When it comes to finding the best tenants, it’s all about probability. If 100% of the applicants responding are good prospects, then the tenancy will be a success. If 100% are bad, that will guarantee failure. The less you are exposed to bad applicants, the less likely you are to rent to one. Improve your odds of attracting the right renter pool by employing these strategies:
1. Address your reputation.
Online comments, ratings, and reviews matter to the bulk of apartment seekers. If you manage multiple properties or have frequent vacancies, this online presence will make or break your business. Even small landlord businesses can fall victim to inflammatory comments that will scare away the best tenants. Be aware of what people are saying online.
If negative comments have been published, be careful to respond professionally and not argue, intimidate, or insult the person who complained. Prospective tenants are paying close attention to how you handle the situation.
For instance, if a complaint is raised by an existing tenant, respond by agreeing: “You are right. It is unacceptable that you had a mouse in your unit. This is not the standard of management that we strive to provide. Contact us immediately and we will make certain this problem is resolved to your satisfaction. Thank you for bringing this to our attention.” The wrong response: “Hi Tom Johnson in Unit C. Yes, I know this is you. Like I told you, it is your responsibility to fix this problem. This wouldn’t happen if you would clean your apartment once in awhile.”
To the extent that comments you receive are demonstrably false, it may be possible to contact the platform and have the comment removed, edited, or to add a notation.
2. Build a network of referrals.
Referrals from tenants are the best way to fill a vacancy. If your best tenants recommend their contacts, it is likely this is someone who has seen the unit and is eager to move in. Other benefits include:
Higher tenant retention if the prospect knows others who live nearby or has a connection to the area;
There is no need to use a yard sign where passersby might disturb tenants; and,
This greatly reduces the risk of a problem tenant targeting the property.
Some landlords are so good at this that they have a wait-list and do not need to advertise.
While some landlords offer incentives to tenants who make referrals, the best strategy is to earn referrals authentically simply by providing a level of service that encourages others to recommend the property.
3. Keep it local.
The beauty of a yard sign is appealing to applicants already familiar with the area — someone who walks by regularly, drives down that street after work, or comes by to visits friends. The problem tenant who lives in another town is unlikely to stumble upon the listing.
Of course, a yard sign is only effective if the property looks good from the street, and the sign itself is shiny and new. Anything less sends a message that the landlord is apathetic or inexperienced, and that will attract the wrong applicants.
Yard signs have drawbacks like enticing applicants to knock on the current tenant’s door or flagging a vacant house. But those problems can be overcome by posting “By Appointment Only” or staging the property to look lived-in.
The same benefits apply to posting ads locally. However, take care when deciding where to place these notices. Look for venues widely available to the public, and avoid posting in places that require membership, like a private club or a particular church.
4. Understand the pitfalls of social media/online listings.
Online listings cast a wide net and unless you narrow down the specifics of the property, you’ll be exhausted answering basic questions before you even begin to screen the best prospect. These listings may be viewed by people all over the area, the country, and internationally. The applicant may have no reason to be renting in the area, so be careful that you are not dealing with a problem tenant.
Social media platforms allow a more targeted approach with regard to who sees the ad. But these conversational, informal platforms appear to encourage bad practices, like attempting to find a specific type of tenant. All that accomplishes is writing a script for a scammer.
In one example, the landlord wanted an applicant with a professional job downtown. She got someone claiming to be a doctor who just returned from a three-year stint in a remote village overseas — something difficult to verify. Another landlord wanted someone who worked at a local business. She got that — along with a fake employment reference. Both tenants moved in. Neither paid rent.
Don’t narrow the focus of the ad by describing the prospective tenant. Instead, describe the property — location, size, price, and house rules including tenant background check — and allow unqualified tenants to disqualify themselves.
5. Don’t be overzealous with the rent.
Tenants need to respect a landlord’s rules and the tenancy agreement. Strategically, it is a bad idea to go into a lease negotiation with a new tenant by immediately making concessions on the rent, which is what will happen if the rent is set too high initially. The risk is that the tenant later will try to coax out more concessions or lose respect and start paying late or breaking other rules.
Bad tenants are not planning on paying rent, so the amount doesn’t matter. If the rent is too high, there is less competition from qualified renters.
Choose a rent amount that is at or slightly below market, and great tenants will line up for the deal. Go too high, and you increase the number of unqualified applicants — and the probability of renting to one.
This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).
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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.