You know you want the apartment, but how do you know if the landlord wants you as a tenant? When your renter application is in, there’s nothing to do but wait. But if you've done your research before applying, the odds are much better that you’ll get the ‘yes’ you've been waiting for.
First, know thy credit. How’s your credit score? Good? Bad? Honestly have no idea? You need to know. Your credit report is the first place your potential landlord will look when evaluating you as a tenant. Good credit history shows a pattern of paying what you are supposed to, when you are supposed to – ideally to a variety of accounts over a long period of time.
The best way to get a sense of your credit score is to check out your FICO score. FICO takes information from all three of the credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and Transunion) and gives you scores from each of them ranging from 300-850. Scores of 720+ are the sweet spot that most lenders consider a safe bet.
If your credit isn’t great, or if it’s nonexistent, don’t panic. Getting a co-signer for your lease is usually acceptable for most landlords. It can also help if you have pay stubs to prove your current income and/or a few professional references who can vouch for you as a reliable employee or tenant.
Credit aside, your rental karma is important. Many landlords conduct background checks along with the credit check when evaluating prospective tenants. These can include checking in with your current or previous landlords to see how you were as a tenant. If you always paid on time but sparked noise complaints from neighbors, violated building policies, or generally made yourself a nuisance, you may not get the place you really want.
Your financial and rental past matter, but that doesn’t mean what you do today won’t influence your landlord’s decision. Arriving on time for a showing, being polite and courteous with your questions and making an effort to look nice go a long way in helping your landlord get a feel for you. Looking good on paper matters, but being a good person (and tenant) is what counts.