Just Listed my apartment....bombarded with calls and emails!

85 Replies

So I just listed my very first apartment EVER! I posted on both Zillow and Craigslist and have received about 10 emails and 5 calls in the last 12 hours (posted at 10pm).

My approach right now is to have an "open house" style showing this coming weekend and have everyone come, instead of separate appointments. 

It's definitely a bit overwhelming. I was not expecting this much traffic right off the bat. Any tips? People are asking about pets, section 8, etc. My approach for this is have whoever apply and then pick who I want from the applications. Good approach?

Thanks BP, you always have my back on my first journey to "landlordship"!

@Robert P. I do this every day of every week...and it does get overwhelming. Establish a system now, all incoming calls you can put into a separate contact folder on your phone so you know who is what. Get a paper application in hand, market that as a pre-screen contingent on final background check and credit check which can be done through transunion smart move if you are not using a property management. With the pre-screen application, you will be able to review their general info, income, pets, how many people etc and make a decision on who you want to move forward with, then send them the link to do their background and credit and get that back. Always keep at least 1-3 parties on the line in case something wild comes up (seriously, like a murderer from 1996 I had once). Be sure to keep deposit in an account thats public knowledge to the tenants, and always have an accurate and up to date ledger. If you need any help just PM me! 

Thanks, Jeff! I definitely have in the description there is a $35 application fee for a background/credit check. Do you have an application available to use? Is it something I can easily search for online?

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Do some pre-screening before telling them when/where the open house is. You don't want to waste your time with people coming through who for sure are not going to work out.

My market's the same way.  I don't post my phone number in my CL ads.  I ask 5 distinct questions that must be answered in their response e-mail.  If they don't answer, I honestly don't have time to go through them all trying to extract this important information. My days of answering the same questions over and over on the phone and providing my number to random strangers are long over.    

Open houses in a tight market are a stressful mess I have found.  I ask questions via anonymous CL e-mail (then to phone after, maybe) and pre-screen down to a few applicants.  Schedule showings close together and see who shows up. Most will if they have been pre-screened a bit beforehand.  Good luck @Robert P. !

I literally have now received about 10 calls and 30 emails int he last 13 hours or so. Emails, I have responded with a basic message telling them when open house is. I don't mind people coming in and looking at the place. I would much rather have 30 people say they are coming and only 10 come on that one day, then schedule appointments and have people not show up. 

I already regret putting my phone number out there. Most of my responses have come from Zillow, with only a few off craigslist. I think I might remove it from craigslist. 

@Steve Vaughan what do you find negative about open houses?

@Timothy Daniels Thank you for the recommendation. 

@Max T. Do you see a negative in just funneling as many people as you can into an open house? I really don't have the time to pre-screen 30 people. My approach would be to get the apps, pick the ones I like and then screen a little more with the ones I like. Thoughts?

Remember everyone, I am new to this!

The pre-screen idea is very good...you can make decisions about tenant quality without the tenant being able to accuse you of violating Anti-discrimination/Fair Housing rules. I don't believe you would, but if you meet face-to-face the charge can be levied against you and you must disprove it...

Decide by phone call first, then application, then personal meeting.

@Robert P.

You might want to consider increasing the rent if that's the case. Sometimes too many calls means you can get more in rent. If you're not getting any calls at all, then you're too high. You want to find the sweet spot. 

Also, consider listing your qualifications in your posting to avoid questions. No Pets, No Smoking, Section8, etc. 

I would suggest getting a Google Voice phone number to use with all of your Real Estate Business.   They are free but you have to sign up for a Google Account which requires an email address.  I use an address that I only use for Google and my RE Business.  With setting up custom rings you do not have to even look to know it is a call to your Google Voice number.

During regular hours you can have it forwarded to your cell or office phone.  Have one set up to just give a message to prospective applicants to email you answering the 5 questions in your ad.  Prescreening like that will help you from dealing with the people think that your $800 apartment will be rented to them for $650 since that is all they have for rent and they are "nice" people.  

