YORBA LINDA (CBSLA.com)  —  The rental market is almost as hot as the weather. At least the weather shows signs of cooling down.

The rental market is so hot in Orange County, bidding wars for apartments has become the norm.

If you’ve given up on the idea of buying a house in pricey Southern California, finding a rental property is becoming just as competitive.

CBS2’s Laurie Perez was in Orange County Sunday where experts said renters looking to move any time soon should gird themselves for battle.

If you thought the biggest hurdle to living in the OC was home prices — think again.

Realtors and property managers told Perez that renting in Orange County has never been more difficult.

“It’s very competitive, bad for renters, great for landlords,” said realtor Ethan Lanagan.

He says not only are rents climbing people are willing to pay — and pay more to out-rent the competition. The biggest weapon in the game, he says, is cash and that isn’t always enough.

He had a client who was willing to pay 12 months of rent, upfront, in advance.

“They didn’t get the rental,” he says.

According to Nicholas Dunlap, president of the Apartment Association of Orange County, there are a few factors causing the increase in competition.

High home prices mean people are still renting. And as we come out of the great recession and foreclosure crisis, it often means multi-family households are breaking apart, creating more rental demand.

Lanagan says he’s seen clients willing to pay hundreds of dollars more per month than the price the landlord is asking for just to get in.

Lanagan says there are other ways to be noticed.

“Write a letter, make yourself stand out,” he said.

Letters, money, emotions — but realtors say the bottom line is most important. In the end, credit wins out.

According to the Apartment Association of Orange County, the vacancy rate for rentals stands at just three percent with no signs of it expanding or the bidding war ending.

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