When I recently pounced on a rent-stabilized alcove-studio apartment in a doorman building (did I mentioned that it has a dishwasher too?!), my application was not exactly the only one submitted.
My broker outlined in great detail how hard it would be to land a rent stabilized unit of this caliber even with my near-perfect credit and other credentials. But then he offered what turned out to be a deal-clinching tip: Offer to take the apartment "as is."
More on that strategy below, along with other off-the-beaten-path ways to help you secure the rental of your dreams....
1. Offer to take the apartment "as is" and take over the lease right away
Provided the apartment is not a complete wreck, let the broker know to highlight that you'll take the apartment 'as is'--without being cleaned or painted--when your application is submitted, says real estate agent Mark Danich of BOND New York.
"It gives you a better shot at standing out and landing an apartment when there are multiple bids--especially the case for an under-market rent stabilized deal which is rare and extremely difficult to find," he says.
In my case, the building agreed to paint anyway. They also gave me the contact number of the person who sands their floors and he sanded and polyurethaned the floors for a very reasonable fee of $400.
2. Be proactive -- and put a lot of money down if you can
If you can, offer to put more than the required amount of money down--several months' to even a full year's worth of rent, says real estate agent Adina Azarian of Adina Equities.
(Note: This won't work in a rent-regulated building, where putting up extra months' rent is legally prohibited.)
Adina also tells renters to "be proactive and actually ask the landlord or the landlord's agent, 'What would it take to get the place?' Usually, a landlord will like the sincerity and interest and tell you exactly what they want."
In the case of a co-op sublet, suggesting you may want to buy after renting may be an incentive to the owner, Azarian says.
And in the case of a condo, a tenant who explains that they're open to the owner's specific needs--like showing an apartment while still occupied to other investors or setting up a long lease--is probably going to get put on the top of the list.
3. Offer incentives -- but don't get too extravagant
"I've had prospective tenants offer to replace the kitchen appliances with new ones, offer custom suits to the owner, offer to sweep and clean the lobby and front of the building twice a week, offer up gift certificates to restaurants, a free cruise around the city in a sail boat and free gym memberships," says real estate agent Gary Posylkin of Miron Properties.
These types of incentives tend to work better in smaller buildings with small landlords than in large ones, Posylkin says.
"Can it work? It's rare but I've seen it happen. Will most landlords entertain these things? No," he says.
4. Don't be afraid to get personal
Add a personal touch when putting in an application, even when it comes to rentals, says real estate agent Holly Sose of City Connections Realty.
"I always write a bio about my customer," says Sose. "Something short but detailed about what they do, what their interests and hobbies are and what charities they're involved with. I think it gives a human and warm feeling to the rather dry application process."
Sose says she'll do this no matter how big or small the building is.
"At some point, a human being is going to review that application and in a tight and competitive market, I like to make sure that my customer's application presents itself as the clear winner every time," she says.