Scheduling Rental Property Showings for SFH - How much time?

19 Replies

Hello BP!

I just listed my first rental property. So far so good. 8 Inquiries so far and I want to do showings tomorrow... How long do I schedule these showings for?  At 30 minutes each I am already spending a half day there.  Is 20 minutes enough time?

How do you guys schedule showings for single family home rentals?

Thanks!

@Scott Jensen

In my experience half the people who scheduled will not even show up and you'll have wasted a whole day.  I would schedule them open house style, one on a weeknight and one on a weekend day.   This will reduce the amount of time you need to sit around, and hopefully many people show up at the same time to create an urgency and competition. There's no reason that people need to have separate scheduled walk-throughs. 

Don't schedule individual showing....do the showing from say 1-3 PM...... prospective tenants can show up anytime during those hours.

Benefits......

You don't have to deal with a bunch of "no shows" and late people...there will be plenty...and some will just show up without calling beforehand. No wasted time when people don't show or are late etc etc

Having multiple groups there at the same time ramps up the "competition" factor....the people see 3 other groups looking around and the competition juices start to flow....people want what other people want

You can address the same questions and topics to multiple people at the same time without having to do the same sales pitch a dozen times

Unless logistically you really need to do individual showing, I would do a more "open house" format....way easier and less wasted time

Instead of scheduling individual showings, just do an open house for a few hours. When you do individual showings, time slots are all over the place and often half the people don't even show up. So I'll say I'll be there from 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM, and bring along some reading materials. Then I let people linger as long as hey like, and with open houses, people see a crowd, and if they really want the place, it'll create competition. With individual showings you get none of that.

Agree with @Matt Leonard . Schedule them all at the same time. If someone is really interested and they see others are looking they will likely fill out the paperwork quickly, and you might even be able to get a bidding war going (if it's legal in your area). 

A realtor used this tactic when showing a property that was for sale. Several people showed up within 15 minutes of each other, and I made the mistake of putting in a full price offer because I really wanted it. After I went home I gave it some thought and changed my mind (fortunately before the offer was executed). It would have needed kitchen cabinets installed immediately...not due to damage or age, but there just weren't enough. It was a 3bd/2ba condo but had an efficiency kitchen.

As at least 3 other people suggested, I would also suggest you do open-house style showings where you pick one or two days a week during a 2-3 hour timespan. Less stressful for you and I think you'll like it better.

You guys are awesome. Open house it is. I think I'll do a morning session tomorrow 9-11am and an evening session 4:30-6. Thanks for all of the feedback!

@Scott Jensen , try to post your open house on Zillow or Realtor.com in addition to corner signs with balloons!! Open houses are typically from 11-2 on weekends. Don't wanna go too early.

@Ray Harrell I wouldn't have thought to post the open houses online. Thanks for that!  I have a funeral to be at tomorrow at 11. :-/  I am thinking of doing one from 8:30 to 10:30 and another from 4:30 to 6:00. I'm up to ten inquiries so far... I am thinking of sending a response like this,

"Hello and thank you for your inquiry. We will be conducting two open houses on 5/12 from 8:30am to 10:30am and from 4:30 to 6:00pm. Applications will be reviewed in the order received so we would encourage you to show up early and apply online shortly after the showing."

I'll also state the qualifications again to help screen out non-qualified prospects.  Should I call them to let them know as well? 

Nope, don't call anyone until after they've completed the application and you've vetted and selected them. If 10 day they are coming, 4 will actually show up, and 2 may be qualified and seriously interested.

I try to do as little work as possible before they actually show up and put in an application.

I post my ad with ALL the info, qualifications and the open house days and times...do it on Zillow, Truilia, Craigslist etc etc... then when the calls and emails flood in, I don't answer the phone.... I reply to the call with a canned text and email etc with basically ALL the same info as in the ad..... ALL the info is in the AD!!!! If you have other questions I'm more than happy to answer them when you actually show up at the unit. Until then the calls are a HUGE waste of time...answering the same questions over and over and over....when the answers are in the AD!!! ALL my criteria are in the AD....

