Written by Davis Nguyen
A year ago, I wrote about how my roommates and I were able to get rents that were less than half average in a newly renovated home in a safe, quiet neighborhood in San Francisco, the most expensive major city in the United States.
This month, one of our roommates is moving out and I was tasked with finding her replacement. And when you have a spare room that is below market price, people flock to you. Within the first day, we had more than 11 requesting applications, and I’d only told a handful of friends that we were looking to fill a vacancy.
Now that I am on the side to who gets to rent a place, I want to share two practices I’ve seen increase people’s odds of being offered a contract and one I wish more people did. Together these three tactics will help you secure a contract in a high demand area even if you are new to a city.
1. Do your research on the people you’ll be living with
Most people don’t know much about the people they will be living with. They are just so worried about securing a room. Doing some research upfront will set you apart. One applicant we had, found that two of us were both management consultants and asked us about tips for making the most of her first year in the field (she was also starting a job in management consulting for a different company).
As Dale Carnegie wrote in his seminal work, “You can make more friends in two months by being interested in other people than in two years of trying to get people interested in you.” With LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google you can do so much when it comes to learning about your roommates. Become interested in them.
2. Think creatively about the unique value that you bring
When interviewing, think about what can you do for the other people, not only what they can do for you. Our original roommate beat out almost 30 other applicants because she was so good at doing this. Despite being away from San Francisco when she initially interviewed, she did a convincing job telling us why we would benefit from having her as a roommate.
She offered to bring her couches cross-country so we would have a hang out area and she shared with us her irrational distaste of dirty bathrooms (meaning she would clean the bathrooms). While other parts of her application stood out, her willingness to think about how having her (or not have her) would influence our living environment brought her over the top.
Do you cook? Do you have a car? Do you have a projector? Think about what “add-on” you can offer for your roommates. By thinking about these “add-on” you’ll show you want to be part of their community.
3. Address your landlord/roommates concerns
This one I wish more people did. When people are reading applications looking for sub-lets, they have concerns: will you pay your rent on time? Will you be a positive energy in the house? Will you bring unwanted guests over?
As an applicant, if you can address these concerns, you’ve almost won them over. They aren’t impressed by what college you went to, where you work, or what talent you have if you can’t address their basic concerns.
If you take the time to put these tactics into practice during your next rental search, you’ll be miles ahead of other applicants. Go the extra mile because it is never crowded up there.
Davis (@IamDavisNguyen) graduated from Yale University in 2015. He currently lives in San Francisco and works at Bain & Company. When he’s not helping CEOs transform their companies, he is helping recent graduates figure out the type of life they want for themselves and helping them get there.