Moving out? How to get your first flat

Your first flat. It means freedom, independence… and a break from mum and dad’s weeknight curfews. Yes, this is the opportunity to live life the way you want to, but don’t get too ahead of yourself - first you’ve got to find a flat.

You may have heard that securing a flat can be hard work - after all, you’ve never done this before, you don’t really know what to look for. Then, when you turn up to your first viewing to find a line of 50 people out the door, the feeling of intimidation grows. But don’t feel discouraged!

Follow these tips for first time flatters, and you’ll find a place in no time.

Get organised

Before you even begin looking for a flat, there are a few key questions to ask yourself.

Firstly, who you are going to live with? Chances are, you’re going to be sharing a flat with other people, usually friends or other new renters. Figure out what flatting situation is going to be best for you and start getting your crew together.

Once you’ve done that, you’ll need to find properties you can all agree on. Everybody has a different idea of what makes a good flat, but there are a few key factors that nearly everybody looks for:

  • Work. Is the flat close to where you’re going to be working? If not, what parking and travel options will you need to allow for?
  • Study. Is the flat close to uni? If not, are there transport options to get there?
  • Shopping. Where are the local shops? Are they nearby and walkable? Groceries are particularly important - think about the logistics of getting the groceries home if you don’t have a car!
  • Fun. Clubs, pubs, cinemas and gyms: everybody has to blow off steam sometimes, so think about how important it is for you to have these options close by.

Found a flat you love? Save your search so you can easily come back to it. Manage your favourite properties here.

Preparing paperwork

Once you find a place that you and your future flatmates like the look of, it’s time to sort out your application. This will involve a few pieces of documentation that can vary from property manager to property manager, but usually includes:

  • CVs from each flatmate
  • References - both personal and professional
  • A short personal statement about each tenant
  • Identification such as a passport or driver’s license
  • Any previous rental history.

But wait. What if you don’t have any work experience or prior flatting experience? Just ask friends, extended family and other people you know (preferably people with respected titles) to provide you with character references. A character reference is usually a letter (or email) from someone who can vouch for you.

You may also be asked to allow the rental company to perform a credit check and a police background check. This is fairly typical, so don’t be concerned if you’re asked. It’s all about establishing trust between yourself and the property manager.

Check the website of the specific property manager you are working with to find out what you need.

Who’s taking on the lease?

Before you start going to viewings it’s a good idea to agree who is going to be the main applicant or head tenant; that’s the person whose name gets put on the lease. This is a position of responsibility for the flat as a whole, so make sure it’s someone you trust. The benefits of being the head tenant is that you often get to pick the best room (bonus) and can call the shots when it comes to getting in new flatmates over time.

However, as the head tenant, you’re responsible for making sure the rent is paid on time - it will be on your head if it’s not paid! If you’re nervous about all the responsibility landing on you, ask the property manager if there can be multiple tenants on the lease - they’re usually more than happy to oblige.

What to do when you’re at a viewing

Now you’re ready to head to a viewing. This is your chance to get a real-life feel for the property and see if it still ticks all your boxes. Really test the details of the house - it’s not all about the size of the bedrooms and closets…

Not sure what questions to ask at a viewing? Download our checklist: Top 10 questions to ask at a rental viewing.

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Here are a few extra details that you’ll want to check out:

  • Look out for any mould or water damage
  • See how the house is heated - there should be a heating in all shared living spaces
  • Check the water pressure by turning on the showers and taps
  • Make sure all the rooms have enough power points
  • Check the home for damage (look behind any art for wall damage or under area rugs for carpet/floor damage) - if you find any damage, make sure you take a photo so you’ve got a record of it and don’t get the blame further down the track
  • Look for smoke alarms (and ask if they work)
  • Check out the neighbours - if your flat is a big group of people, make sure the neighbourhood is flat friendly. You don’t want constant complaints from families with young kids right next door.

The viewing is for you to get a feel for the flat, but also for the property manager to get a feel for you and your flatmates - so make a good impression. Say hello, shake their hand, introduce yourselves, ask questions and make conversation. It’s important to build rapport with the property manager to improve your chances of getting the flat, and to start your relationship off on the right foot.

Try not to ask questions about parties, where the closest bottle shop is or if smoking is allowed. Property managers know that students are going to occasionally be a little raucous, but asking questions like this are asking for your application to be declined.

Ready to start searching? Discover the place that’s right for you

Now comes the fun part, it’s time to start the search for your flat. There are thousands of listings waiting at realestate.co.nz. Don’t forget to filter and save your searches to efficiently manage your shortlist so you don’t miss any good ones. Good luck - and don’t forget to give mum and dad a call every now and then.

Set up your rental property search now

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