At Showing "I love it! I Want It!" - Then Crickets Instead of App

26 Replies

I've been showing what I consider to be a GREAT Townhouse Unit for the last two weeks, and with each showing I hear "I love it! I Want It!"... So I send an email with a link to the application, including instructions to complete online and email or print / fax. App fee is only $25, yet I've gotten only 1 completed application to date. Am I missing something as to what happens after the prospective tenant leaves the showing expressing how much they want the unit and knowing the first qualified applicant will get it - yet I get only crickets when waiting for the app and trying to follow up with them!?! I've checked my breath - fresh and clean, as is the home.

Nice- good idea to check your breath @Jonathan Smith! lol

Every time this has happened to me, it was because the rent rate was a little high.  Most folks won't tell you that or they'll say 'it's not in our budget' when prodded.

Does that sound right to you?  Could you be at the top end of the market?

I always have printed applications and qual criteria ready to go at the showings.  Maybe try that?  Might be difficult for folks to print from their phones and such after receiving your e-mail link.  

Maybe @Steve Vaughan but they know the rent and specs before they arrive! I will try having printed apps at the next showing... My research says I could go higher on rent and still not be at the area top for the quality of the unit, plus it includes W/D and alarm system with monitoring.

Hi Jonathan -- I always have applications there and I do an open house.  Everyone comes at the same time.  I find this creates some competition and a feeling that if they want it they must move quickly.  

When marketing  I target my ads to the tenants I want , i.e.,  certain professions get a very low security deposit.  

Finally, may want to lower the rental rate and have the tenant pay for the alarm system monitoring if that is an option for you.  That way the "security alarm" is there if they want it but it is not "necessary."   Best, Teresa

There is some wisdom here in troubleshooting your online application and, heck, for this situation, try waiving the fee to get the application. Also, keep in mind your application is the first line of defense, so it could be (like Dracula to a cross or light), the application is doing its job and turning people away--even though they love it.... due to their rental or credit history.  I think of it like fishing sometimes. You can change the bait around some (as mentioned above on showings or paper apps on the spot) but keep fishing and if you have a sound system, it will rent (although a price incentive can help it rent faster)...

What price range is the rent? That may have something to do with it too.
Are you competitive with other townhome units or other single family homes?

Most tenants would prefer to be in a single family home so if they can spend another $50 to $100 to get into a SFH, they will. Where does your pricing fall within other single family homes in the area? Are you much cheaper? Or just a little?

I would try waiving the application fee and seeing if you get more apps. Again, pricepoint may matter here too. On the low end, people are hesitant to dole out a bunch of app fees. Most of the ones I get through tell me how there's nothing available and when they do find something, its gone before they can even get a showing.

So I wonder if your tenants are just tired of throwing money away on the app fees.

I no longer charge an app fee. Instead, I only run credit/criminal/eviction checks after I choose a tenant. And then I just eat the cost.  So if I get 5 apps, I pick the best one and check again with the applicant to make sure they still want it. If they agree, I run the checks. As long as there are no surprises, they get it.

Its only $30. And I have had to run it more than once on a listing because - surprise - there were surprises that came back on the checks. :-)

But I have found it gets more applications in this way. The online thing is nice. But the paper apps definitely seem to do better for me. 

Lastly, it could be either the rehab finish or the price that are creating the problem. Or the fact that there's just something inherently off with the unit thats preventing people from pulling the trigger.

I recently had a house that I got the same great reviews during the walk thru. Price was actually below market a little bit given the space. But it was a house on a corner lot and the back yard was really narrow - deck was pretty tight against the neighbors.  It was a deal breaker. They didn't make it real obvious but it was always mentioned.   Lowered the rent $50/mo (1,600 to 1550) and got a great renter. 

Sometimes its just that little incentive of $25 or 50 to turn an applicant into a renter. 

One thing I'd add in there as well though. Sometimes, you just get a bad run of applicants. They're not really looking to move unless they get a killer deal. So if you really think your unit is priced right, stick to it. You're getting good traffic and thats usually a good example of being priced right.

But if it continues, you might want to lower the price and/or start asking some of these people point blank why they decided against renting it. You never know what you might find out. Overpriced? Overpriced compared to a SFH? Kitchen too small? etc.

Tougher time of year to find lots of tenants. Easier to find tenants before School starts or ends. Keep trying.

I wouldn't waive the application fee because, aside from eating into your costs, it requires the applicant to have some skin in the game. Knowing that there is a credit/background check, and knowing there is a fee, those who are fairly certain they would not pass won't bother, and if they are serious about wanting the unit the fee is immaterial. At worst, you can offer to include the fee for a successful applicant as a credit to the first month's rent. 

