How we screened 300+ tenants with ZERO phone calls! For FREE!

124 Replies

Hey everyone! I am a landlord, turned property manager / real estate agent in Connecticut & Massachusetts and wanted to share with the rest of you the system I've developed that has saved me literally days worth of phone calls!

As is the case with most of you, I put myself in charge of renting out my own apartments...this is all fine and dandy - if I didn't have a full time job already! You know the drill - you post the ads and the countless zillow, trulia, hot pads, etc etc etc emails start coming in... "John Doe is interested in your apartment! Call them IMMEDIATELY!" (Jeesh, chill out Zillow). So what are you left to do? Hop on the phone, hope John answers, have a 5-10 minute conversation talking about all of the things you put in the ad...what a time suck, right? 

I was still employed while filling all of my personal vacancies, and often had things happening after work as well. There was no way that I could respond to the hundreds of inquiries I was getting. These rental websites make it way too easy to "one click" your way into showing interest. 

I was convinced there had to be a better way, and for now, I think I've found it. I use Google Forms to pre-screen all of the potential tenants for each of my vacancies. I created a google form (example: https://goo.gl/forms/bnhKGIH6oxq5yyM53) that I send with a warm welcome via email (and as a text through Google voice) to all the inquiries that I receive in my inboxes. The prospective tenants fill out the form, and if I think they are a good fit, I show the apartment. If they aren't I explain why and wish them luck.

Here are the benefits that I've experienced: 

-I don't try to track down leads. It's a time suck.  

-I am no longer showing my apartments to strangers that I know nothing about.

-The form does not allow the person to complete it if they smoke or if they have ever been evicted. (This pre screening is based on the honor system, further verification is essential if they apply.)

-I *almost* NEVER call a prospective tenant. If they can't check their email or text messages, that's on them. I am looking for tenants who are easy to get in touch with. Being able to use technology is important.

-It has become very easy to see where my leads are coming from, and to gauge what the "average" tenant looks like. Google logs all of this information for FREE.

-Time. Time. and mo' time. Time is the one thing I can't get back, so this system is CRITICAL for me and the business I help run. Did I mention I hate wasting time

I know it's a long post, but I'm excited...please feel free to ask me any questions...I can certainly break it down further. I've attached some screenshots of the data I've collected from my most recent vacancy.

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Thank you @Abad Marroquin and @Chris Mason ! Chris, just as a FYI, C3 is Zillow, Trulia and Hotpads. Since I use the Zillow rental manager (previously known as postlets) I can't really create a code for each website (not conveniently, anyway). I will say though that Trulia is by far leading the pack between the three I mentioned. I'd say 80% of the C3 leads are Trulia based.

Filipe

Wow....now this is truly awesome!! The follow up calls to"interested" tenants is by far one of my very least favorites parts about managing my own portfolio.

How complex are the set up steps? Does Google offer help with Forms?

Thank you @Brian Karlow ! I've shared this with a few "locals" and most seem to think it's a good idea. Figured it's time I shared it to the masses now that I have all the bugs figured out. 

The set up steps are not complex. You definitely don't need to be a coder or anything of that sort. You DO need to have a gmail account, however. Google has some basic templates set up, but I found it much easier to start from scratch and add questions as I found the need. 

Interesting. I use a CRM to suck in all the emails
I get from Zillow and apartments.com and others.

I get over 1000 inquires a month. They all get an auto email from me saying "thanks for your inquiry..." and that I'll send their info to one of our property managers to contact them.

Managers then put them on an "action plan" that emails them 3 times and, if no reply, the lead is trashed.

I'm always amazed at the amount of people that never reply to our emails (which are only in reply to THEIR inquiry). It's literally like 5% that reply back.

I haven't been able to figure out why other than they're just lazy.

Once I found out part of the auto assignment for a group of properties wasn't working. So even though all leads got an email from me saying "thanks for your inquiry. I'll send your info to a manager. Please contact me directly if you don't hear from them", not ONE person (in maybe 100) emailed me to tell me they were not contacted.

At first I felt bad that the leads were not sent to my team to reach out. Then I realized that not one of those leads bothered to reach out to me in my reply to my email offering to help if my team dropped the ball.

Bottom line, apartments and Zillow and hot pads will give you lots of leads but damn, a very high % are junk time wasters

Originally posted by @Cody L. :

Interesting. I use a CRM to suck in all the emails
I get from Zillow and apartments.com and others.

