New landlords often feel overwhelmed when they get into the rental property business. Buying your first property might seem like a challenge at the time but it’s a cake walk when you start to delve in to what it takes to manage that property. From preparing your property, getting your forms together, doing market comparables to set the rent, advertising, putting your filing system together, setting up your accounting and just generally reading up on all there is to know – it’s a lot of information! Ultimately though, the most important part of property management is finding the right tenants. If you are successful in this step, the rest of your journey will fall into place.
Tenants mean the difference between a positive, profitable experience and a negative, costly experience. Having a system in place to do proper tenant screening will help you find those gems that will pay their rent on time and take great care of your property. Here are some tips to help you become a better screener in order to attract a better grade of tenant:
Write a great, detailed ad. It all starts here as this is the first thing a prospective tenant will see when looking for a property. For example, if you don’t want pets or smokers, this is a great starting place to weed them out. You can also paint a good description of the type of tenants you are looking for by the types of amenities you describe. If you want a family you can talk about buses, schools and parks. If you want older tenants with no kids you can describe a more senior living area. The more descriptive you are, the easier it is to hone in on your ideal tenants.
Have a list of screening questions. After people have read your ad and decided they fit the bill and are interested, have a list of screening questions ready when they call. For example, how long have they been at their current place? Why do they want to move? Have they given notice? How many people will be living with them? These are just a start and there are plenty more you can ask but these questions will arm you with more information and make your decisions easier as you set up viewings to see your property.
Use customized forms. During the tenant screening process, the most important form in your repertoire is the Application Form. Don’t use generic forms that you find online, use a custom form that asks about employment history, rental history, and allows you to perform criminal and credit checks. If you have a prospective tenant that you want to consider renting to, get them to fill out this form in it’s entirety.
Do your checks! Sure they’ve filled out the Application form for you but the next step is the most important. Call their old landlords, verify that they have a job, do a credit check and do a criminal record check. Do these checks EVERY TIME on EVERY PERSON that you want to rent to. Looks and first impressions can be deceiving so stick to your system and you will greatly increase your chances of finding a good, honest tenant.
Thorough tenant screening isn’t always foolproof but it greatly increases your chances of finding stellar tenants. Experience helps this process as well and the more tenants you meet and interview, the easier it becomes and the stronger your radar is. Remember – stick to your system and don’t skip any steps. To your success!
Ashley Halligan, a rental property analyst, recently wrote an article outlining unique curb appeal strategies for rental property owners. She interviewed Jared Meadors, who owns Medusa Properties, a niche-rental company based in Houston, who provided his secrets to attracting quality renters and retaining them–even with slightly higher rents.
His strategies include adding era-specific architectural touches that are eye-catching and offer a sense of authentic age to a property. He also emphasizes fencing from a creative perspective–using reclaimed materials, incorporating private nooks and buffers between the tenant’s front door and the street. Lastly, Meadors chooses low-maintenance, unique foliage that’s often built from his unique fencing measures, offering extra color, little necessary oversight and a way to stand out amongst neighbors.
Though there is a slightly higher up front investment, Meadors (who’s strategies have proven successful), demonstrates that the return compensates for the investment in short time. His tenants are happier, remain longer and have a slightly higher than average rent.
Read the entire interview & story here.
Here is a before and after picture to see how small changes can make a big difference:
What’s in an ad? Everything. Where you should you advertise for tenants? Online.
When you advertise to find new tenants for your rental property, your ad accomplishes 2 things for you; first, it is a screening tool that let’s prospective tenants know what you’re looking for and second, it allows you to be very descriptive which brings more and better potential tenants to you.
When I advertise for new tenants, I use online sites exclusively. I have never advertised in the newspapers because it’s very costly for very few words. A typical newspaper ad might read “house for rent, 3 bdrm, $1000/mo + SD, avail Jan 1/14”. Depending where you live, this ad alone can cost a lot if you need to run it for a couple of weeks and it provides very little information to attract new tenants.
Online sites are cheaper (often free) and give you unlimited space to describe your property and provide multiple pictures. Prospective tenants are much more likely to look online for a property because it is more convenient and they also can find a better description before having to go and see a place. I’ve had people say, “well what if someone doesn’t have a computer?” and honestly, in this day and age, they would definitely be a very small minority.
Writing a great ad takes a bit of skill but if you’re successful, great tenants will always come in great numbers! Need some help? Just let me know.
Talk to any landlord and they’ll have a tenant horror story to tell – myself included! When you get into the rental property business as a new landlord, tenants are one of the most important factors to consider. Not only will they be looking after your property for you, they will also be paying it off and ultimately building your wealth in real estate. Your ability to attract and keep good tenants will determine whether your rental property business will be a success or a failure so it’s important to know the basics.
Writing a detailed advertisement has two purposes. It allows you to describe all of the benefits of your property and is also the first step in describing the type of tenant you are looking for. You can be clear about whether you allow smoking, whether you allow pets, the amount of rent and damage deposit expected and the length of lease term you are looking for. With all of this information available in the ad, you have already narrowed the field to prospective tenants that potentially fit your profile.
Screening is your second line of defense and the most important step in weeding out bad tenants. When a prospective tenant calls me, I have a list of questions that I ask immediately. If their answers to these questions are favorable, I set up a viewing time to see the property. If they are interested in renting from me, I take things to the second and most important step; filling out the Application Form. This signed form is invaluable as it covers their personal information, their employment history, their financial status and their rental history. The form also allows you to call previous landlords, call credit references, call personal references, conduct a credit check and a criminal record check. If a prospective tenant is not willing to sign the Application Form and provide me with access to this information, I do not rent to them.
Screening is an important first step for landlords and it also sets the tone for tenants as well. It portrays you as someone who is organized, diligent and someone who takes their business seriously.
When you have completed your initial screening and decided which tenants will be moving in to your property, the rest of the relationship is up to you. You may have found the best tenants in the world but they won’t stay with you if you don’t live up to being a good landlord. A good landlord/tenant relationship involves many aspects but here are the most important things to remember.
When tenants are moving in, have a landlord checklist ready so that you don’t miss anything. Some examples are signing the Lease, getting the locks changed, going through the Accommodation Inspection Report, getting post dated checks, preparing a Tenant Binder and putting together a Tenant Basket to welcome them to your property.
Throughout the tenancy it is important that you are always available when contacted. If a tenant calls with a request or repair that needs attention, always respond in a timely manner. Keeping your property in good repair let’s the tenant know that you expect the same from them and also gives them a sense of security about where they live. Stopping in at prearranged times gives you peace of mind that the property is being looked after. Giving small gifts at holiday times and lease renewals also goes a long way to making the tenant feel appreciated.
The law of attraction is always at work in every aspect of your life and the landlord/tenant relationship is no different. Be a great landlord and you will attract and keep good tenants!