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Applications that stand out in a competitive rental market

Flexible lease terms and move-in dates can make you a more attractive rental applicant. (iStock)

May to August is peak season for renting a home. The inventory of rental homes is low, and prices are high. Homes rent at a faster pace as well. With individually owned homes, you may find yourself in competition with other applicants. Here are things to consider to help your rental application rise to the top.

Once you see a home you like, submit an application right way. With rental communities, the majority process applications on a first-come, first-served basis. Your deposit usually will hold the rental while your application is processing. With individually owned homes, you should ask how applications are considered and if the landlord will be reviewing multiple applications. If multiple applications are being considered, find out what lease terms the landlord prefers to make your application more desirable.

Five things to keep in mind when renegotiating your lease

Length of lease. If the landlord owns the property as an investment and has no plans to sell in the near future, the landlord may prefer a lease longer than one year. When offering a long-term lease, also think about when the home will go back on the market once the lease ends, should you decide to move. A landlord will prefer the home return to the market during a peak time, when the property can get the highest rent and rent quickly. A lease that ends between May and July is more desirable, than a lease ending in January. But ask what the landlord prefers. Landlords have different preferred lease terms. Some independent landlords prefer a one-year lease.

Move-in date. Offering to start the lease on the date the property is available is best for the landlord. The landlord has expenses such as a mortgage and utilities to cover in a vacant property. A shorter time for the landlord to cover the expenses without rent to cover those bills is typically going to be best for the landlord.

Consider the landlord’s costs to prepare the home for rental. If a landlord has five applications to review and one of them does not ask for the home to be painted or new appliances to be installed before move in, saving the landlord those expenditures will make your application more desirable.

Offer more rent than the asking price. As long as you can afford it, offering slightly higher rent over the lease term, even $25 more a month, can add up and push your application ahead of the others.

Reference letters. It is always a good idea to have a previous landlord write you a glowing reference letter. Landlords will call and check your landlord references, but if you have a letter of reference accompanying your application, that puts you one step ahead of other applicants. The same can be said about reference letters for your pets as well as a pet resume.

Nancy Simmons Starrs is founder and president of Apartment Detectives, a D.C., Maryland and Northern Virginia apartment-search service.