just took first call inquiring about rental-sounding stupid?

10 Replies

I just posted my rental on Zillow (Cheyenne, Wyoming) and got a call from someone in Denver whose husband is being transferred here from Denver. She asked several questions about the property that I think I answered somewhat intelligently. She asked me what the process would be and I told her she would pay an application fee and do a credit/eviction check. Income would have to be 3 times the rent. In this case about $55,000/year. I told her I didn't have pictures of the kitchen and living area online yet because I was in the process of moving out and it's a mess (really?!) Also told her that if she was in town checking out houses to give me a call and I could show her the house. I was trying to remember what I had read here on BP while I was talking to her. But I feel like my mind was blank and I probably sounded like I didn't know what I was talking about. Which I probably didn't. I also don't have a lease prepared. I was going to buy one online. So, for those who are much more experienced-how do I handle phone calls in a simple, professional way? Thanks.

Originally posted by @Tina S. :

I just posted my rental on Zillow (Cheyenne, Wyoming) and got a call from someone in Denver whose husband is being transferred here from Denver. She asked several questions about the property that I think I answered somewhat intelligently. She asked me what the process would be and I told her she would pay an application fee and do a credit/eviction check. Income would have to be 3 times the rent. In this case about $55,000/year. I told her I didn't have pictures of the kitchen and living area online yet because I was in the process of moving out and it's a mess (really?!) Also told her that if she was in town checking out houses to give me a call and I could show her the house. I was trying to remember what I had read here on BP while I was talking to her. But I feel like my mind was blank and I probably sounded like I didn't know what I was talking about. Which I probably didn't. I also don't have a lease prepared. I was going to buy one online. So, for those who are much more experienced-how do I handle phone calls in a simple, professional way? Thanks.

 You'll pick it up with practice. The main goal is to weed out tire kickers and those who wont qualify, as well as pre-screen to reduce the amount of time you waste. Some sample questions in the below link should help. If you have them printed out, you can reference them next time you take a call to make sure you dont miss any of your questions. Lastly, I recommend reminding them about the description of the property as many dont read it or get confused and realize they really want 2 bathrooms instead of one, or really need there to be a dishwasher present etc... 

https://www.biggerpockets.com/forums/52/topics/522...

Also the bigger pockets infographic on tenant screening is very helpful and easy to follow:

https://www.biggerpockets.com/renewsblog/2013/01/2...

In the meantime, work on getting good well lit photos of the rooms if possible to present best possible advertising.

Treat it like your interviewing them. This is an opportunity for you to get a feel for (1) do they meet the requirements. Ask them about their history, why their moving, who will be living in the house, pets, credit score, income, etc.

(2) Get a feel for how they talk about their precious landlords and history. Overexplanations or overcomplicated stories make me weary.

(3) When would they like to move in? If the answer is “now”, I would question. Does your ideal tenant need to move at the drop of a hat? Do they have a current lease? Are they breaking it? Or why did they not plan better (I.e. you don’t rent to them- what’s their plan?)

This conversation helps you figure out whether it is worth your time to show them the house. A lot can be figured out by running through the above.

First off - don't beat yourself up too much, could it have gone better?  Maybe, maybe not...time will tell.  Maybe the woman you talked to thought what you had to say was great and is figuring out how to get there to check it out.  Worst case scenario she doesn't call back and you're on to the next one, and one step closer to your tenant.

What you can do is get yourself better prepared to steer the conversation for the next call.  Put together some bullet points of the important stuff (which you should have in the listing - 3x rent, credit/background check, pet policy if allowing them, move in date/date available, length of lease etc...), print out a few copies so that you can check off that you talked about each bullet point with each prospect, put their name on the checklist and take notes on what their answers are.  That way you have something that you can keep applicants separate for your decision on who to choose.  Tenant screening starts in that first phone call, you may decide after that first phone call that you are wasting your time with said applicant.   Anticipate what prospective tenants may ask questions about, and beat them to the punch.  That way you can steer the discussion where you want it to go - if you give the answer before they can ask, it turns into a statement instead of a negotiating point.  Have a written set of requirements that you apply to all that wish to apply so you can avoid a discrimination claim. 

