'I was rejected from 7 rentals before a real estate agent gave me a piece of advice.'

I've lived out of home since I was 19 years old. Looking back, it feels surreal we could find places to live in so easily. From an apartment with all the amenities to a gigantic share house that fit four best friends plus two cats and a dog who are now family to us.

We stayed in that humongous house for three years until about six months ago when my best friend and I took everything we owned and moved right into the city.

Writing this story feels like an easy task now, but if this had been something I had to write back then, I would have struggled immensely. Because we live in the highest cost-of-living crisis our country has on record. Everything is more expensive; from the food we buy to the Uber rides we take and the rentals we pay to live in.

We found out exactly three days before we moved out of our house that we were approved for the apartment we wanted. We also learnt we'd been accepted for five other properties, which was a major relief following weeks of searching, multiple applications and no bites.

Watch: 5 money lessons your parents told you, that you should probably forget... Post continues after video.

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In all honesty, my wonderful housemate did every single inspection (except one we waited too long to apply for... that was a lesson in hastiness for sure). He also called multiple agents and asked them hard questions about our applications.


He wanted to know the why behind if landlords would not accept us into signing a lease. He also wanted to know how to strengthen our rental applications.

Read more: 'YO, Albo!! Help us out of this rental crisis already.'

After many chats with friendly leasing agents, we learnt some valuable lessons we will carry with us for as long as we are renters (which, based on the way things are going, will probably be a very long time).

Here are five of the most valuable lessons in finding a place to live in during a rental crisis:

1. Engage with your leasing agent.

The first property I ever inspected would have had to have been when I was 12 or 13 years old. My parents have been serial renters my entire life and so I've always known impressing a leasing agent might not be what you want to do, but it's definitely something you have to do.

Of course, I was barely out of 7th grade so I didn't really know what exactly I was supposed to do. But my mum, in all her bloody glory, had me looking dapper. She introduced herself to the agent, kept her comments or criticisms to herself and then approached them afterwards to let them know she was interested and they'd be getting her application to suit.

It's vital to make a good impression because they're the ones who will be not only looking over your application but deciding if it should be handed off to the landlord or not for a final assessment.


Of course, your income is paramount when looking over an application, but being a nice person goes a long way too.

2. If you can get a letter of recommendation from your landlord, do it. 

Soon after applying for an apartment, a leasing agent phoned and told my housemate that our application was rejected. But, on a brighter note, we had been one of the two candidates the landlord had been looking over.

My housemate immediately asked how we could get our application approved next time. The agent sweetly told him a letter of recommendation couldn't hurt. This was the one piece of advice that completely changed the rental game for us.

If you have a good relationship with your landlord or the property manager of your current (or last) rental, don't be shy. Ask them to recommend you for another listing through a written email.

We were lucky that we'd built a very strong relationship with our landlord, who also was the property manager. We weren't perfect tenants either. For six months, our auto payments for our rent were off by one week. None of us realised this was the case. 

For many leasing agents, this is a no-go (understandably) and we were questioned about it. However, our landlord stepped in by providing a letter of recommendation that told our next potential landlord that it was an error (it was) and something we sorted out as soon as we all realised what was happening (we did). 

I tell you this not to air my dirty laundry, but to let you know mistakes happen, they are fixable and they don't have to hinder your next rental opportunity.


If you're conscious of bothering your landlord or property manager, write the letter yourself with a few dot points that list why you're such a good bloody tenant, and then ask if they'd feel comfortable signing off on it. The answer is usually always yes.

3. Don't be afraid to ask the tough questions. 

If you've been rejected for a property, there's a good chance it comes down to just making less income than the tenants that were approved. But if not, it's good to know why and how you can improve your rental application the next time. 

Initially, we didn't know a letter of recommendation from a landlord was even a thing until we were told by a leasing agent. Imagine how many properties we could have been approved for if we'd known that simple fact sooner. 

It doesn't have to be a landlord either if you've never lived out of home. It could be a letter of recommendation from your parents or your boss as well. Anything helps. And I promise, once you've knocked that out of the way, it will be smooth(er) sailing from then on. 

Listen to The Quicky, where Shannen talks more about how to secure a rental. Post continues after audio.

4. Be strict with where you want to live, but not too strict. 

Initially, I was steadfast on living within just one square kilometre block. I obsessed over the rental properties that popped up in that area (which was only two streets, by the way). I fantasised about grabbing a morning cuppa from the local cafe and being able to walk to work or my favourite bar within 10 minutes. Basically, I was delusional and arrogant.


Eventually, as the clock ticked on and it became clear I was not going to have my dream terrace on my dream street with my less-than-dreamy bank account, I got realistic. Super, duper realistic. I can't drive so obviously a suburb with no train line was out of the question, but I widened my search.

My housemate and I did eventually find the almost-perfect apartment but there was a moment where we didn't have anything in our fave suburbs. And I was fine with that.

5. Be presentable, be on time and be reasonable. 

Wear the nice coat to the rental inspection, even if you have nowhere else to be. 

Be 10 minutes earlier, even if it means you're running from the bus stop. 

Have an open mind about the property you're inspecting, even if it was a deal-breaker for you before (for example, not having a dishwasher doesn't mean the place you're looking at isn't worth applying for). 

All I'm really saying is: be open-minded and the best version of yourself. It's an exhausting, ruthless rental market out there and doing everything you can to get into a nice, warm place is the first priority. Believe me, I know what it's like to want to be picky and pedantic. But to feel desperate and scared during these times is a feeling I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. 

Good luck and here's to you finding your next home! 

This article was originally published in June 2023, and has since been updated with new information.

Feature Image: Supplied.