Lower income tenants and the internet

20 Replies

I have a property that is in a lower income area. Not a war zone, just a working class, mostly Hispanic area. It's a C or C+ neighborhood I suppose.

I want to put a For Rent sign in the front yard but didn't want to put my phone number on it, as I really don't want to deal with phone calls asking stupid questions.

My idea is to put my website address on the sign, and when you go to the site there will be pictures, description, etc. In fact I would like to make the whole application process on line only.

My concern is this.......are lower income folks less likely to have internet access? If you are familiar with the Hispanic community in these types of areas you know that there are also many that don't speak english.

Am I under-estimating or over-estimating the "web savvy-ness" of my potential tenants? Am I limiting my possible pool of applicants?

I know this would work great in a B neighborhood, but would love to hear from others who have tried this in these types of neighborhoods.

Joe Butcher, Dallas TX

@Joe Butcher Your concerns are well justified. I do believe that you will significantly limit the target audience that way for all the reasons you listed and personally, I would not go down that road. That said, if it's a great deal, it may not matter - all you need is one good tenant.

Thanks @Andrew S. I was thinking the same, but also thought "well, if you can't access the internet then I dont want you as a tenant" but there may be some good tenants out there who just aren't web savvy or have no interest in the internet.

One of the reasons that poor people remain poor is that they are the greatest consumers.....my lower income renters have the $1,500 tv's and latest smart phones but they take public transportation and will rent forever. You should leave your number on the sign...or get a cheap Metro PCS phone for just the business and screen through the voicemails. I'd turn the property into shared housing for a whole variety of reasons but that is just me. Set up a professional voicemail and get back to people....if you don't speak spanish, get someone to translate for you. Our hispanic renters pay timely but I speak some spanish and my brother is fluent.

Everyone is on the internet but everyone wants personal contact and to speak with a real person when it comes to renting. We meet people in person at a public place and then over-book the property visit to create some buyer frenzy...works well for us. With smart phones, most everyone is surfing the internet for rentals these days but keep the personal contact....even stupid questions, handled well lead to business down the road. I had someone who remembered me from a couple of years ago when they were trying to rent a property....refer me to their landlord who wanted out immediately....and I got a steal just for being nice 2 years ago!

This is a valid concern. It would be nice to have all of my tenants pay their rent Online but half of them don't have computers let alone internet connections. However this is the demographic that my property appeals to. For now I'll just keep collecting the Checks, money orders, and cash in person.

Put a phone number on there and answer the phone. If you are concerned about not speaking Spanish, I have found that most callers who only speak Spanish will have somebody to translate already; they often have the translator call back and stay alongside the translator during the call.

@Steve Babiak @Jarrett Harris @Andy Luck Yes I think I will go ahead and put my Google Voice number on the sign and make a flyer with pics and info. Maybe on my Craigslist ad I can put a link to the website.

My thought goes more to the age of prospects, a modest income earning adult will have less time for discretionary activities, they may be more consumed by other things than surfing the web, but I'm sure some do.

Access to the internet can be had at libraries, free, so for those techies time on line is limited. If they are looking for a place to rent they may go there, but I'd think they would have more time to actively search other leads.

Advertising is a multi-media animal of sorts, anything you can do that is cost effective to put your product in the public eye is probably a good thing to do. I'd not limit my advertising to one media or source but as many as can be employed.

Not sure what your target market is, I did college rentals and most units around the colleges are older areas so the properties may be similar to yours. Bulletin boards worked for use and cost nothing. Wal-Mart, grocery stores around your target area, schools and all kinds of businesses, have them, even the hospitals. I never used the internet (obviously, LOL) so I have no base line in that area.

Are you only going to have your site up when you have vacancies? Advertising and not having an available unit isn't a good thing, IMO.

@Joe Butcher ...I include the phone number on all rental signs but let calls go to vm. Only the serious will leave a vm or call back 2X. I return calls thru the day providing/collecting information. I show interior at one time(2hr window) to qualified applicants...The sign in the yard works well. In the last 2yrs CL provides reliable tenants..More in the area using the site..

@Bill Gulley I plan on only using the site to show pics and give info and perhaps download an application.

@Rolanda Eldridge I plan on doing a showing on a saturday afternoon.

This is my first buy and hold, by the way. How should I go about getting the applications TO the people and also how to get them BACK?

@Joe Butcher ..Email applications or take to the open house(can fax or scan back)..$50 first $35 co-app Sometimes fee paid on spot, but I allow fee deposited to bus acct..Initially, I only gave applications if fee paid, but now I give them out to all who ask...Once I collected 3 on one property and able to choose best fit....I

I have had great luck using CL. When I reply to the email I have a very easy pre-screen to sort it out a bit better as far as pets and other things. I never put a sign in the yard for the simple reason I dont want anyone to know its vacant for fear of vandalism or theft.. As far as low income having internet ect my experience is they have as nice or nicer devices than higher income people and they all seem to have it in home or on a mobile device.