Maybe 20% of the inquires will actually show up.....and some show up without contacting me beforehand...

Don't waste your time personally answering every phone call and waiting at the unit for people to show up for a "scheduled" appointment.....it will only frustrate and tick you off

@Scott Jensen   I know the overwhelming advice here is to do open house style showings, but I prefer to do one-on-one showings. I am able to have a conversation with people and I get to ask them lots of questions which helps in the vetting process. To avoid no-shows, I require the person to text me 15 minutes before the showing time. It takes me 15 minutes to get over there, so I only leave if I get a text. This method actually helps with screening, because it puts responsibility on the tenant to contact me ahead of the showing. If they are not organized enough to do that, then they probably won't be a good tenant. My goal is less showings to more qualified people. I fear an open house will just encourage a bunch of lookers parade through. I think an open house is a good strategy if the property is a ways away or you have lots of people coming. The disadvantage is you lose the personal touch and that can turn some people off.

Originally posted by @Joe Splitrock :

@Scott Jensen   I know the overwhelming advice here is to do open house style showings, but I prefer to do one-on-one showings. I am able to have a conversation with people and I get to ask them lots of questions which helps in the vetting process. To avoid no-shows, I require the person to text me 15 minutes before the showing time. It takes me 15 minutes to get over there, so I only leave if I get a text. This method actually helps with screening, because it puts responsibility on the tenant to contact me ahead of the showing. If they are not organized enough to do that, then they probably won't be a good tenant. My goal is less showings to more qualified people. I fear an open house will just encourage a bunch of lookers parade through. I think an open house is a good strategy if the property is a ways away or you have lots of people coming. The disadvantage is you lose the personal touch and that can turn some people off.

I switched from one on one showings a good 15 years ago. We do value getting acquainted so we engage in 5 to 10 minutes phone conversations when they contact us, we mark down their names, what we spoke about, and ask the same questions when they show up. We don't feel his is a waste of time. Interestingly enough, we caught a few liars this way, as the conversations are so informal that they never thought we made notes on it.

One lady in particular, we like her well enough that we wanted to rent to her. We gave her an application to fill out and usually for our 1st choice, and told her we'll process her application. She was divorced and said her "only son" will stay over time to time. When my wife spoke to her over the phone, it was "her only daughter". Something didn't sound right, so we did a complete check, which we don't usually do at the time, and found she had an eviction on file, her supposed supervisor at work whom we spoke to is false since she didn't even work in the bank she claimed to work at as VP. My brother in law happen to work at that bank and checked with human resources for me.

Then there's the issue of tire kickers checking out the place and wasting your time. One rental in particular was available beginning of May, and our first choice wanted to rent up July 1st. Why? His landlord is selling the place and promised to give his LL plenty of notice. The place was crowded, I knew there was a number of tire kickers. I took his application which showed his wife as VP of the local utility with a base salary of $120K, besides his salary. So I told him, with this interest, pointing to the crowd, I don't know if I can wait that long. So he said "I see what you mean and I'll speak with my landlord". He called me a few hours later, said he told his landlord how crowded my place was. His LL is OK with him renting my place right away, so I'm 2 months ahead with the rent. To me, the tire kickers help me set the stage for this. The rent at the time was $2,000/month.

Finally, in recent years, my wife did all the showings since my stroke. We feel that open houses are far safer. We have seen news stories on TV where realtors doing showings were either robbed, attacked, and even kidnapped and murdered. With open houses, we feel the likelihood of that happening to be much less. I don't know what the women on this board feel, but one on one late at night with strangers can be creepy. When I did one on one showings, I had a man from Nigeria who'll be renting the place with his brother. He didn't bring his wallet, or his brother, I usually ask for ID, he made another appointment to bring his brother and his wallet. He came again with his brother, who filled out the application. I asked him again for his ID, he said he left it home again. I looked at his brother, who hesitated for a moment, when I said, "don't tell me you left yours home". Finally sheepishly pulled out a drivers license with a totally different name on it. It's late at night, and both of these guys are bigger than me. I said to myself "this is not good".  If it's a open house, I'd say, look around, and I'm expecting more people in 10-15 minutes in case they plan to try anything.

