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Recent renters reveal five winning strategies to land a place in today's hot market

Oct 27, 2022

New Zillow survey finds being flexible about move-in date and offering to pay more up front are the top strategies to land a rental in an ultracompetitive market

SEATTLE, Oct. 27, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- Typical monthly rents are the highest they've ever been ($2,084 as of September), yet the rising cost of buying a home is keeping more and more people in the rental market. Safe to say, it's a stressful time to be a renter. In a recent Zillow survey,i more than one-third of recent renters (defined as Americans who moved into a rental unit in the past 2 years) reported that getting their current rental was more difficult than getting a new job. 

What's making it so hard to land a rental? On top of determining how to afford a new place, renters face fierce competition from those who want or need to continue renting. Standing out to potential landlords among a slew of applicants is difficult, and staying organized to move quickly is of the utmost importance. Zillow asked recent successful renters for strategies they used to land their home. 

Strategy 1: Be flexible about move-in date
More than one-third (34%) of recent renters said this strategy helped. Moving in earlier or later than initially planned is a (sometimes expensive) sacrifice, but it can help open up more options for renters. If a landlord won't budge on a proposed lease start date and the renter is able to stay with friends or relatives during the lease gap or have rental payments overlap for a short time, this strategy has been proven to work.

For renters who don't have this flexibility, it's best to keep their search specific to homes that line up with their move-in timing. Zillow's new move-in date filter can better align the end of a lease with the start of a new one, eliminating the "double rent" scenario.

Strategy 2: Be willing to pay more up front 
In Zillow's survey of recent renters, 30% said paying at least two months' rent in advance helped them win their most recent rental. Only 20% of renters said they were involved in a bidding war for their place, but paying more up front may be a way to grab the attention of a landlord. 

Even when that's not an option, renters should always make their best offer. Renters can start by researching and knowing what they can afford before even starting their search. Zillow's rent affordability calculator can help determine their price range, and Zillow's Rental Market Trends tool provides an up-to-date look at their desired market to help them feel confident they are getting a fair deal.

Strategy 3: Have strong references 
Serious renters should have all of their documentation ready to go even before they start searching. It's common for landlords to ask for references, so having a few options ready to attest to a renter's reliability and trustworthiness is an important strategy — one that helped 29% of recent renters land their place. 

In addition, Zillow's Renter Profile helps renters get a jump on putting their best foot forward and moving quickly when it comes time to apply. Renters create a personal profile outlining their renter qualifications, such as employment, income and credit score, as well as their desired move-in date and lease duration. A profile allows them to introduce themselves to potential landlords and offer a sense of what they're looking for in a rental.

Strategy 4: Being one of the first applicants 
Landlords don't want their units sitting vacant for any longer than they have to, so it makes sense that being one of the first applicants was a successful strategy for more than 1 in 4 (26%) recent renters. In fact, in some areas, renters can move faster by taking advantage of virtual 3D Home tours and interactive floor plans on many Zillow rental listings. This quickly narrows their options, avoids wasting time touring apartments that are not a good fit and enables them to be among the first to apply. Renters should also check to see if the city in which they are searching has laws requiring landlords to accept the first applicant who meets all requirements.   

Applications do still take time, and they come with a cost. Renters can gain advantages of both speed and savings in this supercharged market simply by using Zillow Applications. For a flat fee of $29, renters can use Zillow Applications to apply online for an unlimited number of participating properties for 30 days, which gives them the ability to control costs and add flexibility to their search. 

Strategy 5: Offering to sign a longer lease 
For a landlord, there's a lot of work that goes into filling a rental unit, so the additional security of knowing that their rental will have a tenant for more than just a typical 12-month period may make an offer more attractive. In fact, 23% of recent renters noted that this strategy helped them into their place. 

In a market where rent prices continue to climb, signing a longer lease can be a great strategy for renters, too. Locking in the current price for two years instead of one can help them avoid annual rent increases. 

Despite the cooling temperatures, aspiring renters are entering an extremely hot rentals market this fall, but one or more of these proven strategies can help them land their next rental. 

About Zillow Group
Zillow Group, Inc. (NASDAQ: Z and ZG) is reimagining real estate to make it easier to unlock life's next chapter. As the most visited real estate website in the United States, Zillow® and its affiliates offer customers an on-demand experience for selling, buying, renting, or financing with transparency and ease. 

Zillow Group's affiliates and subsidiaries include Zillow®; Zillow Premier Agent®; Zillow Home Loans™; Zillow Closing Services™; Trulia®; Out East®; StreetEasy®; HotPads®; and ShowingTime+™, which houses ShowingTime®, Bridge Interactive®, and dotloop®. Zillow Home Loans, LLC is an Equal Housing Lender, NMLS #10287 (

i This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of Zillow from August 9-11, 2022 among 2,064 U.S. adults ages 18 and older, among whom 406 have moved into a rental unit in the past 2 years. The sampling precision of Harris online polls is measured by using a Bayesian credible interval.  For this study, the sample data is accurate to within + 2.8 percentage points using a 95% confidence level. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, please contact