Breaking the Code — Finding Rental Housing in Santa Barbara

How to get there first, and make sure your application shines

By David Michael Wieger



Let’s say you’re looking for someplace sweet, in a great location and that fits your budget.

I’m sure you know you’re not alone.

With the rising costs of purchasing a home in paradise, the rental market has become fiercely competitive. And no matter which side of the battle you are on regarding short-term rentals (VRBO, Homeaway, Airbnb, etc.) the number of long-term rentals available is shrinking, and the “good ones” are hard to find.

But there are simple FREE things you can do to help your application rise to top of the stack.
And there are simple FREE things you can do to FIND that perfect rental you’ve been looking for.

Having been on both sides of this fence — someone searching for a rental, and now someone who both rents property of my own, and also helps people find rentals — I can tell you that you can make your job, and mine, not only easier, but more effective.

How to find out about those rentals BEFORE there is a line out the door?

  • The best way you can find new listings is through a real estate agent, like me. And here’s why: when I want to rent my home I want to feel as if there is some kind of pre-selection of my future tenant. Whether it be true or not, someone already working with a real estate agent has elevated themselves in my eyes from any Jane or Joe who comes in off the street unannounced. Email or call me, David Wieger, at davidmichaelw@mac.comcreate new email | 805-218-9794
  • Don’t pay a rental agency. It’s a waste of your time and they don’t have any kind of secret sauce, though they may be charging you as if they do.
  • Only use Craig’s list and the local paper (The Independent & News Press) as adjuncts to a more fertile way of finding leads, but not as the primary way. They just don’t get the job done.
  • Your real estate agent can send out a mass email to the 1000+ real estate agents describing you and what you’re looking for. Why not have more than 1000 people working for you….for FREE?
  • Every day your real estate agent receives countless emails regarding homes for sale, requests for clients and RENTAL PROPERTIES. Many of these rental properties are not known to the larger public (not in the newspapers and not on Craig’s list.) If you ask your real estate agent to forward you those up-to-date announcements you’ll be well ahead of the game. A note about this: for reasons I don’t understand, real estate agents in Santa Barbara who help a client secure a listing get paid $1.00. That’s right. The agent listing the rental gets paid a commission, and often a hefty commission, but the agent representing you, the renter, get’s just $1.00. I’ve helped a client rent a condo for $2300 a month, and got paid $1.00. And I’ve helped clients secure a $45,000 home for one month, and got paid the same. So, you’re asking why would I spend the time and effort in getting involved in rentals in the first place? The answers are simple, one mercenary, the other not: one day in some near or distant future you may choose to purchase a home and you’ll want me to help you. The other reason is it feels good to help. Silly, I know, but it does.

What you may already know by now:

  • You want to rent before you buy.
  • Or, you want to rent before you dream of buying.
  • Even though you show up promptly at the “brand new rental: you found on Craig’s list, there are already a stack of applications in front of you.
  • Rents are going up. And up.
  • This process should be easier and you’re getting frustrated.
  • Searching in the newspaper doesn’t work.
  • Searching on Craig’s List doesn’t work all that well either. (It CAN work if you’re looking for a low-end rentals in Santa Barbara, but generally not for the perfect one you’re looking for. (Strangely, this isn’t true in other towns like NYC, or Boston, or LA, where the newspaper and Criag’s list can be very effective.)

What I know (and you may not):

  • If you show up with the APPLICATION ALREADY FILLED OUT it shows the landlord that you’re serious, and if you’re serious you are more likely to be a delightful tenant and also pay your rent on time.
  • An application that comes with a CURRENT CREDIT REPORT shows not only that you are “on it” but that you understand that from a landlord’s perspective one’s past is often indicative of one’s future.
  • A landlord WANTS TO RENT TO YOU. They really do. And the more you can give him/her indications that you’re the right tenant the more likely they are to say: “Yes, I would love for you to rent my home/condo/ apartment.”
  • HOW YOU PRESENT YOURSELF MATTERS. It really does. I’m sorry to say that, but it’s true. Remember, at the end of the day, there are a 2 stack of applications in front of this landlord. Every little clue as to who you are is an indication as to how you will be as a tenant. How you show up — your eye-contact, the clothes you wear, the friends you bring with you (if you should bring a friend), the car you drive up in, the excitement you bring to “your new home.” All of it matters.
  • You may think of the home/apartment as empty rooms, a blank slate, if you will, but try, instead, to see it from your landlord’s eyes — sure, it may just be an investment, but more often than not, that “investment” was invested with heart and soul, perhaps even packed with wonderful memories. SHARE YOUR APPRECIATION, but, of course, only if your appreciation is truly authentic.
  • BEAUTY MATTERS. Leave behind a few photographs of your style — your artwork and the furniture you’ll be moving in with. In other words, show your future landlord the lifestyle that will be filling her/his home. I know this may sound silly to some. I mean, what difference does it make which couch I park in her/his living room? Perhaps not at all, but I had a tenant show up with a portfolio of her interior design business and I was so impressed, not only with her taste, but with the attention to detail she bestowed on her environment, that I said yes immediately. I mean, show me a landlord who doesn’t want to have a tenant who cares deeply about the environment he/she lives in, and I’ll show you a slumlord.
  • SHARE YOUR LOVE OF THE NEIGHBORHOOD. There are three things a landlord appreciates above all things: 1) caring for the home they are renting you 2) paying your rent on time and 3) appreciating, or caring, for the neighborhood. Your ability to do these things matter. A simple: “I love shopping at Lazy Acres, or having breakfast at the Pharmacy” can go a long way. Remember, every piece of evidence about you that says “I care” makes your landlord feel at ease. And when he/she is at ease, you’re in.

So, if you’d like me to feel good, and if you’d enjoy help in finding a rental, or a home to purchase, please feel free to contact me and I’ll see what I can do to help.

davidmichaelw@mac.comcreate new email

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