Kimberly Wingfield: Philly Real Estate Agent
Kimberly Wingfield

What To Have – And What To Do – When Searching For A Rental Unit

The rental market here in Philly is fairly robust, but there’s quite a bit of misinformation out there. Much like buying a home, there are some basic things that any prospective renters should be aware of before making any inquiries.

First of all, please note that not all properties are (or need to be) on the MLS. Unlike buying and selling, Realtors aren’t necessary to most rental transactions; our services are usually retained as a convenience to the landlord or management company in these cases. For instance, many landlords are perfectly happy to put up an ad for their rentals on Craigslist or similar services – and they require no help to show their property to prospective tenants.

Generally, the number of rentals listed with the MLS (and therefore able to be shown by Realtors,) compared to Craigslist and other open classified sites are relatively small, so please be aware that a Realtor probably isn’t holding out on you when they send you a short list of available properties that match your criteria. Again, we can only really send out information on properties that other Realtors have listed with the MLS; we’re not guaranteed to get paid otherwise.

Now that you know why Craigslist, etc. seems to have so many more rentals than Realtors have been able to suggest to you, there are some things that you need to know about in advance – and be forthcoming and truthful about – when working with a Realtor.

First, determine your overall monthly budget, number of bedrooms needed, and whether or not you need a pet-friendly unit. (Philly’s a pretty pet-friendly town overall, which is great!) If you have been approved for Section 8/Housing Choice Vouchers, please note that in the beginning as well. The number of HCV-approved units on the MLS is usually fairly small, so please bear that in mind.

Next, go to and check your credit score for free. (Checking your own score won’t hurt it at all.) The vast majority of landlords/management companies want to see a bare minimum credit score of 600, so please check your score before looking. If your score is lower than 600 – especially if there are any judgments or evictions on your record – it’s very unlikely that you’ll be approved for most rentals. This is especially important before wasting time showing properties and paying non-refundable application fees.

If your score is lower than you think it ought to be, check out (again, totally free and legitimate,) to see exactly what the major credit bureaus are reporting. If there are any errors, dispute them and have them cleared off your record as soon as possible in order to boost your score. If your credit is poor and you need help fixing it, contact a legitimate, non-profit credit counseling service for help. A good credit counselor should offer their services for free or for a very low cost.

Remember, never, ever give someone money to “fix” your credit for you, forward your payments to creditors, or to remove negative marks from your report. A legitimate credit counseling service will advise you on what you need to do in order to raise your score – not claim to be able to handle the bad stuff on your behalf.

Once you’re confident that your credit situation is squared away, make copies of your two most recent pay stubs. (Scanning and uploading them to a digital file is great for this; it’s far easier to just email your proof of income to anyone who needs it in most cases.) You also may need a bank statement (or screenshot of your bank statement online) showing proof of funds to move in. If you’re not sure how to take a screenshot, this link tells you exactly how to do so for free on just about every kind of common web-enabled device out there.

Finally, there’s usually an application. While some places have their own specific application form to fill out, most Realtors in PA just use this standard form. Feel free to take a look at it in order to determine what you’ll need to know, and a good Realtor should be able to answer any questions you may have. If there are any application fees, please ask your Realtor what they are and how they should be paid – check, money order, etc.

So to recap, you’ll need the following things before searching for a rental:

  • Copies of two recent paystubs (30-45 days old.)
  • Copy/screenshot of a bank statement (less than 30 days old) showing proof of funds.
  • Knowledge of your credit score
  • Application fees. (Usually $30-$45 per property; almost never refundable.)

Once you have these things, make sure that you know what you want and are ready to put in an application within 24 hours of viewing a property. Rentals at a good price in desirable areas don’t usually stay on the market for long, and there’s always a very good chance that someone who had all of the above materials available and prepared will beat you out if you drag your feet!

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About Kimberly Wingfield

Picture of Kimberly Wingfield

Kimberly Wingfield

Real Estate Agent

267-530-5641267-530-5641 main

Virtual Realty Group

1418 Robinson Rd, Havertown, PA 19083


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