Show house or get application first?

4 Replies

I am fairly new to the rental business and am trying to put systems into place, even though I only have 2 single family units currently. The only advertising I do is put ads out on Craigslist. I have one property coming vacant on June 1st and put out an ad towards the end of April. I have so far had over 20 email inquiries for the property, with more trickling in each day. This seems like a lot to me but maybe it is standard.

My question is do I show the property to all 20 prospects and then have them fill out an application if they like the place or do I have them fill out an application and spend the non-refundable fee before they even know if they like the place?

The first option would take up a lot of my time I feel like with the possibility of the application revealing they wouldn't have qualified in the first place. The second option would possibly significantly reduce the pool of prospects, as I would guess many wouldn't pay the fee without seeing if the house is something they would like to live in.

Thanks for any suggestions by those with successful systems in place!

I prefer to use a yard sign over craigslist. Lots of scammers on craigslist and some of the inquiries you do get are from folks unfamiliar with the area.

I only show a property once a week. Usually on Saturday or Sunday afternoon. I tell everyone the same time. I also tell them to call me 30 minutes ahead of the scheduled appointment or else I will not be there. I try to get at least four groups say they will come. That's usually enough to have at least two actually show up. Once in a while multiple groups will show up at once, usually not.

When they call I tell them my criteria to be accepted and then ask "is any of that a problem." If it is, this is their chance to bail out.

I figure it takes about 50 calls and about 10 groups actually viewing the house to get a good tenant. Most calls are a few minutes. For the showings, I figure about an hour. Most applications that are taken are never returned. I have had them returned, usually pretty quickly (15 minutes). More commonly if they're truly interested they fill out the application on the spot. Have plenty of applications and pens.

If the unit is empty, we show it to anyone interested. You can group showings or ask a few prescreening questions if you are concerned about it being a time suck. Don't assume callers have read and understand the ad.

If it is still occupied, we require an application before disturbing the tenant to show it. But it is much more difficult to get applications.

Either way we get way more calls than showing and way more showings than applications turned in. It's part of the process.

I advertise on Craigslist and a few other sites. Last time I had a sign in the yard and got too many (useless) phone calls. For my area, I find that if I market only online, then the people contacting me definitely use internet, which typically makes things easier for me. I've also found in my area that if they don't use internet, they also probably don't use banks and such...

Also, in my ad, I put a list of 9 or 10 pre screening questions. This lets me know if it's worth my time to call them and try to set up a showing. Also, if they don't answer the questions, this tells me that they don't read and/or follow instructions.

I show as an "open house". I rarely go to show the place for one person because it takes too much time/energy. I also ask that they call/text to confirm they are coming the evening before.

I agree with @Nicole W. . I have one property that gets 20+ emails within 24 hours of a CL posting. That's all about location, and it sounds like yours is in a hot location and/or there is very little available. This is a great thing for you - you don't need to mess with signs in the yard or wasted time on phone calls, you can pre-screen pretty well with email and your CL posting (I can digest hundreds of emails in the amount of time it takes for one phone call with a stranger wanting to know about an apartment).

As Nicole mentioned, putting some feelers in your ad will go a LONG way. I put the same 4 questions at the top of every ad I post:

If interested, please email me with the following information:
-When is the earliest you would like to sign a lease
-How many people will be residing in the apartment?
-Will there be any pets? If yes, please describe.
-Please provide a phone number you can be reached at.

If I get an email that doesn't answer these 4 things clearly, I don't even respond. Different types of questions may be better for you or your property/location, but this approach has worked very well for me. The type of rentals you own will dictate how best to market them and screen tenants.

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