Cancel a Showing for Caller #1 if Someone Else Qualifies First?

13 Replies

I've been a landlord for seven years, but I'm just curious about what the rest of you do.  I always feel a little uncomfortable in this case.  Okay, let's say today is Tuesday.  You talk to Person #1 on the phone, pre-screen them on Facebook (haha, yes I do!) before you ever meet them, and you're pretty sure they're a good fit for the rental, but they can't see the rental until Saturday because they're so far away.  However, Person #2 calls and looks at the rental on Wednesday.  They fill out an application, and they are a perfect fit also.  Do you still "play fair" and wait the three more days to show it to Person #1?  I don't usually run into this problem because we will show it to several people on the same day, so we have several applications to look over at the same time.  But in this case, I wonder if I'm a bad guy if I cancel with Person #1.  I know there's a risk of "losing" one or both if there is too much of a delay, but since Person #1 made the appointment first, is there a best answer to this?  What does everyone do?

@Jen Faulkner

I think this should be handled on the front end.  If you have a written policy in place that says that you handle things on a first come first serve basis, and then communicate that to the person on the phone. Then they will know that it is possible it will get taken out from under them. 

As far as this situation you may want to just talk to the folks with the showing on Saturday. they may have already found another place they like better than yours. If not just explain what happened. 

I would take the first qualified tenant who has seen the place,placed a deposit and qualified. If someone has not viewed your place you can simply call them and tell them it was rented.

A few years back I had a tenant who viewed my place, wanted it but did not have any type of deposit They  would get back to me in a few days Needless to say a new tenant showed up gave a deposit and I rented to them. The first tenant called a few days later to give a deposit and I had to tell them it was rented.They were angry but we have a business to run As long as we are upfront about the process it is fair to all I can not tell you how many appointments never showed up or how many people  delay on placing  the deposit. 

First come, first served. It reduces/eliminates the possibility of claims of discrimination, and puts real money in your hand. This, however, is one reason I only do open houses - then I don't have to worry about this possibility. When people come in, I tell them first qualified tenant with a signed lease and money back to me gets the unit, plain and simple. I number applications as I get them and just go down the line. I hold a unit for 48 hours for a qualified tenant that has made it to the last step - they have submitted our in-house application, filled out and paid for the credit check, and all of their info meets minimum requirements. After 48 hours, it's open season again. Half the time appointments never show, which is why I don't do them anymore - that, and I want showing units that are 10-20 minutes from my house to be on my convenience, since I work a "regular" job besides. 

I have a tenant right now that took a little too long looking at one of my units, and someone swooped in during the week she was going to think it through and signed the lease, and wire transferred the money so it would be in the account Monday AM. I went ahead with the Saturday open house anyway, and she came and I had to let her know that unless something happened with the wire transfer the place was rented. It worked out for her, because I had another unit that was going to come open in a couple of weeks, and she ended up renting that unit, which was probably a better fit for her anyway.

If I had a dollar for every person who "definitely wanted" the unit, I would be retired already!

I am up front with prospective renters.... I do a telephone screening interview and if they pass, then offer to show them the place. I will show over a period of several days. I accept applications during that time frame. Then I rank the applications according to my rental criteria. Then I process one application at a time, starting with the most promising (based on the interview and written application and internet check and calls to previous landlords and income verification). If all is good, I pay the money for the credit history and legal history background check.  If they pan out to be a good prospect, I offer to rent to them. Then I refund the application fees back to anyone whose application I did not fully process.

I find some of the least desirable candidates have the most time on their hands and can often quickly come and view a property. Those with steady jobs might not have as much flexibility. 

Also, those who fill out an application quickly on the spot tend to not put as much thought into it. I would rather the person view the property and give it some good thought before applying. If I make it first-come first-serve it tends not to work out as well in the long run. I much prefer selecting the most qualified candidate, not necessarily the most speedy.

In your situation, I would apprise both prospective tenants that you have received several calls of interest and have arranged to show the property through the weekend. Let them know you will be accepting applications from all interested parties and will review them over the weekend and complete background checks on Monday and Tuesday if necessary. At which time you will make your decision.

Once I offer to rent, the applicant must be prepared to enter into a rental agreement and submit all the necessary monies.

I apply first come/first serve to receiving a completed application, not a showing or a phone call.

To manage my time, I don't charge for the application and therefore, don't show without it being on file.  LOTS of lookie-lous and showings are non-productive for both me and the applicant.

Another benefit is the application shows their income and that's a  prequalifier to being accepted (no, this does not include CR/BG reports) as I require 2x the rent.  Why show to someone that has no hope of qualifying?

First come, first served. If two people apply at the same time, the first one that is qualified is the first one I offer it to. If they don't bring me the security deposit IN FULL then I offer it to the next person in line or put it back on the market. Money talks.

Imagine if your policy was to wait and show it to the other applicant on Saturday. By the time Saturday rolls around, they might have found something else or changed their mind. Meanwhile, the first tenant you approved may have taken offense that you made them wait and they could walk away, as well. Now you are out both prospects! As someone else pointed out, a first-come, first-served policy will also help avoid claims of discrimination. If applicant #1 meets your qualification requirements, why deny them?

