Caught between skyrocketing home prices and low housing inventory, North Texans are finding it hard to rent a piece of the American dream – aka a house.

“The market is crazy right now,” Realtor Kyle Paris of Keller Williams Realty Plano tells Local Profile.

As of March, the median price of a home in Collin County has jumped almost 40% from last year, according to a report from the MetroTex Association of Realtors. And Zillow says rents in the Dallas-Fort Worth region have risen 18.2% since 2021 to a median rental price of $1,709.

“The nuts and bolts of this is that the inventory for houses for rent is just as limited as the inventory of houses for sale,” says Robyn Price, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Realty. “Because the bottom line is we have more people moving here every day – and we have had for years – than we have housing inventory.”

But don’t let this reality check stop you from tracking down your ideal rental house. Here are some tips from real estate pros in North Texas.

DON’T START TOO EARLY

We know: You’re excited to begin the hunt. Take a breath and figure out exactly when you can graduate from passively daydreaming over online listings to actively pursuing your dream abode. Start with your move-in date and work back from there. 

By all means, start looking as early as you like. Online or on the street, this is the time for you to discover the optimal neighborhoods that match all your desires and requirements. But when it comes down to contacting landlords and touring properties, anything earlier than three months before your move-in date is probably a waste of time. 

Even two months out is too early for Kyle Paris, who advises his clients to hold fire on the active search for a house rental until they get closer to thirty days from moving in. “Any more than that we’re just going to be kind of kicking tires instead of seriously looking for properties they may be able to lease,” he says. “A landlord doesn’t want a property to sit vacant for longer than is necessary.”

YOU SNOOZE, YOU LOSE

In a hot market with limited inventory and a surplus of competition, know what you want and be ready to pounce when decision time arrives. 

“When you see something that you like, you have to move on it,” says Price.

Plano-based Realtor Nita Advani of The Advani Realty Group with Compass urges her rental clients to contact the listing agent if they find a solid option with the right location, good schools, nearby parks, or a respectable backyard.

But as long as you’ve locked down your criteria, then a little flexibility can also help you pull the trigger. “If you’re wanting a five bedroom, maybe you can do a four bedroom with an office and maybe turn that office into a bedroom,” Advani suggests. 

And Advani reminds wannabe house renters that settling for a more mature home can be a creative opportunity. “Be okay renting an older home if the location works for you,” she says. “Because you can always make it your own.” 

Be prepared. Be flexible. Above all, be fast. 

“In this market, if you’re slow it’s going to kill you,” warns Kyle Paris. “It’s a death sentence.”

DO THE APPLICATION AHEAD OF TIME

The renter’s application is the code you have to crack. 

“If you look at a property and you like it,” says Paris. “You’ve got to be ready to submit your application right away.”

You can find a sample of a Texas-friendly application online or simply ask a realtor for a blank form. “I give all my clients a blank application, and I say, ‘Hey, I need you to fill this out,'” says Paris. 

The blank application is your template for gathering the key data points you need to fill out quickly when you get the real deal from a property owner or their listing agent. Round up the required pay stubs, previous addresses, pet pictures and contact info for previous landlords.

“Let your landlord know that somebody is going to be calling for a reference,” suggests Robyn Price. “Because all too often landlords don’t respond to these requests.”

KNOW THE SCORE

And then there’s the yucky part of the application process: the credit check. 

“Anything that might come up in a credit inquiry that might be negative we want to get ahead of,” says Kyle Paris. 

If your credit stinks, you may have to sweeten your offer. Nita Advani recalls a family where all the applicants had poor credit. “They offered a year upfront and the landlord took it,” she says. 

“You may not have the credit, but you have the cash.”

GO BIG OR GO … WITHOUT

We’ve heard the tall tales of bidding wars for homes that people want to buy. If you have the financial wherewithal, you can start a bidding war of your own for the house you want to rent. 

“You know how home buyers are offering over list price? Renters can do the same thing,” says Price. 

Nita Advani suggests you raise your rent offer to get a landlord’s attention. “If it’s in the best location, if it’s giving you the school your kids want to go to, if it fits every other criteria,” she says. “Call the listing agent immediately and say, ‘I’m willing to pay you a hundred dollars more’ to lock it in.” 

And paying more rent isn’t necessarily going to be the kind of financial burden that a humongous sale price would be. “If you’re a tenant and you’re looking to rent, paying a hundred dollars a month is a lot less stressful than a buyer who’s paying twenty, thirty, two-hundred-thousand over list price,” says Advani.

“If you can afford 2,100, chances are you can afford 2,200.”

Another way to flash some cash is to pay off a big chunk of your lease when you sign.

“People will say, ‘I’ll pay three months, six months, a year in advance,’ says Advani. “I know that’s a lot of money to have upfront. But sometimes that’s what it takes.”

BEWARE OF FAKES AND SCAMMERS

As you’re looking online for house rentals, especially if you’re searching from out of town, watch out for fake listings. Realtor Robyn Price fielded a call from someone out of state inquiring about an Apartments.com rental listing for a house in North Dallas. The only problem was that Price had closed a sale of that house only days before. 

“That’s a property that I sold,” she says. “It’s not for lease.” 

Plano realtor Kyle Paris agrees there’s a lot of bad info on many real estate apps and online listing services. “You know that old saying ‘if it’s too good to be true, it probably is’?” 

The fraudsters are eyeing your checkbook. “They’re either trying to get application fees out of people or seeing if they can take it so far as to get a deposit out of them,” says Price. 

Of course, the overwhelming majority of house rental listings are perfectly legit. But you still might have to solve the mystery of simply getting property owners or their reps to call you back. 

“If you have a hard time getting in touch with somebody to even schedule a showing, cross it off your list,” says Paris. “Because if it’s hard to get in touch with somebody to give them money potentially on a monthly basis to rent a property, then how hard is it going to be to get a hold of them if you need something done?” 

“Be super-cautious,” he adds. 

Nita Advani agrees, saying, “How a landlord or property manager deals with you initially is definitely a key factor in how they’re going to deal with you later on.”

GO OLD SCHOOL

Sometimes it comes down to time-honored methods like keeping your eyes peeled for rental signs or spreading the word to family, friends and coworkers that you are on the hunt for a house to rent.

“In a market with as little inventory as we have, nothing is off limits,” says Price. “You need to look any place you can.” 

With a little luck, you might find a heavenly home before it hits the listings. 

“Some people just don’t want to mess with putting a house on the market,” says Price. “If they can find somebody who is a qualified applicant, they don’t want to mess with answering a hundred phone calls. They’ll just take the path of least resistance.” 

USE A REAL ESTATE PRO

With all this advice from realtors, you might wonder: Should I seek the help of a bona fide real estate professional? You won’t be surprised to learn that realtors think you should. 

“If you have a real estate need, I’m a real estate professional, and I want to help you,” says Kyle Paris. 

A realtor is especially useful if you’re searching from out of town. “Usually people know an area in which they want to live,” says Robyn Price. “I think it’s beneficial to work with someone who knows that area and who works in that area.” 

And more often than not, enlisting a realtor won’t cost you anything. They usually earn a finder’s fee in the amount of the first month’s rent. 

But it’s still very much a DIY experience. 

“To increase your chances, it’s best to work with someone,” says Price. “But keep looking on your own as well.” 

Think of them as matchmakers in your quest to find a place to live that’s also a place you can love. Says Nita Advani, “It’s like marrying two people who have to be perfect for each other.”