People desperate to rent property in central Auckland should treat their dealings with estate agents like a job interview, estate agencies warn.
Demand for rental properties in the central suburbs has increased, with some houses now attracting as many as 200 would-be tenants during open homes.
Real estate companies yesterday said tenants needed to provide good references, be well presented, show up early to an appointment and show how keen they were to move in to a property.
"Two of the biggest things are a clean credit rating, and good previous landlord references too," said Michelle Jones, general manager of Crockers Property Management.
"That tells us whether they paid their rent and whether they looked after the property, and that's what landlords want to know."
Tenants should take hard copies of their references to open homes, said Helen Hodgson, rental operations manager for Barfoot & Thomson.
"I would say for people to turn up well-presented. Because they're selling themselves, really. We need to look at them and say, 'yes, you're going to take care of this property'."
If a person had not rented before and could not get a reference from a landlord, they should get one from an employer, she said.
"The other thing I'd say is don't muck around. If you see a property you like, put in your application and go for it. If they say they'll think about it and look at another two or three, then they run the risk of losing it."
It was also essential to arrive on time to appointments, Ms Hodgson said.
Juliet Robinson, the national business development manager for property management firm Quinovic, said people could register and pay an option fee on their website before looking at a property. The option fee was refunded if they were unsuccessful, and went towards their first week's rent if they got the property.
"We get a lot of applicants for properties that we then process ... and offer the property and they've then decided that they've found an alternative property. So it just shows that they have a high level of commitment."
While some landlords asked prospective tenants for a higher rent when it became clear how much interest there was, Ms Hodgson of Barfoot & Thompson said it ultimately worked against them.
"It does happen and it can legally happen ... but people will say, 'OK, I'll take it, I'll pay it' but as soon as the market settles down they'll move to something that's priced better. As a landlord myself I would much prefer a reliable long-term tenant."
HOUSE SEARCH WAS 'A SHOCKER'
Sarah Broughton says increased demand for rental properties has turned flat-hunting into a major ordeal.
Ms Broughton is moving out of her Mt Eden home after the rent went up and has been searching for a new place in vain.
"The price compared to the quality was just a shocker. It's the first time I've ever experienced these open viewings, where they've had 20 or 30 people go through at once."
In many instances she and her flatmates were competing with returning university students for "places where we don't really want to live, because they're disgusting".
"I actually felt really angry that [landlords] were not going to any effort to fix anything and make it presentable. One of the ones we went through, someone was still asleep in a bed ... You can't have a look at a bedroom when there's someone in a bed."
Ms Broughton, who is 28 and has rented for 10 years, said she and her flatmates had decided to look on the North Shore, where the value and prices were "fantastic" by comparison.
"We looked at a place [on Sunday], spent half an hour chatting to a landlord ... so we got a really good feel for them and they got to know us. We were the only ones there ... and it was a four-bedroom and four-bathroom place that was like a dream, really."
She said people should be flexible about where they wanted to rent because popular suburbs such as Ponsonby and Kingsland were becoming unrealistically expensive.
* Have a clean credit rating.
* Get to appointments early or on time.
* Dress well.
* Get employer references if you don't have a previous landlord.
* Bring hard copies of references.