Let’s go over three advanced ways to screen your applicants that are a little outside the box.
1. Social Media
In today’s world, people often put more information publicly on their Facebook, Twitter, or other social network profile than they would even tell their own mother. This information is a goldmine for landlords to discover more about their prospective tenants. We always do an online search on our potential tenants and see if we can find any information that would help us make an informed decision. For example, a young couple once applied for one of our apartments that does not allow pets. However, upon checking her Facebook page, we discovered the applicant posing with a brand new puppy with the caption, “My adorable new puppy!!! Isn’t she cute!?” Surprise, surprise. That information was definitely helpful.
By searching social networks, you might also discover information about their current living situation, roommates, or whether they complain all the time. Or maybe they seem just as great as they did in person and on their application. Another option for using social networks for learning more about your applicant is by looking for mutual friends or acquaintances and getting their opinion. In larger areas this may not work as well, but in small towns most people are connected in some way or another. If you notice your applicant is also mutual friends with “Sarah,” an old friend from high school, consider shooting Sarah a message asking if she knows anything about the applicant that would be helpful in making an informed decision about their tenancy. Remember, the point of all this is to learn as much about the prospective tenant as possible before approving them so you can make an informed decision. There’s nothing like approving your new tenant only to discover too late that you made a horrible error.
Almost everything you’ve ever done publicly in your life is chronicled somewhere on the internet. The same is true of your applicant. As of this writing, the best source for searching the internet is, of course, Google. Searching Google for a tenant’s name is helpful for discovering little known facts about the applicant’s life. You can also try combining the applicant’s name with their city or county to narrow your search. You’ll most likely get all sorts of information by Googling a person’s name, but you are looking for information that specifically tells you a little more about the applicant, such as whether they were recently in the county’s jail roster or have been involved in lawsuits.
To search Google, try entering their name within quotation marks, which causes the search to be narrowed down to only the the applicant’s full name, or what you entered within the quotations. For example, entering “John Smith” will only show you results for “John Smith,” whereas entering John Smith without quotations will show you results for anything containing the name “John” and anything containing “Smith.” Using quotation marks will significantly narrow your search.
3. Drive by Unexpectedly
Curious about how your prospective applicant will take care of your home should you approve them? A look at their current residence should give you a pretty good idea. Consider driving by or even paying them a visit at their home to get a good look at how much care they show (or don’t) to their yard maintenance, housekeeping, and general cleanliness. If they live like slobs now or their lawn is two feet tall, that’s not going to change anytime soon.
Once you have processed your applicant’s application, you should have everything you need to either accept or deny them tenancy. If they have met your minimum standards for qualification and exhibit traits of dependability, reliability, and responsibility, you’re off to a great start. If they have failed to meet your minimum standards of what you are looking for in a tenant, you will most likely deny them tenancy and wait for someone more qualified.
[This excerpt was taken from The Book on Managing Rental Properties, which gives investors valuable information on everything from screening tenants to managing everyday issues — and everything else you need to know for successful buy and hold investing.]
Have you ever used these techniques? Any other outside-the-box ways you check out applicants?
Let me know with a comment!