@Timothy Daniels interesting. So if I meet them in person and then say no to them after they apply, it's worse than me saying no without meeting them? Also, are you saying have them fill out an application and pay for credit check before they even see the place? I don't even think I would do that.

@Max T. what I am asking for rent is actually on the higher side of the area. Any higher and I don't think people would come look. Maybe I am in the sweet spot? I have lived in the same city all my life, so I know the area well. The apartment is completely painted throughout, cleaned, new lights, etc so it must be that it is basically "brand new". Either way, interesting point about raising rent. Am I too late in the stage to do so? I am very comfortable with what I am asking, so I don't really see the need to get greedy. Also, I have put the qualifications in my description as well, so they are seeing all my needs.

@Robert P. Excellent news that your rental is so desired! While it is good to have lots of applicants, you really only need ONE good one. Seeing so much interest should make it easy for you to be patient. Signing a tenant is a big commitment and just keep in mind whoever you choose is going to be there for at least 12 months or however long you decide to lease for.

Your goal now is to narrow down your 30+ applicants to the one perfect tenant. I will second the comment about your rent being too low. The easiest way to shrink 30 tenants down to 5-10 good ones is to up the price. Re check your comparable rentals in the neighborhood. If you are one of the nicer ones, charge the most! 

I personally like doing open house style showings. Some object it, but here's my take. If you establish an open house time/day, then everyone that calls you can just tell them to go to the open house for a viewing. This eliminates all viewing scheduling, which is probably the most frustrating part for me in the past since each viewing takes 30+ minutes out of my life and not everyone will be interested or qualify. I will invite people I know are not qualified just to make it clear the unit is in hot demand during the open house. Keep the open house short unless your time is not too valuable to you, 1-3PM is plenty of time on a weekend. 

Another way to speed this up is to pre-type an email template with an application attached. Everyone that emails, just send them this template and have them email back an application. There are some great email programs you use to send these out automatically as soon as someone inquires about your rental. Probably not necessary at this point, but in the future I hope you have 100+ units and this will be a helpful tool!

ONE LAST TIP! I'm going to PM this one to you and see what you think.

Keep up the great work and good luck the rest of the way!

@Robert P. if you're getting as much traffic as you say...You might think you know the area, but your rents are too low. You don't go from 30+ people calling about a place in one day to 0 because you upped the rents by 50/mo, but you might cut that number down to something reasonable.

Further, if you don't have time to pre screen everyone who is applying you seriously need to hire a PM. Prescreening can be done over email, requires no real work; you can send the same set of questions to everyone, and you can then weed out the people who have no chance. How are you going to have time to handle the other headaches of being a landlord if you can't even spend the time to send a pre-written email to applicants? 

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Thanks, @Roger Vi . Of those listed in my area, my apartment is actually one, if not THE highest priced apartments. There are a few others that are priced higher, but they are in the "ideal neighborhood" if you will. 

I'm currently doing a 2 hour showing, just as you mentioned. Love the idea of sending out the application. That might be good too so they can fill it out and bring it with them even at the open house. 

@Wes Brand Perhaps raising would make a little sense. If I were to raise, would this be something that I could do after open house, or before?

In regards to pre-screening, I have plenty of time to send out emails. My thoughts on pre-screening meant calling them up and talking to them over the phone. I simply cannot call 30 people and talk to them all for 10-15 minutes. Do you have a sample pre-screen email/document that you could share with me? I think I will be fine managing this afterwards (the home is a 2-family), but dealing with all of these people up front was overwhelming. Now that I know what to expect, I can approach things differently. I am basically going into this blind, but think I am handling it pretty well so far. 

I appreciate everyone's thoughts and insight!

I ask for background/credit check after everything else is kosher.  I state my process up front, ask some questions over the phone, email (then review) the application, then meet at the unit.  If they and you are on the same page at that point, run background check.

I'm in a small town. Not all processes work in all places.  And yes, as with any lawsuit, you don't need winning proof to file against someone and create huge expense and hassle for them.  Protect yourself all along the way.

