Let me tell you how much I despise one-on-one showings with perspective tenants.
Okay, “despise” is a strong word. It’s meant for dramatic effect.
But I’m a busy person. And driving to my property to show a vacant unit to one person is a massive waste of time.
Yes, I pre-qualify the tenants over the phone. I’ll ask them a series of questions to make sure that they have the proper credit history, they can move in at the proper time, and they are generally serious about looking for a place to live.
Regardless of how much time I spend trying to prequalify a tenant over the phone, though, I still lose far too much of my precious time conducting showings that will obviously go nowhere.
Sometimes a potential tenant will very clearly dislike the unit. Their disappointment with the house is evident — it’s written all over their face.
I’ll see them glance at some aspect of the home that I can’t control, such as the square footage of the kitchen, and I know immediately that the 15 minutes I spent driving to the unit, the 10 minutes I spent waiting for the potential tenant to show up, the 10 more that I will spend showing them the place, and the 15 minutes that I’ll spend driving back home are just a total write-off. Bye-bye, one hour of my life.
Other times the potential tenant will no-show, which is even more frustrating.
But don’t worry — there are two awesome solutions.
The first and most obvious fix: Hire a property manager. That’s a different conversation for a different day.
But here’s a second, less-obvious fix: Hold an Open House.
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The Awesomeness of the Open House
I took a page from the real estate sales playbook and started hosting open houses.
When I list a vacant unit, I plan two Open Houses: the first on a weekday evening, and the second on a weekend.
For example; I’ll state that I’m hosting an Open House on Wednesday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. (Note: Don’t plan the Open House too early in the morning. People like to sleep in, myself included.)
When potential tenants call to ask me about a vacant unit, I’ll tell them that if they want to see the unit, they can come at one of those two times. I’m clear that I’m not doing any private showings.
The vast majority of potential tenants are okay with this. Every now and again, someone will protest: “Oh, I can’t make it during one of those times!,” at which point my reaction is — basically — “Tough. If you really want to rent this unit, you’ll find a way to make it happen.”
(Note: I once rented a unit to someone who couldn’t come to either of the Open Houses herself, so she sent a friend to tour the place on her behalf. When the friend raved about how much she loved the unit, the woman sent in an application — complete with application fee — sight unseen.)
The Open Houses are Fantastic for a few Reasons:
It saves me a ton of time. Rather than driving to a house 10 times to do 10 separate showings, I only have to drive there twice.
When multiple tenants view the house at the same time — and they see the other potential tenants touring the house — they get a very clear message: If you want to rent this, you’ll have to act quickly, because you’re facing competition.
This motivates the tenants to put in an application sooner rather than later.
The Open House format allows me to well-prepare the house for the showing. Thirty minutes before the Open House, I’ll walk through the unit, turning on all of the lights, opening the blinds, spraying an all-natural air freshener, and otherwise preparing the place for the best possible showing.
I also bring a stack of flyers that list basic information about the unit, as well as the URL of the website where they can submit an application.
In short, I’ve completely copied the playbook that real estate agents use when they’re holding an Open House to try to sell a home.
The only difference is I’m holding this Open House to rent the home. (As a side note, I’ve heard some real estate agents say that they don’t have much success finding buyers via Open Houses. But perhaps finding renters is different — I’ve had tremendous success with this method, perhaps in part due to the “competition / act now” factor.)
4. Lead Generation
I meet many tenants who may not want to rent this specific unit, but who are in the market for other units. If I happen to have another vacancy at the same time, I can direct that lead toward my other property.
Holding an open house is an effective and time-efficient way of conducting many multiple showings with perspective tenants. It has saved me countless hours and hundreds of dollars.
Photo Credit: nick.garrod