Budgets are tight and finding the right rental home is becoming increasingly hard, which means often times potential tenants have to make quick-fire decisions about the properties they view - or run the risk of losing out to another tenant. But how do you make those decisions without regretting it later?

In the ideal situation, tenants would be able to view several properties with time to make comparisons, find out about the different locations and visit at different times of the day or over a weekend to check on traffic, security, and noise levels.

So with limited time what do you do? The answer lies with the simple checklist. 

Drawing up a checklist of features you are looking for in a rental property is going to help you decide much quicker - and with the help of virtual tours and video tours available, you can narrow it down even more. By doing this you will have maybe two or three properties that you really like and if you go to view them in person, you will have an immediate answer to which one you like the most. 

Things that could go on your checklist and should be considered essential are location, security, parking, access to public transport and main routes, sufficient space, pre-paid metering and the condition of the building or complex. In a sectional title complex, it is also vital that you check the rules and that you are fully aware of any regulations that might impact you. 

If you are looking at a block of flats you should add things like lift access, storage rooms, laundry facilities and other amenities.

Keep in mind though that there might not be a perfect rental property that checks everything single thing on your list. It is therefore important that you make a list of things you cannot compromise on and things that would be a bonus - like whether or not a property has a pool.

Check on the condition of a property and the surrounding areas - a well-kept home in a run-down area might not be the best choice. You should be on the look-out for homes that are spotlessly clean and neat even if the flooring or the fittings like kitchen and bedroom cupboards are not new. This shows that the landlord cares about the property and is likely to attend to any maintenance or repair issues without delay.

Traffic volumes or noise levels might also be a consideration, especially if you are looking for a flat close to work or a place of study. You may not be able to avoid overlooking a busy road, but flats close to late-night entertainment venues, freeways, and public transport hubs should not be your first choice if you value your sleep.

In a sectional title scheme, you should also check on the general appearance of the buildings, lobbies, hallways and gardens and the functioning of the lift if there is one. A flat with a fabulous view may soon seem like a bad choice if you frequently have to climb several floors of stairs with your bike or your groceries.”

The third essential on your list should be security. You really must take the time to check whether the home itself has burglar bars, security gates on the doors, and an alarm system. In a complex, you also need to check for electronic gates and doors, safe parking, good lighting and perimeter security measures such as electric fencing – and observe whether the other residents take care to maintain security.

And finally, you should enquire about fibre internet connections, especially if you often work from home, as these offer significant benefits in terms of network speeds and communication and entertainment options.

When you ready to commit, you must ensure that you sign a proper lease that clearly spells out all the obligations of the landlord as well as the tenant with regard to the rental and when it is due, the duration of the contract and any penalties for early cancellation and property maintenance.

Usually the first month’s rental, a deposit equivalent to a month’s rental and lease administration fees will need to be paid upfront, so it is important to have these funds immediately available.