We don't advertise with any signage at all...everything we do is personal referral and internet. Only 3% of our renters come from CL...and while every city is different, most in atlanta won't pass our background check. We email out an application and get there basic info so we can run a background on them BEFORE we meet them. We meet in a public place and they bring the app back with them. We never given anyone an address until we have a background and have met them.

@Jay C. I was also concerned about possible break ins from using the sign. Can you tell me more about your pre-screen?

@Andy Luck Are you running background check before you get any kind of fee from them? How much does that cost? Also what services is everyone using to do background checks? I want to do credit check as well as criminal/eviction.

Check your state laws concerning charging for applications, usually limited to actual costs, especially if you do Sec 8. Applications can't be a profit center.

Since I had Fannie Mae 1003 loan applications, I used them, you can probably get one at your bank and you can copy them, they are public domain documents. You can skip anything you don't feel is applicable.

Fax, email or drop off in person. They came by my office to get the application., I had them hand them to me at a showing, pre qualified on the phone or when they picked up the app.

Need to be flexible too, I filled out a few apps at an appointment to show. Also, have them call you a few minutes before meeting to show and tell them if they don't confirm you don't show up! Otherwise, you'll be driving over for no shows! :)

I too am just starting out and wondered the same thing myself. I found a few PMs that process applications and take payments online only. I quickly dismissed those PMs because of the same concerns @Joe Butcher raised.

I'm beginning to see it's not uncommon for some of the better cash flowing properties in DFW to be in areas where most (if not all) of the tenants mainly speak Spanish, so it's something one must become accustomed to dealing with in such areas.

But I have to agree with @Steve Babiak. Anytime I have spoken on the phone with someone who does not speak English very well (if at all), almost always has someone around them that will interpret for them, or will call you back when they do.

Another thing to consider... Place yourself in the shoes of a tenant. If you were out looking for a place to rent while driving around, is it easier for you to immediately whip out your phone to dial a number, or to try accessing a website? Sure smart phones have internet access, but realistically, it's much faster to just call a number and leave a VM than to wait for a page to load on a phone. Most folks will just take the path of least resistance. Just food for thought.

I had custom signs made with my company name, phone number, and website. I don't always answer the phone, but the voicemail also instructs them to check out the website for more information. I don't have many Hispanic people in my area, but the lower income people that I deal with tend to have smart phones with internet accesss.

FYI - I had the signs made at signsonthecheap.com and they only cost $10 or $12 each. Those ghetto For Rent signs that most people use cost less, but aren't nearly as nice or proferssional.

Getting the application back is a good way to do a visit to the applicant's present housing to see the condition of how they live; if you were to accept them, your place would look the same as their present housing soon enough.

I can tell you from my experience renting 2 houses in primarily Hispanic neighborhoods.

On my most recent house I put signs "For Rent" on both corners point towards the house. At the house I had a sign with my phone number and I put a box with flyers. Flyer had enough info on there that it answered a lot of questions. I could tell the day my flyers ran out because my phone would light up with a lot of basic question type calls. The neighbor said I was getting tons of drive-bys and 50 flyers would last about 4 days. Check out breakthroughbroker Here for a free way to make some pretty nice flyers.

Initially I had everything going to my google voice which went directly to voicemail. I had as much details as I could cram into the short google voicemail intro. I found that very few hispanic people would leave a voicemail. I could tell people were calling it over and over to try to get all the info out of the voicemail because you get the missed call emails via google voice. Sometimes it was the same number 10 times in a row. After each one I'd get a 3 second voicemail and I could tell by the back ground music or chatter on the voicemail they were spanish speaking.

As an experiment, I went for about 3 days and answered my phone when it rang instead of going to voicemail. My number good prospects went up significantly. I think they were just intimidated by the voicemail so they didn't leave one.

If you want to get a lot of calls put bandit signs out at the intersections close to the house. I was amazed at how much action I got, although you got a lot of tire kickers.

Ultimately, i got my tenant off of my zillow ad which he replied to via email.


When I get replies to my CL add I respond with a few questions I call my pre-screen. Just a few simple questions that let me find the best fit for my property. I ask if they have pets and if so how many and size. I ask how many will occupy the home. I ask how long they intend to occupy the property. I ask a few more general question to help me sort out a good fit. I dont take large dogs so the pet questions helps. I have small 2 bedroom houses so a house of 5 does not work. I can ask a simple question are they employed and they usually tell me where and how long. You have to be careful what you ask to remain within the law. Some obvious things you just dont ask. The main thing is in most cases they offer more info than asked and you have a good idea of where to go. Some other important things. I only show the property to one person at a time. I make this clear to all who contact me. I only screen one person at a time and yes you collect the screen fee from them prior to screening them. You then get to look at them.their cars ect. You see a junky car thats filthy inside you are no doubt going to get the same tennant.

You can find tennat screening services all over the web. They are all pretty common. I elect not to view the tennant credit info rather I have a criteria set up with the screener and if they fit the criteria its a pass......or fail. That way I am partially out of the mix. It works very well that way for me.

hire one of your hispanic tenants to answer calls. you will rent it in 2 days.

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