How to Become a Better Landlord By Honing Your Influence & Persuasion Powers


Robert Cialdini is one of the leading experts on influence and persuasion. Below are 5 principles from his book The Psychology of Persuasion and how you can use them to be a more effective landlord.

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Have you ever had someone you just met do something nice for you for no reason at all? What are you going to do later when they ask you for a favor? Feel good about helping them, right? Research shows that reciprocity is one of the most important factors in influence.

When you get a new tenant you start the relationship with a power dynamic. They see you as an authority figure. In these situations they look to set the tone for the relationship. The best way to get off on the right foot is to do something nice for them that they don’t expect.

A week after moving in, give them a call and ask how they are doing and if they need anything. They will almost always say no but appreciate that you’re the only landlord to care enough to ask. Send them a birthday/christmas card or even a thank you for renting from you card. How many times have you received anything from your landlord except a bill? If you care about them, they will be influenced by reciprocity to care about you.

Related: 5 Steps to Banish Negative Influences (to Become Happier & More Productive!)


When you start a new relationship, you have to set the stage with rules. If they think they can do something, then why wouldn’t they? Everyone has different expectations of what’s acceptable. If you tell an adult after they do something that they aren’t allowed to do it, you just create more problems. 

You’ll want to put the rules in the lease as a separate page titled “House Rules.” Make sure they have to sign the page stating that they have read and agree to the rules. This will weed out all of the people you don’t want and make it more likely they will follow them because they made a written commitment.

Social Proof

Think back on the recent commercials you’ve seen. How much of the commercial is dedicated to the product itself and how much is dedicated to people smiling about it? Commercials focus on social proof, or convincing you that you should like it because the pretty people in the commercial like it. People follow what other people do and believe.

The only way to get social proof for your rental is to get online reviews. There are numerous third party websites you can use so just pick one and stay with it. When you get great reviews, put a few in your ad with a link to see more.


The first impression you make is the most important determinant of how things are going to go in the future. You want to get them to like you right away.

The first way to do that is to dress and act professionally. That’s the first thing they will notice. The second thing you need to do is make them like you.

Have you ever gone out and had someone you don’t know be interested in you and ask you questions about yourself? It feels great, and you like them almost instantly. You can easily be that person by asking questions about these four topics.

F – Family

O – Occupation

R – Recreation

D – Dreams

If you really want to be a powerhouse, ask a simple question about one of the topics above and then based on their answer, ask two more about the same topic with each going more into depth. I like to call it “3 deep questioning.”


You: What is that you do for a living?

Them: I teach 8th grade math.

You: Wow. What was it that got you passionate about teaching?

Them: I love working with teenagers and trying to help them succeed in life.

You: What is the most important thing you teach them that helps them succeed?

Them: I…

You want to build a relationship first and get to know them before getting to business. It’s easier to do business when someone likes you anyway.

Related: One Small Simple Step To Growing Your Network and Increasing Your Influence


People want things that are limited and in high demand because they don’t want to miss out. You can create scarcity from a well written ad. To do this you have to show them why it’s scarce and then mention that it’s scarce and compel them to act.

In your ad you should list all of the features your property has, even if nearby properties have the same features and specifically point out the features that no other nearby properties have. I’m not talking bedrooms and bathrooms; I’m talking about what’s nearby and the benefits of your location. If you can make your property very appealing, then you can create a sense of scarcity. If you say, “Due to application volume, all applications due by ___,” make them think you have a lot of people wanting the place and they will be more likely to put in an application now.

Another way to create a sense of scarcity is to have short, slightly overlapping appointments when showing the house to potential tenants. If they see people leaving and coming while they are there, they will view the property as more valuable because they might lose out if they don’t apply right away. Having all of your appointments in a short time period also saves you a lot of time.

What psychological tactics do you use to be a better, more effective landlord?

Leave me a comment below!

About Author

Brett Lee

Brett Lee is a licensed Real Estate Broker in Portland Oregon where he helps people achieve a better future so they can do the things that truly make them happy. Brett is also a buy-and-hold investor, property manager and investment advisor.


  1. Randy E.

    Good topic, Brett. One thing I like to do with new tenants is leave cleaning supplies in the house. I’ll usually stop by a day or two before move in and make sure the place is in move in condition. I’ll stop at a Dollar Store and pick up a broom, dustpan, mop, a couple of rolls of paper towels, and various cleaning products. In all, it costs about $10. Then back at the rental, I might windex a couple of windows or mirrors, sweep a little dust from the corners, and what not. When I’m done, I leave all the supplies neatly in a corner of the kitchen.

    Tenants are mostly always pleasantly surprised by that and they say so. A lot of times, brooms and stuff get misplaced in a move. Or tenants will use the move to throw away old dirty booms and mops, in anticipation of buying new stuff for the new place. I like when I visit weeks and even months later and see the tenants still using the broom and mop I left behind. Besides, it kind of sets my expectations of the tenant of maintaining a clean house.

    And it fit right in with the theme of reciprocity. Every time they use that broom or mop (or the occasional kitchen trash can I’ll purchase if I see a cheap one on sale,) they’ll be reminded that the landlord helped make their move easier. Maybe that will subconsciously cause them to make my life a little easier.

  2. Steven J.

    Randy that’s a really good idea!

    I’ve just started managing a 24 plex and I’m doing monthly newsletters detailing current events, dates to remember such as mothers and fathers day, events in the city, and notices about policy changes or how to deal with situation. My next one will have information on the best and most efficient way to report troublesome tenants.

    I also sell mobile homes so I would have to say I’ve gotten quite good at a FORD type way of questioning the prospects. Its a little different marketing small apartment units in an area with a number of other similarly priced units so I’m working on that.

  3. Matt Rothwell

    I like most of these suggestions. However, I’ve got a couple friends that were recently looking for a place to rent. The items in your last two paragraphs irk them to no end, and they’d bother me too. They showed up to one showing where the previous appointment hadn’t finished, and they just bailed on their appointment.

    When people are leaving a place that they live, they don’t want it to be a “chance” that they’ll “get in”. This couple is well qualified–both of them have good jobs (teacher and postdoc), and they have a stable rental history (lived at their last place for 5 years) . When they encounter forced scarcity, their first reaction is to go somewhere else. The second reaction is to fill out a boatload of applications (all of which were accepted) then choose the one that they liked the best for the best price.

    At that point, the marketing that you’ve done has been thrown out the window, and you’re back to square one–with your potential renters comparing amenities and price. All you’ve done is play a game and waste people’s time.

    • I’m a bit confused by the ‘wasted people’s time’ part. Especially because I’ve scheduled one on one showings throughout the week and people often don’t show. I’ve wasted my time. So I don’t do that anymore. Even for the building I live in. Just last week I had 6 appointments, 2 families showed up. And the part about the ‘previous appointment hadn’t finished…’ much like going to the doctor, being ON TIME or early and having to wait because the previous appointment hadn’t finished. Same difference to me.

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