Lanlords - how do you go about finding tenants?

41 Replies

In Bridgeport CT we use Facebook Marketplace which gets many leads of slightly lower quality. 

Usually Zillow / Trulia will get the job done.  

We do section 8 rentals so gosection8.com gives us leads as well. 

Our other residents also give us referrals which turn out great. 

@Roman Bulgakov I blanket online sources like Craigslist, Zillow, Hotpads and Facebook. I also place yard signs and pointer signs at major intersections. Yard signs may sound old school, but I know plenty of people who use only yard signs. The advantage of yard signs is you get local renters who already live or work in the area. 

Another key point is that advertising only finds applicants. The tenant selection process is much harder than finding applicants. That is where you need to be the most careful and that is where an agent can help you most.

The risk with new investors is they tend to rent to the first applicant and do a poor job of verifying references and checking credit. 

As far as horror stories, I once had a family pull up with a moving truck. They applied and wanted to move in that day. Application looked great, plenty of income and they were ready to write a check. It may sound good, but I said no and proceeded to process the application. Some basic checking revealed they were professional tenants. Their application was full of lies. I denied them. It turns out they moved into a different property the next week. Landlord obviously didn't verify anything. They lived there six months rent free and did $15K worth of damage. 

Do you need an agent to help you? You need to decide that.

@Matthew Olszak - can't run away from the naysayers, so use them to your advantage to bump up your post - love it! thanks for sharing!

@Steve Boianelli - thanks for the tips! Posting signs at bus stops and convenience stores is a good idea.

@David Grabiner - didn't even consider that as an option. Word of mouth is the best form of advertising. Thanks!

@Shawn Pottschmidt - does Cozy advertise your listing or just screens?

@Michael Noto - great point! Will definitely be looking into it. Any online resource you recommend to get started? Nolo maybe?

@Craig Bellot - would you say a referral is the best way to get new tenants? 

@Ian Walsh - any bad experience with Craigslist? Or maybe something to look out for? Doesn't look like there are a lot of Craigslist fans here haha

@Joe Splitrock - oooff, professional tenants - never even heard of that before! What tools do you use to screen tenants?

@Roman Bulgakov professional tenants use fake references, so in the example I gave you the phone rang to someone they knew. The best way to trip up fake references is give them false information and see if they agree with it. For example if the tenant said on the application that they paid $1100 per month, tell the reference the application said $1230 per month. If the reference agrees to bogus information without correcting you, that could be a sign. Another idea if call the reference and ask if they have any units for rent. If it is a landlord they will answer the question, but a fake reference will be thrown off by the question. It is also important to run credit reports. You can see previous addresses on the credit report. See if any of those addresses match reference addresses. If they are apartment addresses, you can find the number of the apartment and call them to inquire. Check their drivers license and make sure the address matches the "previous or current" address on the application. If it is a different address, it is a sign of them covering up their occupancy. I also do a Google search on reference phone numbers to see what comes up. Half the time it returns back to an apartment or landlord, which is good validation. I did a Google map search on a previous address once and found the property didn't exist. I was so surprised I even drove by and sure enough, no property by that address. They just picked a random street address, not knowing that street numbers skip in many places. Check their social media accounts. I have seen applicants say "moved back from Florida this week" but their application never mentioned living in Florida. 

Assume everyone is a liar and find proof they are telling the truth. If something doesn't add up, don't try to figure it out. Just deny the application and move on. 

Originally posted by @Roman Bulgakov :

@Joe Splitrock - thanks for sharing! Some great wisdom in your post. As a follow-up question, have you ever had experience with applicants complaining about you denying their application? How do you deal with that?

Everyone I deny is unhappy and tries to change my mind. You just have to stand firm. The decision is final, sorry. Respond with that a couple times and they will usually give up. Once or twice I have had to block someone's phone number if they keep pushing it.

Use a Google voice number so you are not giving out your personal phone number. That gives some isolation to your personal life.

If you are super nice guy, be very careful, because you will have trouble saying no when someone is begging you. Put together a script for what you are going to say and stick with it. Just keep repeating the same thing and do not go off script.

It gets easier to deny people over time, but it is still one of my least favorite things to do. There are many good people looking for a nice home for their family, but they don't financially qualify for my rentals. I feel bad saying no, but renting to someone who can't afford your place would be worse for everyone. 

Great questions! Good luck.

Hi Roman,

A lot of landlords use free software that will send property listings directly to the big listing sites. Personally, I think the more eyes on your listing the better. Zillow, Trulia, Hotpads, Rent.com, Apartments.com, and Craigslist are some of the major guys to always be on! 

@Roman Bulgakov

Roman, I'm investor and an agent. So I could list my rentals as an agent but I never do it. I have more enough enough leads from listing my rentals on thru Zillow rental manager. Which will list them on trulia and hotpads as well. I would set up showings on specific day and set the same time for 5 to 10 people. Half of them won't show up other half will be more motivated when see other potential tenants checking out the pace. 

If you decide to rent your property yourself read this thread 

Documents you have to provide to your tenants in Philadelphia

Feel free to reach out if you have specific to Philly rentals questions. 

Hey Roman, 

I myself am a REALTOR and I advertise rentals on the FB Marketplace and I get a ton of traffic! Just some analytics on my last rental:

Zillow - 1269 views

Facebook - 4962 views

Huge difference!