What happened with the one applicant? It only takes one to rent, so long as they meet all criteria. I am upfront in general requirements with people before they complete (Monthly income of 3X, reasonably good credit, clean criminal background) so that they are not needlessly wasting their money nor my time. 

Have the app there with you. Have them pay with cash while you are there.

Good news is it is not you. Tenants always say they like it then disappear.

Keep at it you'll get one to sign up.

Is there something in the application that would make them hesitate?

App is pretty standard... I've used a version from EZ-Landlord and from NC-REC to see if they get different results. The one couple that did complete apps and paid the fee came back with some troubling items on their credit, so I offered to lease but with 2 months deposit, which I do not think they could cover. I have two others claiming they will submit an app today, so I will see. I also have several more interested in a showing, so I will have paper apps present and collect the app fee immediately at the next showings and see how that goes.

They probably expect to be rejected, so they don't want to bother with filling out an application and paying the application fee. 

Are your acceptance and rejection clear? Are they maybe too strict?

I started charging an application fee for the screening service too, but I would tell the applicants that if they took the apartment that I would apply it to their security deposit.  Not sure if it made a huge difference, but it sounds nice.  I agree with the point about pre-screening people that know they'll probably fail the application anyway.  Why take in 5 applications and waste time starting to screen them when they're not actually serious or won't qualify?

I recently had some trouble renting too and I started thinking, "maybe I should just drop the fee, especially if I'll eat it later anyway", or "maybe I should drop the rent", or "maybe I should reduce the security deposit", well I was showing a 1BR and a 2BR and had nothing after a month and all of a sudden, they both popped at once.

If you know you're competitive, stick to your guns.  Like any sales, it's a numbers game, sometimes you just have to show it to a lot of people until the right one finally hits.

Last year we started doing a "$99 first month rent special"; when the lease is signed, it's the security deposit (same as one months rent) and $99 for that first month no matter the date they move in (and no, I don't "prorate" the $99 for that month...believe me, someone asked about that).  Seems to help with some of my rentals which sometimes attract folks who might have a hard time coming up with a security deposit and the full first months rent and a pet fee (if it's a unit where I allow pets).    Initially are pet deposit was just that; a deposit that would be returned at the end if no damage; now it a non-fundable fee of $250.

Folks seem willing to do the pet fee but like the $99 special.  I explain this is for folks who qualify after going through our standard screening process (credit check, criminal check, proof of income at least 3 times the rent).


Gail

I let them fill out a paper application before the fee.  I only charge when I have pre-qualified and I am ready to run the credit check. Then they pay online with smartmove.  I still get lots of paper that does not come back. If your renters aren't tech savy then  online does not work for them.

One thing that sometimes works is to say what else have you been looking at and how does this compare?  It gives you a window on what they don't like about your unit.   The other thing is asking what move in date they are looking for.  If they can't answer then they are just tourists.

One thing about property management is you got to deal with flaky prospects. I would bring the applications with you and try to get them to fill it out on the spot. You don't want to rely on them applying after the fact. Maybe they will have the app fee, maybe they won't (mention there is a fee on the phone and hopefully they'll bring the money). But even if they apply without the fee, the fact that they know they've already spent the time to fill out the whole app makes it more likely they will follow through on the fee.

The first thing you learn in sales: prospects are liars and scum don't trust anything they say until the agreement is signed and the money is in your bank account. Similar concept with house showings. That's why I only do group showings I don't waste my time with only one person.

If they aren't applying it most likely has to do with the price of the unit. I typically have them do a paper application at the showing if they are real interested. Once i get paper app I do the due diligence and then if everything checks out I send them the link for the background/credit check.

Hi,

I always have a paper applications at the showings.  I have found that if the prospect does not fill the app. out at the showing and they take it with them to FAX or email then there is about a 85% chance you will never hear from them again.  Years ago I would get frustrated but then I realized that "it does not matter what they say to you and how eager they seem". If they do not fill an app. out right then and there then you simply will not hear from them again.

Originally posted by @JD Martin :

I wouldn't waive the application fee because, aside from eating into your costs, it requires the applicant to have some skin in the game. Knowing that there is a credit/background check, and knowing there is a fee, those who are fairly certain they would not pass won't bother, and if they are serious about wanting the unit the fee is immaterial. At worst, you can offer to include the fee for a successful applicant as a credit to the first month's rent. 

What happened with the one applicant? It only takes one to rent, so long as they meet all criteria. I am upfront in general requirements with people before they complete (Monthly income of 3X, reasonably good credit, clean criminal background) so that they are not needlessly wasting their money nor my time. 

 I agree completely with you that the application fee is necessary but very much like your idea of crediting it to the rent; never thought of doing that. I was also wondering about that one applicant; hope he lets us know about that.