Asking a rent that people are will to pay is not being greedy it is simply operating your business in a professional manner. Your rent is clearly too low as you have far too many interested parties. Part of the screening process is to set your rent at a level that will eliminate a large portion of applicants that you would ultimately reject. We are only in business to make money not provide affordable housing or supplement tenants rents. At the open house when people are leaving hand out your application forms and allow people to leave with them. The ones that return applications will be far less in number. You should also indicate that you have a lot of interested parties and expect offers above the stated rent rate.

When you get them back throw out all the ones you do not want, no pets, no welfare etc. depending on your standards.

When you narrow it down to the top two or three through pre screening do the in person interviews.

This is where you really want to find out about attitude, personality, social background etc. This is also the opportunity to tell them you have numerous applicants and ask if they would be willing to pay a higher rent. If they talk negative about their present landlord or state anything about knowing their rights reject them. When asked about credit scores if they try to gloss over the subject be prepared to reject them. Read through the lease with them line by line and make it clear you are a no nonsense landlord that will not tolerate late payment or breaking of rules. When done make sure they still want the unit. They will obviously say yes because tenants rarely care about a landlord or their rules but it gives you an opportunity to get a read on them when covering the lease.

Do your final screening on credit etc. and make your decision on data collected.

The key to screening is to not consider them as people, they are not people they are simply a collection of data that you correlate to determine a winner. There is nothing personal about screening aside from the fact that they need to be prepared to bare their soles, assuming they have one.

Trust is a big deal in this relationship. IF any applicant is hesitant to provide personal information such as SI# they are a poor candidate for a tenant. Reject any applicant that has not thoroughly completed your application to your satisfaction. If information is missing never waste time asking for it just throw away the application.

You can likely do what you want, but everyone who has seen the ad is going to back out if you raise it. You might want to consider mentioning some fees at the open house: yep, rent is 750, but there's another 50/mo for lawncare in the summer and snow plowing in the winter(or trash [email protected], big complexes around here love that one). A bit dishonest but it doesn't feel as bad, and you get to defray some of your costs.

Keep us updated on your progress! Choosing tenants is always stressful, but sounds like you have plenty to pick from :) I will be listing my personal residence for rent soon. It is part of a duplex and my husband and I are relocating for his job. I absolutely love my unit and will be so sad to leave. It's completely renovated and beautiful. I am already stressed about finding a tenant who will take care of it the way that I do. It's hard not to get emotionally invested in your income properties when they have been personal residences and you've created so many memories there. Good Luck. 


@Robert P. Some tips when filling your first unit

  • have basic pre-screening questions ready for people who inquire. Have them ready in text and email form and verbally tell any candidates who you talk to. This will help weed out those who will not qualify
  • I recommend against the open house approach. What if you get a rock star tenant who is not available to view the unit on the weekend?  Are you willing to lose that tenant?
  • Confirm the day of (1-2 hours in advance) with all of your appointments and require them to text you back if they are still planning on coming to the appointment. No text, you don't waste your time showing up. Simple. 
  • Have applications with you so you can capture a quality tenants interest right then and there. 
  • Always put anyone over the age of 18 who will be living in the apart through an application process that includes a background check and them having to prove the income they claimed on the application. Also include them having to provide picture ID as apart of the application process as well. 

It is a huge mistake to get personally attached to a income investment property. Tenants will never take care of it the way you do or feel about it the way you do. Tenants have the ability to destroy your home along with your dreams if you are personally attached. If you can not separate your personal attachment from a inanimate object you will make for a very poor landlord. It is only a building, it has no feelings, no personal attachment and if you do you will be disappointed with having tenants.
You would be far better off to sell it to someone that will develop the same attachment as you that only a home owner can have.

Think of your screening process as a funnel: step one, step two, step 3, down to your final 3 picks.

Go through the BP podcasts. @marcia Maynard has a fantastic interview on her screening process. (BP# 83 I think??)

@Michael Noto Would you be willing to share the screening questions you have with me?

In terms of losing a rock star tenant, I have been telling all tenants that if they cannot make the open house, then I can show the house another day if necessary (already have 3 separate appointments set up)

Do you know where I can find a good rental application?