You glance right, then left. Next your eyes focus on the defender in front of you as your feet dance around him. You dribble the ball another five feet, stop, turn on a dime. Moving past the next defender, you look at the clock and notice the time — five seconds, fourth quarter.

Quickly you feed the ball to your teammate who takes a step and passes it back to you. In position to score, you take one last glance at the clock which reveals two seconds left to play. It all comes down to this moment, the crowd’s cheers fall on deaf ears and for a moment everything on the field slows to a stop.

Focused like an eagle on its prey, you take one last step and shoot at the goal. Just as the ball touches the tips of the keeper’s fingers, you see him fall back past the goal line. The referee blows the whistle.

The end game bell sounds, the goal is good and you have just won the game for your team. You have beaten your competition with skill and finesse.

This soccer game example emulates life; you are always struggling to be better than your competition. When renting an apartment you are competing against other perspective tenants. The best way to beat your competition while apartment hunting is to be prepared with four important criteria: credit, deposit, references and a job.

I will start at the beginning. If you are renting an apartment, you are going to have to fill out a rental application. On that application the property owner is going to ask for basic information such as your name, current income, and at the bottom, there is going to be a section that authorizes them to pull your credit.

Some credit blemishes are worth explaining. Most people understand that there are times in life when things go awry. A problem such as not making your car payment on time because you went out of town to take care of a sick family member is justifiable.

Life happens and most people understand that, however, what an owner does not want to see is multiple problems over and over again on the credit report. If you are consistently making late payments, you will most likely be consistently late paying rent. At least that is what the owner will think.

Moving is not easy, it costs a lot of money and takes a lot of time. I remember the hardest thing to get together on my first apartment was the security deposit. A security or rental deposit is usually a lump some of money that equates to two months worth of rent, however, sometimes renters will find move in specials that have low deposits. The reason rental deposits are needed is simple: collateral. Property owners need some kind of collateral to protect themselves from damages to an apartment. As much as rental deposits are a pain to get together, they are important.

So you have good credit — or a way of explaining any derogatory credit items — and a security deposit, now you need some references. Obviously, if this is not your first apartment, the former property manager is one of the best references you can furnish, as they will tell the new owner if you pay on time and are a credible tenant.

If you meet the criteria for renting thus far, you are almost home free. One of the last important criteria to meet is whether or not you have a steady source of income.

A permanent job is helpful, but not necessary. What is necessary is proof of income. If you own a small business and are paid sporadically, there is no reason why you should not qualify for an apartment. You just need to show that you are paid “x” amount of money over “x” amount of time. Usually this means the owner will have to average out the amount of money you make, but this is a simple calculation. What is important is making enough money to cover the rent. Owners know that people need money to live. Furthermore, they are aware that the government takes a percentage of your gross income, as do car payments, groceries and other living expenses, which is why they want tenants to make an income that is three times the actual rent.

If you clear the hurdles for renting which include good credit, a security deposit, references and a job you will probably have no problem renting an apartment.

Mike Heayn is a Commercial Loan Consultant, specializing in Multi-Family Lending. He can be reached at (310) 428-1342 or e-mailed at maheayn@yahoo.com.

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