Originally posted by @Gail K. :

Last year we started doing a "$99 first month rent special"; when the lease is signed, it's the security deposit (same as one months rent) and $99 for that first month no matter the date they move in (and no, I don't "prorate" the $99 for that month...believe me, someone asked about that).  Seems to help with some of my rentals which sometimes attract folks who might have a hard time coming up with a security deposit and the full first months rent and a pet fee (if it's a unit where I allow pets).    Initially are pet deposit was just that; a deposit that would be returned at the end if no damage; now it a non-fundable fee of $250.

Folks seem willing to do the pet fee but like the $99 special.  I explain this is for folks who qualify after going through our standard screening process (credit check, criminal check, proof of income at least 3 times the rent).


Gail

 I'm wondering how you can charge a non-refundable pet fee; if the pets have behaved themselves and left the unit as they found it, shouldn't they get their deposit back just as their parents do? Otherwise it's like charging rent to the pets, isn't it?

In Georgia one can charge a non-refundable pet for the privilege of owning a pet (I know you can't do non-refundable fees in California).  And yes, some landlords even charge extra rent for the privilege of owning a pet; say an extra $15 to $25 a month for this (we don't..yet).

For a long time we didn't change any pet fee to tenants who own pets as I've always had pets and did volunteer work in greyhound rescue.  But after we had tenants whose various dogs ate my porch swing, the plug off a window air conditioner (haven't a clue why the dog didn't fry himself on that one), dug holes in carpets down to the subfloor, ate the bottom off a closet door, chewed open a door and got under the house in the summer heat to stay cool and crushed a duct pipe and (in one case) were kept under the house so I got to clean feces and urine out from under there on my hands and knees....we rethought our  idea of the need for a pet fee.

Gail

Originally posted by @Colleen F. :

One thing that sometimes works is to say what else have you been looking at and how does this compare?  It gives you a window on what they don't like about your unit.   The other thing is asking what move in date they are looking for.  If they can't answer then they are just tourists.

What a great qualifying question to ask them what else they are looking at and how they compare!  I love when people tell me, "oh I looked at this one place and it was a dump", but only when they volunteer that info.  Of course, if they think my place is the dump, they're no so candid with those comments!

I also like the suggestions about asking prospects to fill out the application on the spot.  I give away a whole lot of paper that I never see again because I'm so casual about it, "sure just send that back whenever you're ready."  I always thought that if someone is serious about a move, they're going to take action.  However, that is not always the case, so I think I'm going to use that one.

Originally posted by @Maggie Tasseron :
Originally posted by @Gail Kaitschuck:

...  Initially are pet deposit was just that; a deposit that would be returned at the end if no damage; now it a non-fundable fee of $250.

...


Gail

 I'm wondering how you can charge a non-refundable pet fee; if the pets have behaved themselves and left the unit as they found it, shouldn't they get their deposit back just as their parents do? Otherwise it's like charging rent to the pets, isn't it?

Gail - This isn't unheard of. In my area landlords get a pet rent, pet registration, and non-refundable pet fees. 

I suspect price...but as one poster stated this time of year it may be more difficult to find a tenant. I carry applications with me along with a flyer stating renter qualifications, background checks, security deposit amounts, etc. I give both to the prospect at the time if they desire them. Usually they fill them out on site. I charge $75 per adult application fee. Some have said this sounds high, but I feel if they are willing to pay that, they know they won't be disqualified for lying about criminal records or evictions. I may take two or three the same day including the application fees. Once I find one that is qualified, I return any application fees if that application was not ran. Also, cut down your showing times to 30 minutes to one hour. Have everyone show during that time period. It makes it easier on you, and creates a possible "must act fast" mentality. Also, if possible, expand your marketing to get more potential tenants.

Originally posted by @Jonathan Smith:

I've been showing what I consider to be a GREAT Townhouse Unit for the last two weeks, and with each showing I hear "I love it! I Want It!"... So I send an email with a link to the application, including instructions to complete online and email or print / fax. App fee is only $25, yet I've gotten only 1 completed application to date. Am I missing something as to what happens after the prospective tenant leaves the showing expressing how much they want the unit and knowing the first qualified applicant will get it - yet I get only crickets when waiting for the app and trying to follow up with them!?! I've checked my breath - fresh and clean, as is the home.

 @Jonathan Smith 

While I would suspect you are running into tire kickers, and application dodgers , it could be something else. How do you accept the application? In person, fax, email, submitted through a website?  Does you method provide the applicant protection? 

Unless you encrypt the transaction I won't be submitting my information. This happened to me just today. I was getting ready to send some PII to a hard money lender, when found the methods were unencrypted. (email and fax via a third party online service)

BTW: I miss the triangle. 

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