You’ve found the area you want to live in and even managed to narrow your search to a couple of house. But now you have to secure a lease. Here are five important tips for securing a lease in LA.
As expats you may know–and understand–each country has its idiosyncrasies when it comes to credit and finance. The US can be a tough market if you don’t know what you’re doing and if you don’t have established credit.
1. Secure a good agent–preferably one that understands expats
There are lots of agents in LA; not all of them good, not all of them bad. Securing an agent is a whole topic in itself but you need to find an agent that understands you, your family and your needs. That’s why I recommend asking someone for recommendations then secure one with whom you have a good relationship.
There are so many houses in LA and not all of them good. You could spend a lot of time looking at places that remind you of your uni days (like we did) so choose wisely.
Why am I telling you all this?
Because your situation is going to be a little out of left-field (even for LA) so you need to make sure your agent is not only good, but is on your side. Find someone that’s persuasive and affable. At the end of the day they need to go into bat for you–to convince your future landlord that you’re going to be a fantastic person/family to rent to.
My agent, Caroline Fleck from Caroline Fleck Real Estate, tells the story of how one agent got aggressive with her because her client didn’t accept a tenancy for her clients. “The last thing you want is an agent who is going to argue with her fellow agent. She should have sold her clients to me to take back to my client–that’s what I’d do.”
Subscriber Adam Halen who thanked me very much for my site as it helped him with decisions to move his family to LA says the same thing.
“Kate Sutton, our agent, ultimately had to “vouch” for us as solid, trustworthy and a credit-worthy family. Having someone go in to bat for you, as an agent, has credibility and professionalism to it.”
2. Be ready with the cash–and lots of it!
There’s no escaping this one. At least there’s rarely any escaping this.
You’ll need three months’ deposit upfront. Rent is not always cheap in LA so that can be a lot of cash upfront.
Remember, Americans rely on that stupid credit rating to help them work out if you’re a worthy tenant of not. If you don’t have a credit history in the US show them what you’re like in your home country. Show them you have the means to pay the rent so they’re not stuck with a mortgage without the rent coming in from you to pay it.
3. Have lots of supporting documents available
On top of the huge deposit you may also have to show an American bank account with plenty of money in it (enough to carry you through for a number of months). Sometimes landlords accept this in lieu of the deposit. Even in our case with an amazing landlord they wanted the cash upfront.
You may also be able to show that you have decent funds that you can call on from your home country if you need to.
Another thing that can help your case is a letter from your employer showing that you’re coming to LA with a secured job and they’ll vouch for you. This can’t hurt so ask your employer if they’ll vouch for you IN WRITING and if you can get it, provide it–even before they ask.
The bottom line is you won’t have much credit so you need to show as much financial info as possible–just give it all to them: pay stubs, tax returns, financial statements, references, a letter from your business manager, whatever it takes.
Remember, in the US everything revolves around that stupid credit rating so if you don’t have one yet you’ve got to show that you’re worth taking a chance on.
Caroline Fleck says, “Be open, honest & upfront. The more you show the more likely they are to have faith in you.”
4. Write a letter
Personalise your application by writing a letter to your potential landlord. Add a photo of your family.
Ask to meet the landlord in person. Even if they’re not up for it it shows that you’re all in.
When we applied I wrote to the Landlord saying we loved the house and could picture ourselves at home in it. I said that we rented out our houses at home in Australia so we know what it’s like to entrust your home to strangers.
If you are from overseas you won’t have a credit history. Tell them why and what your credit is like back home. You want them to trust that you are good for the rent and you won’t leave them with a mortgage to pay and no rent coming in to pay it.
When we met our landlord he said he was so grateful for that letter and was very happy to receive it and approve our application on the back of it.
It can work!
5. Clean up your social media
Adam Halen also recommends cleaning up your social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn etc). Sometimes you forget that you put your life out for everyone so make sure it says you and your family are amazing and will be great tenants. Yes, that might mean taking down the photos of your wild going away party back at your house!
A couple of extra things
Consider furnished versus unfurnished. Furnished houses cost more but some people like to furnish houses with their excess furniture. It could also help you if you don’t want to ship all your furniture over here. And you may need furniture while your stuff makes its way over.
If you’re furnishing the house yourself there are plenty of rental companies to get you through the three months until your furniture to arrive.
During the hunt
Look up properties not selling and ask them if they’re interested in renting for 6-12 months.
With a lease you really need to work 2-3 weeks out, sometimes a month. Much longer than that might not work. Do sus out market before hand but it’s highly likely that house you’ve fallen in love with won’t be available in three month’s time. So either don’t fall in love or be prepared to secure it earlier than you first though.
We ended up doing just that–with not much on the market we were happy to find a house that we’d be happy to live in for a while.
Remember! You almost always end up staying longer than you think. We ended up staying two years rather than one.
Either way good luck. It’s a real nightmare when you first come. It will get easier I promise you!
xx It Started in LA xx
PS: Need help narrowing down an area to live in LA? Check out this post.