Now you know why we do open houses, aside from the issue of efficiency.

We do appointments every 15 minutes, but we ask for confirmation the day before or the morning of showings. We have doubled up on 15 min appts in the schedule. We always have a couple of noshows, but generally not many. (gives us a chance to rest!) We have two of us doing showings, so even though the appts are 15 min apart, the prospective tenants often stay for 30 min and get to know both of us a bit...

Schedule them all at the same time, this does 2 things. Limits your time wasted on no shows and it puts a bit of urgency on the serious tenants to hurry up and submit their application.

Update

Thanks again everyone for the input!  Here's how it went.

After listing the property I had roughly 20 inquiries within 24 hours.  After reading this I decided on doing 2 open houses that Saturday. 8:30 to 10:30 and 4:30 to 6.  (Not the ideal times, I had a funeral in the middle of the day.)

During the first open house I had 3 people there all at roughly 8:30. Each set seemed interested in an application. I had each of them sign in so I could track it.  (Later I had 1 more show up to the morning open house. )  Nobody showed up at all for the afternoon session.

The Big Mistake -  OK, being a millennial I thought lets do this all electronically (I use Tenant Cloud)... So when people want to apply I direct them to the link online, enter all of their information, and pay a $40 fee...sounds great.  But its not.  Everyone was trying to apply and they got to the screen to pay the $40 and they had to verify their bank account, WHICH TAKES 1-2 BUSINESS DAYS!  At my Saturday open house my 3 potential renters couldn't finish the application process until Monday or maybe even Wednesday...

The Big Lesson: Online is great and everything, but it is simple and easy to accept payment of a check when someone hands it to you.  I think I will still have prospective renters fill out the application online, but process them as soon as I receive a check.

It's Monday afternoon and I haven't seen an application in my Tenant Cloud account.  I will be calling the prospects tonight or tomorrow to see if they are still having trouble with the payment.

Originally posted by @Scott Jensen :

Update

Thanks again everyone for the input!  Here's how it went.

After listing the property I had roughly 20 inquiries within 24 hours.  After reading this I decided on doing 2 open houses that Saturday. 8:30 to 10:30 and 4:30 to 6.  (Not the ideal times, I had a funeral in the middle of the day.)

During the first open house I had 3 people there all at roughly 8:30. Each set seemed interested in an application. I had each of them sign in so I could track it.  (Later I had 1 more show up to the morning open house. )  Nobody showed up at all for the afternoon session.

The Big Mistake -  OK, being a millennial I thought lets do this all electronically (I use Tenant Cloud)... So when people want to apply I direct them to the link online, enter all of their information, and pay a $40 fee...sounds great.  But its not.  Everyone was trying to apply and they got to the screen to pay the $40 and they had to verify their bank account, WHICH TAKES 1-2 BUSINESS DAYS!  At my Saturday open house my 3 potential renters couldn't finish the application process until Monday or maybe even Wednesday...

The Big Lesson: Online is great and everything, but it is simple and easy to accept payment of a check when someone hands it to you.  I think I will still have prospective renters fill out the application online, but process them as soon as I receive a check.

It's Monday afternoon and I haven't seen an application in my Tenant Cloud account.  I will be calling the prospects tonight or tomorrow to see if they are still having trouble with the payment.

I was following this thread to see if you have any luck with applicants on line. For me, even as a former IT guy, I still do it somewhat the old fashion way. I list it on Craigslist, Zillow and Trulia, and usually when it's first listed, at this time of the year, between phone, email, and text, I get 40 to 50 inquiries, from that 20-30 showing up on the 1st open house, and from that, 5 or more applications.

I give paper applications to people who show up, and the serious ones bring their W2's, tax returns, bank statements. I eyeball what they have and help them through the application.

