly rental properties.

Find pet-friendly rentals

Follow up

After you’ve attended the inspection and submitted your application, follow up with the real estate agent with a brief thank you email. Be pleasant and avoid coming across as impatient or pushy, but make it clear that you’re interested in the property. A courteous thank you note along with reiterating your interest in the property can help keep you top of mind as they consider applications.

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