I get over 1000 inquires a month. They all get an auto email from me saying "thanks for your inquiry..." and that I'll send their info to one of our property managers to contact them.

Managers then put them on an "action plan" that emails them 3 times and, if no reply, the lead is trashed.

I'm always amazed at the amount of people that never reply to our emails (which are only in reply to THEIR inquiry). It's literally like 5% that reply back.

I haven't been able to figure out why other than they're just lazy.

Once I found out part of the auto assignment for a group of properties wasn't working. So even though all leads got an email from me saying "thanks for your inquiry. I'll send your info to a manager. Please contact me directly if you don't hear from them", not ONE person (in maybe 100) emailed me to tell me they were not contacted.

At first I felt bad that the leads were not sent to my team to reach out. Then I realized that not one of those leads bothered to reach out to me in my reply to my email offering to help if my team dropped the ball.

Bottom line, apartments and Zillow and hot pads will give you lots of leads but damn, a very high % are junk time wasters

I have found that if you make it too difficult, tenants will just move on. I am able to track how many times the link has been clicked, so I compare that to the number of email inquiries I have gotten. 

I would say that about 80-90% of people I send the link to actually go and click it. About 50% of those actually submit a form. So this means that they a) aren't extremely lazy, b)don't smoke and don't have an eviction record, or c) both a & b and they are liars to top it off. :)

@Filipe Pereira

This is a great idea. I've used Google Forms before, but never to this extent. It was definitely frustrating to have a couple of conversations with a prospect only for them to never actually fill out any required documents.

If you are open, I would be interested in some assistance in setting up a similar form.

Wow very good use of google docs resources there Filipe. I like that idea a lot. Cuz dealing with all those people calling is a waste of time. I tried to email them all a link for an app and it didn't work. No one filled it out and all I got was hate mail back to me and some jagoff kept flagging my post and then he posted complaining about it so I'll try this way and see if it works. Keep you posted.

Great post @Filipe Pereira !
I'm a big fan of google forms and sheets, it's crazy how powerful these free tools are once you play around with them.

You've probably already of Zapier (https://zapier.com/) I'd highly recommend that too.  You can plug in Google Sheets automatically with your CRM, invoicing software, email and various other tools.  You do have to pay for an account but it's pretty cheap.  It does take a little bit of time to get your head around, but there's loads of youtube tutorials out there and it doesn't need any actual coding so for non technical people you can supercharge your processes to make it more efficient.

As well as real estate I have an agency developing chatbots for Facebook Messenger, I'm in the middle of writing a little blog posts on more efficient ways to capture leads through chat bots.  So should be sharing it with the community soon, once I've finished editing it over the weekend, fingers crossed!

We do the same thing. Combination of automatic emails and application process from AppFolio, along with Google chat/Voice that lead back to the website. We fully automate the entire thing. Our agents just builk select the leads in the platform for their units once per day, and send them a templates email that ask the applicants if they want to meet on two set days and times, as well as outline the requirements, which really are just open houses. 

Agents show up at open houses, then back on their way in 30 minutes. Tenants go back home and complete the credit screening, while freaking out because 10 others showed up to the same private showing. Let the application war begin!

I list all the criteria in the ad, put a link to a YouTube video in the ad (The YouTube video states that I don't do showings until they've passed the application process) the video takes care of all the showings, and I ignore all the automated "this person is interested and would like to schedule a viewing" responses from Zillow and other sites. 

The voice mail on my phone tells every person when they call exactly what the criteria for renting the property is, and if they meet all the criteria, then feel free to leave a message.  This way no wasted time for me, the ad, the YouTube video, and my voicemail take care of all the rift raft tire kickers.

The only people who leave a message to call back are the real prospective tenants.  I started this system almost two years ago and it's like putting the rental process on auto pilot every time I have to lease a property.

@Filipe Pereira This is awesome. I use a form like this at my day job to "incentivize" my co-workers deliver info in a more disciplined way. I've got an apartment going up for rent in about 2 months, I'm going to build one of these even if I'm not getting the volume you are. Putting systems in place before growth. supports growth!

That is really cool and FREE.  GOOGLE is amazing.

I looked at Buildum for similar functionality, including  electronic lease signing, which I really want, except it is $45 month.