Tips for renters in a tight market

The last two days of blogs about rentals and the tight rental market has renters asking, “So how can I get a leg up on the competition when looking for a rental?” Even if you’re not the first person to call, here are some tips from property managers Lucy Inouye and Daisy Yamada on how to make the best impression.

When you are responding to an ad:

  • If it says "Please call 555-xxxx,” don’t hit "reply" on your computer. The person who places the ads may not be the one scheduling appointments.
  • Know what you are calling about. "Hi, I’m calling about your two-bedroom for $1900 in Makiki," is better than, "Ummm, I’m calling about a house?"
  • Be prepared to take notes. Did you really not know I was going to give you an address, directions and time of showing?
  • If you have a pet or use Section 8, say so up front. There is no point in asking me about the color of the carpets and the length of lease if we can’t accept your dog. Most places either accept pets and Section 8, or they don’t. It is pretty unlikely that I will like you so much that I will change a policy for you.
  • Yes, everyone has cell phones from their last city. However, not everyone has free long distance, and many property managers will not call you back if it is going to cost them money. Leave a local number for reply calls, or ask when you can call them back.
  • If you are just separating from your significant other, it’s better not to mention that. I may fear your ex will come and cause problems or I may worry that you’ll make up and want to move back in with your ex before your lease ends.


  • Be on time for viewings. If I have to wait too long, I’m going to leave, and may not be willing to accommodate you with another showing. Call the office if you won’t be coming. No-shows cost us money and time, especially if a unit is on the other side of the island!
  • If you had credit problems caused by a divorce or medical reason, you might bring some documents to explain why your credit report is going to look bad. Likewise, don’t lie about your rental history or employment. We do check references and your credit report has a lot of info on it.
  • If you need a co-signer, be prepared for them to fill out an application in a timely manner.
  • Want to avoid multiple application fees? Ask the property manager if they would mind reviewing your application first. If you are clearly not in the running, there is no need for them to run a credit check.
  • Fill out your application completely. We are not going to go online and look up your last employer’s contact numbers.
  • If you are offered a unit, be prepared to sign a lease and have enough money to pay the security deposit up front. You current landlord has 14 days after you move out to put your old security deposit in the mail.
  • Don’t start your search too early. Hawaii law requires 28 days notice when vacating, so that’s usually when we find out when the unit is available. We simply don’t know what we’ll have available two months from now. If a unit is vacant now, we are not going to hold it vacant for two months just for you, either.
  • Be honest about your time frame. Keep in mind that you may have to pay double rent if you haven’t given your current landlord proper notice.
  • Allow enough time for your move. It is not possible to remove your belongings and clean your home properly in the space of 24 hours. An empty house is a lot dirtier than it looked when it was full.
  • I’ve been in this business for 25 years. The more you talk about all the home improvements you’ll do, or the gorgeous garden you are going to plant, the more certain I am that the lawn will be dead when you vacate.
  • Don’t come to a viewing with a crowd. If you show up with your four sisters, their boyfriends and a few hyperactive kids or pets, the manager will worry that all these people are going to move in or spend their weekends hanging in your studio apartment.
  • Clean up a little when you meet the manager. If your car is a disaster, park far away and walk. A manager is worried how you will take care of the unit, and may assume that you will treat the unit like you treat your possessions.
  • Don’t call on behalf of your friend/sister/brother. Give them my phone number, and let them call me directly.  It makes no sense for me to describe a unit and rent terms and have that info disappear in the void between your ears.   The actual renter should call, otherwise I will wonder why not.
  • If I tell you not to park in someone else’s stall while you look at my apartment, respect that.  Don’t say, “it’s only five minutes.”  How you deal with that directive tells me how you’ll deal with other lease matters.

Making a good impression goes a long way, not just in acquiring the rental. “If a tenant has great credit and references, we may even be open to negotiation on the rent or improvements,” Inouye says.