Sounds like you've read through some of the posts about screening tenants - some may translate to your situation some may not, give it a re-read and it may hit you like a ton of bricks that - that is just the question I need to ask - write it down in your bullet points.

Sounds like things are pretty crazy with moving out and whatnot, but do get your pictures together as soon as you can, even if you have to shuffle the mess from the kitchen - take your pics, and then move all the mess back into the kitchen to take pics of the living area...I'm sure that'll be a PIA, but will take your mind away from not having the pics up in the first place and ultimately feeling self-conscious about not.  

You mentioned not having a lease ready yet, but do you have your application ready yet?  I only ask because you didn't mention it in your post...the lease you can put together on legal zoom or a lot of different online vendors in not a lot of time, but you need the application to get to needing the lease.

Pretty sure I'm starting to ramble but, you mentioned that you felt like your mind was blank during your conversation - I like to let the call (unknown #) go to my voicemail that I record asking prospects to leave a message with their name and phone #, then call them back when I am in a position that I can put all my focus into that conversation.  You are the one in the drivers seat in this situation, you are deciding if you are going to let the prospect live in YOUR house...most likely the person on the other side of the phone is going to be worrying about what stupid things they said!

 https://www.biggerpockets.com/forums/52/topics/737...

Good Luck!!

@Tina S.

“If you can do a half-a**ed job of anything, you're a one-eyed man in a kingdom of the blind.”

Kurt Vonnegut

Give yourself some credit -- you deserve it! I'm still scatterbrained on the phone, all the time.

@Scott Shuster , @Tina S.

Excellent post, Scott. Tina, don't beat yourself up because there are always more prospects. As Scott said, you are in the driver's seat, you just need to be able to focus on the conversation. I think Scott's advice to let the call go to voicemail is golden. It's a negotiation tactic: make sure you are in a position to handle the call. What's the worst case scenario? You call them back 15 minutes or half an hour later when you are able to sit down with your list of questions to ask. No big deal. They probably won't find another place int hat short amount of time and if they do, you probably don't want them as a tenant anyway.

Your one thing that will make it easier on yourself sounds like a bullet point list of simple questions to ask. It gets easier as you do it more. 

@Jeff Bridges , @Colleen McCann , @Scott Shuster , @Jim K. , @Marshall Easlick : Thanks for the great advice. I should have let it go to voicemail. I was at work when I answered my phone. Not a good idea. I was going to use Cozy for screening. Looks like I can use it for application as well. I definitely need to print out some bullet points and get all my pics uploaded. So, do pre-screen on phone. Show house if it seems they would qualify. Use Cozy to do application and screening. Let them know I will be in touch once I have all information back to let them know if they qualify to rent (?). Is that pretty much the correct order? 

We all started in the exact same place. 

After a little while it will be second nature. I personally don’t show the apartment until I prequalify the person.

Hi how are you?  Thank you so much for calling or the interest. I would love to show you the apartment but I am curious if you have any questions for me ? I have a couple of questions for you because time is valuable and I don’t want to waste mine or yours. 

Then I hit them w the standards    How much income, credit score, have you ever been evicted,arrested or bankrupt and If so please tell me more.    Then I ask things like why are you leaving your current apartment, how much were you paying, how long are you looking to stay, if they have any pets, do they smoke. 

After a few minutes there guard goes down and you can usually get a feel for who they are.  

Wish you the best of luck. You are on your way. 

hi @Tina S. - I Hope you can come to the cheyenne meet up next week. Would love to see you.

As far as sounding like an idiot, dont worry about it. i've found people treat you like you're a demi-god in some sort of position of power (because I guess you are) and will just take it. You'll get better. 

I typically let those go to voice mail (im dont like being on the phone) so I try and get them as much info as I can in the email that they get. 

So when I list on zillow, here's what happened - 

1) they fill out the zillow form. 

2) that emails me, and gmail sends them an auto reply. the auto reply has a whole bunch of my FAQs in it (gathered from showing the place) and then a link to set up an appointment for a showing. The goal is to get them in, show them the place and then have them fill out an application - after they see it - through cozy that will do credit/background checks

3) They apply, I pick the one that meets my criteria, set them up in cozy and consider it done. BP has all the "legal" forms you need 

Im kind of a systems nerd, so DM me or if you can come tuesday, grab me and I'll tell you how it works.