3 Surefire Steps to Lease Your Residential Unit in 30 Days

by | BiggerPockets.com

What makes a happy landlord? Well, there are probably many things that would make the “top ten” list. Since we have been landlords for over 10 years, I would say that the #1 way to have a “happy” landlord is NO vacancy.

It is actually pretty simple.

Tenants = Income. No Tenants = No Income.

Hi, everyone! Liz is back this week to discuss this incredibly important topic of leasing units quickly! This is a “hot” topic for our team at DeRosa since I have been in the process of training someone new on our team to be our leasing agent. We currently manage over 100 units and have about 8 vacancies. I have been training her and teaching her our process. We decided to give her 2 buildings (4 vacancies) to start with. As a result of this process, we have been re-evaluating how we do things and how we can make improvements!

Related: 12 Easy Tips to Reduce Your Vacancy Rates and Find Great Tenants

Here are the three steps that you can follow to ensure you lease your unit within 30 days.

3 Surefire Steps to Lease Your Residential Unit in 30 Days

1. Know how your unit differs from the competition.

I was just chatting with a seasoned investor the other day. I asked him, “How do you know a buy/hold is a good deal?” He told me it is all about the numbers. I probed deeper and asked, “Do you ever ask the question: Is there a strong market for these rentals?” He said he does ask himself this, but always evaluates the numbers first.

It is not that I disagree with hi;, however, this conversation really made me think about something. Way too often investors are only focused on the numbers and don’t consider other important “marketability factors” with rentals. It is imperative to answer these questions about your unit before you buy the property and certainly as you prepare to market the unit:

  • What is the market for this unit?
  • What is my ideal tenant for this unit?
  • How can I find the ideal tenant?
  • What are the biggest selling points of this unit?
  • What are the challenges I am going to have with leasing this unit?
  • Is there a work around?
  • What are the solutions I can tell prospective tenants?

Remember, you can go into a unit and fix it up beautifully. You can put granite countertops in the kitchen and hardwood floors throughout the unit. However, if the apartment only has one closet, there is only so much you can do about that. There are things you can change in an apartment and things you cannot change.

The key is before you begin marketing your unit, you need to be crystal clear how your unit (or units) differs from the competition. I can’t stress enough how important market research is. This might seem obvious; however, it is not always done (even by seasoned investors).


2. Price your unit accordingly.

This one might seem fairly obvious; however, if the pricing for your unit is off base, this will slow down your leasing process.

Here is what MOST investors do: They do some basic market research about the area, find out that 1 bedrooms in a particular area are renting for $850 (for example), and then market their unit at the same price.

I hate to tell you, but you need to go much deeper than this to ensure you are pricing your unit correctly. Most investors don’t compare “apples to apples.” You also need to compare many other items. Remember, if a prospective tenant is coming to see your place, they probably have two or three more appointments right after yours to go see other places.

Here are some items to compare:

  • The amenities that are/are not included, such as laundry on site, storage, parking, etc.
  • The square footage. There are some spacious 1 bedrooms and very small 1 bedrooms. This will affect marketability and price.
  • The floor number where the unit is located. Most prospective tenants prefer the first floor.
  • The utilities that are/are not included.
  • Whether there are newly renovated features of the unit. Does your apartment have stainless steel? New carpet? New features?
  • The different communities within the same geographical area.

For example, we have a lot of rentals in Trenton, NJ. This is an urban community for those who are not familiar. There are many different sections of Trenton that command different rental pricing. It is imperative to compare communities within towns/cities for pricing differences. The pricing can change from community to community.

Bottom line, you need to be able to answer the question, “How does your unit compare to the competition?” The primary reason you want to do this research is to price your unit correctly. Additionally, you can also use this information as you “sell” the unit to prospective tenants.


3. Create and follow a solid process for marketing and follow up.

Like I mentioned earlier, we manage over 100 units. We need processes and checklists to ensure we are running our business efficiently. Remember, leasing a unit is like selling anything else. It requires a TON of follow up, relationship building and follow through.

