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Posted by on Mar 21, 2015 in Special Assignments | 0 comments

Handy Guide: When You Want to Find a Great Apartment, LESS is More

Recommendations expert Kent Roberts describes his widely acclaimed LESS strategy to get the most out of your apartment hunt, with examples from his search for a place to stay during the 2015 SXSW festival in Austin.

Apartment search expert Kent Roberts describes his widely acclaimed LESS strategy to get the most out of your apartment search, with examples from his recent search for a place to stay during the 2015 SXSW festival in Austin.

Recommendations expert Kent Roberts, in the field

It’s easy to get nervous about renting a place. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

Please calm down. This handy guide, based on the apartment search strategy that I’ve created out of years of trial and error, will help you find a great place to call your own. Just remember at all times that when you want the best housing, LESS is more:

L. Look for listings.
E. Email questions.
S. Schedule a meeting.
S. Step back before stepping forward.

L. Look for listings.

First you want to look through Craigslist and find possible apartments. You especially want to focus on places that have a lot of natural light and are well-ventilated. Look at the pictures carefully. Finally, make sure that the price is right.

I was in need of a place to stay during Austin’s South by Southwest festival so that I could rent out my own apartment and use the savings to support my increasingly expensive addictions to kombucha and peppermint chocolate bars.

Here is the listing I found (which is no longer online):

Craigslist listing

Craigslist listing

Here were the additional pictures:

Rental image #1

Rental image #1

Rental image #2

Rental image #2

As you can see, great ventilation and great natural light. In fact, this place is much better ventilated than my permanent residence. However, I was renting out my apartment for $1200. Since this place was renting for the same amount, I would have to talk the landlord down if it was going to make any sense.

E. Email questions.

Now you need to reach out to your future landlord. Just get information. If you are really excited about the place, don’t let it show. You don’t want to lose your strategic footing when it comes to negotiations. Be brief but thorough. With details you collect upfront, your meeting with the landlord will be more valuable.

First, I verified availability.

My message:

On Mar 13, 2015 5:01 PM, “Kent Roberts” <[email protected]> wrote:

Hi is the bed still available?

Landlord response:

On Friday, March 13, 2015, craigslist 4929381955 <[email protected]> wrote:

Hell yeah

Next, I asked about bathing facilities, which weren’t pictured in the post.

My message:

On Mar 13, 2015 5:22 PM, “Kent Roberts” <[email protected]> wrote:

Do you have a wash bucket for me, or do I  need to bring my own?

Landlord response:

On Friday, March 13, 2015, craigslist 4929381955 <[email protected]> wrote:

There is a creek and small pond nearby!.. so no need for bucket

Then I wanted to know about parking at the accommodation. Here I also apologized and lied to the landlord, both of which I recommend doing several times (simultaneously as possible for efficiency) to set the stage for your tough-love negotiations endgame.

My message:

On Mar 13, 2015 5:30 PM, “Kent Roberts” <[email protected]> wrote:

Hm… Is there skateboard parking? Sorry, I’m kind of reading off this checklist of “important questions to ask when renting a bedroom”

Landlord response:

On Friday, March 13, 2015, craigslist 4929381955 <[email protected]> wrote:

Yes.. loads of skateboarding available. . But no water in the pool.. but the pond has water!

Notice how asking questions pays dividends, often unexpected ones. I asked about skateboard parking, even though I don’t own a skateboard. The landlord replied by mentioning that the pool was empty. That empty pool is a sore spot that could be used during negotiations (although in this case, I let it slide since I had access to the pond).

S. Schedule a meeting.

Okay, you’ve got plenty of information now. Set a time, and go check out the place.

Since we were already emailing and I didn’t yet have a phone number, I went ahead and booked the appointment by email. I also casually introduced negotiations.

My message:

On Mar 13, 2015 5:40 PM, “Kent Roberts” <[email protected]> wrote:

Is the price negotiable? Can I come take a look? Maybe tomorrow?

Landlord response:

On Friday, March 13, 2015, craigslist 4929381955 <[email protected]> wrote:

Yes .. you can come by.. I will be in a van with free hugs spray painted on the side

Once we set a time (noon) and verified the exact address (Mabel Davis Park), I guaranteed that the landlord would not miss the appointment by offering him a meal.

My message:

On Fri, Mar 13, 2015 at 6:00 PM, Kent Roberts <[email protected]> wrote:

Great. I will bring sandwiches.

Landlord response:

On Fri, Mar 13, 2015 at 6:02 PM, craigslist 4929381955 <[email protected]> wrote:

Awesome

The following day, I arrived in a way that set the tone for a spectacular tenant-landlord relationship, using the threefold WOW tactic that I recommend for all professional meetings. To achieve a WOW response in your business dealings, arrive:

W. Well-dressed;
O. On-time; and
W. With sandwiches.

For his part, my new landlord, Pat Snow, showed me around the property. I documented the amenities and gathered evidence of posted rules.

Here are pictures from the tour:

Pond

Pond

Storage area

Storage area

Bed presentation

Bed presentation

Bed test

Bed test

Property rules

Property rules

I also got a handshake with my landlord on record, so that we could remember the good times if things ever went south between us – especially since we were about to start negotiations, the first major challenge in our budding real estate relationship.

Friendly business handshake

Friendly business handshake

S. Step back before stepping forward.

You have just seen the place. You may be very excited and ready to sign a rental agreement. Not so fast. You need to go back home and prepare for negotiations.

Once you have collected your thoughts, reach out to your landlord. Request a reasonable price reduction, and ask any remaining questions.

In my case, I asked my landlord to bring the price down $100. I also confirmed that I would be able to entertain guests and evacuate properly if wild animals attacked.

My message:

On Sun, Mar 15, 2015 at 10:47 AM, Kent Roberts <[email protected]> wrote:

Dear Mr. Snow – Will you take $1100? And what is your guest policy? At certain times, I may need to have as many as three people in and around the bed.

Finally, any emergency protocol related to wild animals would be helpful. Other than that, I am ready to move forward.

Landlord response:

On Sunday, March 15, 2015, craigslist 4929381955 <[email protected]> wrote:

you can have as many guest as you would like .. and $1100 seems to be a reasonable amount..

Note that I made a misstep in not verifying that all my questions were answered, since I can’t help but remain worried about being eaten by coyotes.

With all other concerns appropriately satisfied, I closed the deal.

My message:

On Sun, Mar 15, 2015 at 11:13 AM, Kent Roberts <[email protected]> wrote:

Excellent. I guess we don’t need to worry about keys. I will move in my portable topiary garden and other personal effects tonight. I will leave the cash in an envelope under your windshield wipers if you aren’t at your van.

Landlord response:

On Sun, Mar 15, 2015 at 11:15 AM, craigslist 4929381955 <[email protected]> wrote:

that is perfect.. enjoy the space and I hope you write a positive yelp review

Since negotiations were complete, I also decided to compliment my landlord at this point to further strengthen our union and motivate him to exceed my ongoing expectations.

My message:

On Mar 15, 2015 6:12 PM, “Kent Roberts” <[email protected]> wrote:

Man it gets good ratings. You must respond quickly with maintenance requests related to the mattress.

Landlord response:

On Sun, Mar 15, 2015 at 6:13 PM, craigslist 4929381955 <[email protected]> wrote:

Within 24 hours

Trying out LESS yourself

As I indicated in the introduction, when you need housing, don’t let yourself get carried away with stress. I devised LESS to help us all get more out of any apartment search, wrapping in the WOW technique to make a fantastic first impression on our landlords.

What do you think? Please share any other apartment search best practices and success stories below.

 

 

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