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On The Hunt: Applications that Move You the Front

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At this very moment, Curbed's very own Abby Pontzer is on the hunt for an apartment in San Francisco. As any current apartment-seeking SFian knows, it's more difficult than ever to score a lease in the city right now. We're giving her a space here on Curbed to share her stories of hope, failure and useful information to help guide you along the path of San Francisco's rental scene. Have a hot tip or question for Abby? Feel free to drop her a line.

[Image via Shutterstock]

We've already talked about what to look for in your ideal rental and how to look for rentals in a way that won't drive you crazy, so now let's talk about actually applying to apartments.

Before you even go to an open house or listing appointment (which we'll talk about later this week), you need to get your act together. I hate the stress of trying to fill out applications on the spot, so I put together a rental packet. Here's what it included:
A cover letter. I introduced us a little bit - how long we have lived in the city (lucky for me the boyfriend is a native), when we are looking to move, contact information, and other prominent details you want to bring up with your potential landlord. Sure, they make take notes at an open house, but this way they know, for example, that you can move in ASAP. One commenter suggested adding a picture, which I think is a fantastic idea, and will help them remember how charming and responsible-looking you were. If you have pets, this would be the time to showcase their cuteness!

A standard rental application. You're basically looking for a few standard pieces of information: rental history, current landlord contact information, income levels, place of employment. The landlord may ask you to fill out his or her application, but at least you'll have all your information typed and ready to go if you need to transcribe.

A pet resume. This was not something I had to worry about, but it is certainly worth being proactive if you've got a furry friend making the move with you. Include things like vet contact information, dates of obedience training, and even contact information from prior neighbors (if they are willing) to vouch for the fact that Fido is not a nuisance. And pictures! More pictures of your pet looking adorable always help.

Income verification. For me, this was my two most recent paycheck stubs, and for my boyfriend, this was his offer letter for his new job.

Credit reports and scores: While some landlords will still want to run their own reports, it's good for you to know your own credit score and be able to tell them with confidence that you're a low-risk renter. These reports are very long, so as long as your credit is good, you can probably get away with only including the first few pages (with the score and high level information on accounts) so you aren't handing them a stack of 50 pages.

One more thing to keep in mind is to try to bundle this all together in PDF form in case the landlord doesn't want paper copies, or if you want to avoid printer things unnecessarily.

As an aside, the most ridiculous application I've seen this time around asked for account numbers and three months of statements for every financial account. I personally think it's preposterous to ask for actual account numbers for all your financial institutions, and I've never had someone challenge me on this. It's worth noting that this was the same couple who called me and and tried to get me to pay more money for the apartment by telling me that others had offered more, and when I declined they reposted the apartment at the higher price. So much for the other bidders - greedy greedy.

Later this week we'll cover what to do (and not!) at an open house or listing appointment. Until then, what other pieces of information would you include in your application packet? What's the most absurd thing you've ever seen asked?
· On the Hunt: How To Prepare Yourself For the Perfect Rental [CurbedSF]
· On The Hunt: How to Organize your Rental Search and Avoid Information Overload [CurbedSF]
· Generic Rental Application [RentLaw]