I thought it might be helpful to share our process with you. Our process, by the way, begins when our construction team gives the unit the “ready to rent” stamp. This is not a physical stamp; however, once the unit has been rehabbed and cleaned, they give the “go ahead” to begin marketing the unit.

The first checklist we created is the “Marketing Checklist.” This includes every step that is needed to be completed from beginning to completed application. This includes everything from checking to see if we have enough keys made, to listing the property online and offline, to the application process. We also created a form called “Unit Fact Sheet.” This document is completed by our leasing agent (with the help of our office team), and the purpose is to have all the facts of the unit in one place. That way, the leasing agent can begin marketing the unit.

Related: How to Maximize Revenue While Minimizing Vacancy in Real Estate

Also part of the “Marketing Checklist” is taking high quality pictures and a video tour of the unit. You don’t need to be a professional photographer; however, you need to take pictures that “sell” the unit. Always take pictures from the corner of the room – this helps show the most space. Also don’t forget to take pictures of the outside of the building. Prospective tenants need to know what the building looks like.

Once you have listed the unit in various places (online and offline), you will begin to receive calls and emails! Our goal is to follow up with every lead (via email and phone) within 3 hours. Prospective tenants appreciate prompt follow up.

As we call people back, we conduct a brief phone screen. You want to answer any questions they might have, but you also want to tell them your rental requirements, etc. The last thing you want to do is waste their time or yours showing them the apartment when they are not even close to meeting your rental standards.

We then schedule open houses twice a week. We schedule these once on a weeknight and once on a weekend. The key is to funnel all interested parties to these open houses. I always make these for one hour (not two hours). I like to tell everyone to get to the unit at the same time. It is both time efficient and it creates some healthy competition.


I would also add that it is VERY helpful to capture data during this leasing process. Listed below is what we are starting to capture for each vacancy. It is important to capture this data, so we can evaluate what is working/not working in the future.

  • Date unit is listed
  • Number of calls/emails did we receive for the unit
  • Number of attendees to our open houses
  • Number of applications
  • Number of approved/declined applications

After each open house, we follow up with all of the attendees the next day. Follow up is absolutely key in this business. With regard to the application, make it easy for the prospective tenant to complete it. We now have a way for prospective tenants to pay the application fee on our website, and then email/scan the completed application. That way, it expedites the process. The leasing agent is responsible for getting the completed application (with pay stubs, etc.) into the office, and then the office runs credit and evaluates the application.

Have any other suggestions, tips or strategies that I am missing to ensure you fill your vacancies in 30 days?

Thanks, as always, for reading and commenting!

About Author

Matt Faircloth

Matt Faircloth, Co-founder & President of the DeRosa Group, is a seasoned real estate investor. The DeRosa Group, based in historic Trenton, New Jersey, is a developer and owner of commercial and residential property with a mission to “transform lives through real estate." Matt, along with his wife Liz, started investing in real estate in 2004 with the purchase of a duplex outside of Philadelphia with a $30,000 private loan. They founded DeRosa Group in 2005 and have since grown the company to owning and managing over 370 units of residential and commercial assets throughout the east coast. DeRosa has completed over $30 million in real estate transactions involving private capital including fix and flips, single family home rentals, mixed use buildings, apartment buildings, office buildings, and tax lien investments. Matt Faircloth is the author of Raising Private Capital, has been featured on the BiggerPockets Podcast, and regularly contributes to BiggerPockets’s Facebook Live sessions and educational webinars.


  1. Angel Rosado

    Great points in this article and great reminders. As a noob who has yet to have any investments under my belt I constantly hear about issues with vacancy rates and I think if you provide a good product and treat your tenants with respect and dignity then vacancy should never be an issue.

    • Elizabeth Faircloth

      Thanks Angel for reading and your comment. I agree with you – having a good product and treating your tenants with respect is absolutely key! However, the units and buildings you own, vacancy is inevitable at some point. The key is to be prepared!! Good luck!!