Write down a policy of first-come, first-served, and make sure it is clear. Think through various scenarios to ensure it is complete. Then tell people up front what your policy is BEFORE they apply so there is no confusion. If you have a web site, point them to that so they can read it themselves and avoid any miscommunication.

I have a policy of first come first complete that I tell EVERYONE. I do not hold for anyone and the house is taken by the first qualified person who completes everything including returning a signed/ratified lease AND the security deposit AND who starts on the date I want them to start. 

I have learned to leave emotions out of it and had this policy that I told to EVERYONE. I was soo much happier.

I definitely do the first come first served policy.

Mine is strictly based on the deposit. Everyone is told the same thing.

Get your application and I'll let you know right away if you qualify. If you do, then the first one that gets their hold deposit in gets it.

I think it helps do two things. 
1) Creates a sense of urgency for them to make a decision.
2) Helps prevent me from losing good tenants because I am able to act fast.

I don't like the idea of collecting applications for a period of time.
The risk there is that the good ones might be accepted somewhere else. I used to do that when I first started and that was typically what I found would happen.

And, yes, I don't care when they see it. Its when they give me the deposit.

Its unfortunate that this person in your case couldn't get up there to see it. 
But the bottom line is they may just be telling you that as they're waiting on something else. They're not obligated to take the place so why should you be obligated to hold it. Especially in the case that you have a good tenant that put the deposit down.

To me, its a no brainer. Its december and finding tenants here in our lovely state can be tricky sometimes. Don't risk losing a good tenant on the "hopes" that this person from down south called you first.  Ultimately, they may not even like the place for some crazy reason or they may decide to not even make the trip. They're under no obligation to you so you're under none to them.

btw: I actually had something similar happen to me recently. Closed on one of the nicest houses I've ever picked up before and listed it right away. Did a showing to a nice family on a friday. They talked forever. They were so excited about the house. I ran their stuff on sunday and it came back ok and I offered it to them.

They said they would do the deposit on tuesday (even though on friday they said they would do it right away). I left them a message that was fine but that I was going to continue to show it and the first deposit I got would get it.  Sure enough I had a showing on sunday and they loved it. They filled out the app. I ran it. They came back to give me the deposit - all in about a 2 hour window.

About an hour later the family called. Said they could get the deposit over to me that night. Told em it was taken. Nothing I could do. Already accepted the deposit. They went nuts. 

But its business. They had the same shot as everyone else. Actually they had a better shot. If they had said they were bringing the deposit to me that day, I probably would have cancelled the sunday showing.

But whenever a tenant pushes off a showing or giving me a deposit, I know there is a significant risk of them backing out. So if I were in your shoes, I would definitely have no problem taking applicant 2 and telling applicant 1 that its already taken.

Better for you that you make that call than for you to wait and then them tell you they can't make it and applicant 2 tell you they've gone with another house.

@Mike H. said "But whenever a tenant pushes off a showing or giving me a deposit, I know there is a significant risk of them backing out. 

Amen brother! Anyone in sales knows that the individual that leaves to "think about it" will probably never be back. Of course I don't expect potential renters to bring the deposit & first month with them when they come to look at the house, but once someone has looked at the house, said they like it and that it meets their needs, and the price is affordable to them, and I have pre-screened them through the in-house application, I expect action or I am going to move forward as if they never existed. 

That is one of the major advantages of using a tenant-paid credit/background screening service. If the tenant balks at completing the application & paying for the service, or delays or attempts to delay completing same, I know almost instantly that they are not serious about renting my unit, and I can continue forward looking for an actual renter. Looky-Loos will run you ragged in this business. I have a unit that I was putting our sign in the yard about a week before it would be available. A guy across the street saw me putting up the sign and asked about the rent, said it was just what he was looking for, his nephew lived in that house and he wanted to be nearby, blah blah blah, gave me his number and asked me to call him the minute it was vacant so he could look at it. I did so, and him and his wife walked across the street, looked at it, raved about it, then came up with a week's worth of excuses for not moving forward from that point, during which time I rented it to someone else.

Thanks for the opinions, everyone.  I NEVER hold a unit if someone has already come to see it but doesn't give a deposit.  There is a guy right now who says he'll have the deposit on the 11th, and I've said what I'll say to anyone ... that I will keep showing it, and when he has the deposit, he can call me back.  My main question was whether you would cancel with someone that you have an appointment with.  

@Marcia Maynard , for the most part, I've always done it your way.  I love having a pool of people to choose from.  This particular rental, though, has been vacant for a little over two months...the longest we've ever had a vacany, but it's a unit above our house, and we've already turned a few people away because of criminal history or whatever reason.  We're not desperate to get it rented, but I have three good tenants (who made it through prescreening) coming to look within the next three days, so I'm debating on whether I should just take the first one who qualifies and cancel the others, since the apartment has been vacant for so long.  Hmmm.