Now, I find people a little leery of going on line and give info to someone they never met. With high demand for housing out here, they can easily go broke paying application fee for 10 different places lets say. I don't charge application fees, and for running credit checks. With this, I usually manage to snag a tenant from my first open house, and process the application in a day or two. With SFH renting for $2,700/month and up, I rather get another months rent, than a few dollars in application fees.

I had several applicants over the years, that submitted full info, and got turned down after processing. I remember in one case, a girl was distraught, not in not getting the apartment, but that I have all the info on her, and demanded her original application back. The problem with this is the credit checking service came and check out my office, part of their audit procedure, and required I keep all info on people I pulled credit on. So I gave the girl her original papers and kept a copy for my files, just in case.

As was mentioned, the key is to establish person to person rapport, and doing everything on line first doesn't do that for most people. On line is okay for buying toys on Amazon, not for checking out an apartment.

One caveat with taking the application and a check at the open house and then running the credit/background..... you have zero idea if that check is any good....you could pay for the credit/background and loose that $$

I've been using Cozy my last 2 vacancies..... I tell people to fill out the application (free) but only pay for the background/credit check if they are seriously interested....it's non-refundable and I don't see a dime of that $$....its not a profit center for me and I don't have to go through the hassle of entering all the info.....and I never directly see their SSN etc....I have no hard records of their personal info, so I can't have any of that info stolen or used by me

Originally posted by @Ned J. :

One caveat with taking the application and a check at the open house and then running the credit/background..... you have zero idea if that check is any good....you could pay for the credit/background and loose that $$

I've been using Cozy my last 2 vacancies..... I tell people to fill out the application (free) but only pay for the background/credit check if they are seriously interested....it's non-refundable and I don't see a dime of that $$....its not a profit center for me and I don't have to go through the hassle of entering all the info.....and I never directly see their SSN etc....I have no hard records of their personal info, so I can't have any of that info stolen or used by me

 I don't take any checks, or money of any kind at a open house. My procedure is to let everyone come to my open houses, at most two, select the top 2, advise them within a day or two or the 2nd open house and proceed from there. When approved, they have to bring a certified or bank check for the deposit, and the first months rent, for the lease signing.

I have never charged application or credit checking fees. I usually have a one month vacancy between tenancies, to allow for cleanup and repairs before the next tenant. During my interviews, on the phone, and at the open house, I ask applicants if they looked at other rentals. Most have, and the main complaint is that they don't paint or clean, charge fees etc. In the NYC area, tenant pay agent fees if they go thru brokers, and now they get snagged with applications and credit check fee with owners, many feel it's a scam even if I don't make a dime. Over the phone, when they hear there's no broker, no fees, they couldn't wait to see the place.

NYC and vicinity is a high demand area. Even so, I see some rentals advertised for 60 to 90 days or more, and when I ask about it, applicants cite complaints I mentioned, painting, cleaning and fees. With rents of $2,700/month for SFH rentals, losing 2 months rent is not worth it. In my last turnover, I paid the most for credit check fees ever, around $130.00. I usually make the top pick OK, but my last top pick missed two lease signings due to the fiance's mental breakdown. He had her psychiatrist call and assure me. I told him, I already proceeded to my next applicants. I did 2 free credit checks for my 1st applicants, and the 2nd applicant, I did 4, a total of six. It's the most I ever paid, as normally I do 2, and it runs around $35.00.

Now, did I ever taken money to hold an apartment before processing the application? Yes, it's OK till you turn someone down. My wife did one open house and the guy like the place enough to offer around $100 till we process and approve him, since he's going away for a few days. When I met him though, to pick up the money, something about him didn't seem right. I talked to him for a few minutes, said something he didn't like, on purpose to see how he'll react, he started screaming, then calmed down, then awkwardly smiled when he realized what happened. I took his check, but I told my wife something is wrong with the guy. But I told him we don't normally do this, that we're still vetting other applicants, and took the money as a favor. After a few days, we decided not to rent to him, and return the money. He told my wife over the phone he'll come by and beat us up. Says better watch your step when you step out of the house.

I guess when you do rentals for nearly 40 years, you've seen everything.