  2. G Marks

    Matt, good tips, especially on creating an “auction” environment with 1 hr showings. That has always helped for me and sometimes creates a “fight” to get the unit/home. 1 question I have for you and anyone else that has input is your application decision process. I know each state has its own processes but one thing I like to hear about is choosing tenants. Now we all know not to run afoul of protected classes in fair housing but how do you choose 1 tenant over another if you have multiple choices, that have passed your criteria. such as, in your having an open house showing, you may get 10 people to apply. Say 6 are a no go due to screening criteria, but the other 4 are good and applied within a day of each other. Do you choose the “best” applicant regardless of if they were last to submit ? Maybe first to apply ? All tenants have slight differences but short of throwing darts at the applications to choose, and not violating fair housing, you ultimately choose one over another. can you elaborate.
    Also, when you do choose, how do you let the other “qualified” candidates know that you selected another. I use a standard form with check boxes, mostly towards denial due to credit and such, but always tricky to “deny” someone because you choose another. Gotta choose someone and don’t want to get into a fair housing suit just because you are forced to choose one over another. Thanks for the input.

    • Elizabeth Faircloth

      Hi G Marks!
      Great questions!! We have rental standards/qualifications that we assess each applicant against. We actually have a “rating/scoring system” that way it is as fair as possible. We don’t really get into the situation you have described above, because typically there is an applicant that scores the highest in the group of applicants based on our criteria. We also use a standard form with check boxes that has always worked for us. Message me off line and I would be happy to share our “rental standards” with you as well as the “rating system” that is based on these rental standards.
      Thanks again for commenting!!!

      • Hi Liz

        I love this article. Thanks for posting. Also, can you share your rental standards and rating system with me? I’d appreciate if you could email me these materials.


    • Elizabeth Faircloth

      Hi Jerry,
      I am so glad that you appreciated the post. Most landlords overlook the marketability of the rental and focus only on the #’s. The #’s are absolutely critical to assess, however without marketability you will have a ton of vacancy that will kill your profitability!!
      Thanks for commenting and reading!

  3. Richard Flanders

    I live in Tennessee and have houses in California. I wondered by a house out there was not renting after a couple months. I went there and found no window coverings at all (and a number of repairs that needed to be made. Do not count on your PM). I added blinds (you should at least to the front(s) of the house) and made the repairs and it rented. The point is, tenants do not want to put up window coverings that will not fit the next house they rent. So providing those made the house rent.

  4. Elizabeth Faircloth

    Hi Richard,
    Thanks for commenting and sharing your experience. We manage all of our units ourselves. However, we are certainly considering hiring a property manager in the future. Even if you have a property manager, I would imagine you still have to keep your eye on the ball and manage “the manager.” And, at times, get more involved when you see something not working. Sounds like you handled it beautifully and now have it rented!! Good for you!
    Thanks for reading and commenting. All the best with your rentals!!

  5. Terri Bedore


    Thanks so much for this article! We just completed a turnover; this article, and your “ultimate 34-step property management checklist” was INVALUABLE. Got it marketed, shown, screened, rented (plus a complete flooring reno!) in just 28 days! – vacant only 3 days (while the flooring was being installed)!

    That 34-step list has also helped me create some great processes for my husband and I to follow.

    Like G Marks, I too am curious about your ranking system for applicants. May I also message you about getting a copy?

    Thanks again!

  6. Ziv Magen

    Great write-up (sorry it took me so long to get to it) – agree completely. For us as well, the first step is finding out what the competition is, how we can differentiate ourselves from it, and what is the correct price (or price plus added benefits) to set based on that research. If there are several other comparable properties available for lease at a similar or lower price, and ours doesn’t offer any benefits (first month free rent, furnished, cheaper or easier securities, etc), why on earth would anyone go for ours?

  7. Debra Gaudiosi

    Hi Liz,

    I realize this article is older, but I purchased a multifamily unit and will be going through the application process for perspective tenants. Would it be possible for you share your rental standards and rating system with me? I’d appreciate if you could email me these materials.

    Thank you,

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