5 Expert Tips to Attract Cream-of-the-Crop Tenants

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Tenants. That one word can send chills down a landlord’s spine. To a landlord, tenants are both their bread and butter and their biggest problem. We have all heard the horror stories of bad tenants who trash properties, steal our money, and otherwise want to make us sell everything we own. Top that off with the ever increasing number of tenant-friendly laws being enacted by jurisdictions around the country, and you might wonder why anyone would want to be a landlord.

One has to remember, however, that not all tenants are bad. There are some great ones out there, and the key is attracting these good tenants to you and your properties. Attracting these tenants is not always as simple as placing a “For Rent” sign in the front yard. It takes a bit of thought and effort. But if you can attract the best tenants you will significantly reduce the amount of problems and the levels of stress you face.

So how do you attract great tenants? Here are some ideas.

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5 Expert Tips to Attract Cream-of-the-Crop Tenants

Know Your Rental Market

All markets in real estate are extremely local. Various neighborhoods and communities will attract differing segments of the tenant base and will offer differing amenities. In some neighborhoods the proximity of a good school may be a major attraction. In others it may be proximity to work or to entertainment facilities. You as the landlord need to understand what attracts good tenants to your location and market towards that. If the school is great, say so. If the proximity to entertainment is great, say so.

Your market will also determine the type of amenities offered, as not all locations will offer the same ones. For example, some locations can attract good tenants without supplying appliances, while others cannot. You may not like supplying appliances, but if it is done in your local market and you do not, the best tenants are going to go elsewhere.

Know How Your Tenants Search For Rentals

Understanding how the best tenants, along with the bad ones, will find you is another key. You need to focus your advertising towards the most productive methods to find the best tenants. Gone are the days of just being able to put a sign in the yard and hoping for the best. Today a landlord has many ways to advertise their properties.

Related: 3 Tips to Transform Your Tenants From Apathetic Residents to Raving Customers

Yes, you can still use signs in the yard, but these will only attract those who happen to be driving by your property or specifically looking in your neighborhood. While signs may be good if you are trying to attract tenants because you are next to a good school, they will not work if your goal is to attract professionals moving in from out of town. Know and understand who you are trying to communicate with and how they prefer to communicate.

Act Professional

Always remember that you are running a business, and professionalism goes a long way. Remember that prospective tenants are looking for a place to call home, and they are going to have their guard up when they see your ads or contact you. Thus, you need to be professional at all of the points of tenant contact, including everything from having professional looking signs and a website, to a professional looking personal appearance and manner. Nothing is going to spook the good tenants more than a bad vibe they get from an unprofessional looking or unorganized and confused sounding landlord. Think about it from their point of view. They are sizing you up just as much as you are them.

Have Standards/Rental Criteria

Nearly every prospective tenant is going to have concerns about who is living next door. It is only natural to be worried who will be on the other side of that wall. Unfortunately for them, you really should not tell them much about who lives there. It can get you into trouble, and it is not very professional to share info about tenants. You can, however, explain your rental criteria and state that everyone you rent to has to meet those criteria. So, for example, you can state that all tenants have to pass a criminal background check and make enough money to afford the property. Tell them the same standards that you are going to apply to them applied to everyone. That will often calm most nerves.

Related: 6 Simple Tips to Help Keep Your Tenants Happy (& Paying)

Keep Your Property Tidy and Maintained

I hate to have to say this, but it needs to be said. If you let your properties become run down, you will end up in a downward spiral of lower and lower quality tenants who will cause you more and more problems. This does not mean that you have to provide granite countertops or plant rose gardens, but your properties should look well kept. That means cut grass, a trash-free yard, a lack of peeling paint, and a general tidy and cared about appearance. Yes, this all costs money, but it is going to be less money than the amount you have to spend due to a bad tenant.

Tenants can make or break a landlord. Attract the good ones by following the tips outlined above. Let the bad ones move on to your less informed competition.

So what do you do to attract the best tenants?

Please share with your comments.

About Author

Kevin Perk

Kevin Perk is co-founder of Kevron Properties, LLC with his wife Terron and has been involved in real estate investing for 10 years. Kevin invests in and manages rental properties in Memphis, TN and is a past president and vice-president of the local REIA group, the Memphis Investors Group.

15 Comments

  1. karen rittenhouse

    Additionally:
    1. Charge a fee for the rental application
    2. Let prospects know you run a credit and criminal background check (which explains the application fee)

    Better tenants are ok with numbers 1 and 2 above. If they cause a prospect to walk, you’ve completed some great screening.

    Thanks for the post!

    • Deanna Opgenort

      Had one last vacancy. Wasn’t sure she “liked” the idea of being expected to pay for the background check, because it was “mainly for the benefit of the landlord” .
      Who says interviews can’t be entertaining.
      Fun part was she claimed to have been a property manager in the past (also a social worker, therapist, etc…I was waiting for astronaut)

      • Kevin Perk

        Deanna,

        There are a lot of red flags there. I hope you dodged that one!

        I had one guy walk the walk and talk the talk. Looked great and paid for the background check. he must have thought I would just pocket the money because he had never paid a bill in his life. He kind of shrugged when told he did not qualify. Do the check people, you never know.

        Thanks for sharing,

        Kevin

    • Kevin Perk

      Karen,

      Wise words. If they walk away from an application fee you are much better off!

      Like you say, good tenants know that an application fee and background check are just part of the routine.

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment,

      Kevin

      • Katie Rogers

        I was a great tenant who refused to pay application fees. I was clean, quiet, usually paid a few days early, and left the place not only broom clean, but move-in ready. I think there are probably more great tenants like me out there. Landlords I chose to rent from in my tenant days did not charge application fees, did not run credit checks, and generally had a building full of likewise great tenants. How were those landlords so successful at getting the cream of the crop? Probably by remembering what it was like to be a tenant.

        • Dan Heuschele

          Maybe lucky. Maybe times have changed.

          I would not want to be the tenant living next door to another tenant that had no screening. They could be a convicted felon or a sex offender if no screening was performed.

          The credit and criminal check I look at as not only some protection for me as that landlord but also some protection for my other tenants. Everyone of my prospective adult tenants pays for my background/credit check. I do not accept copies. Once they become a tenant they appreciate that new tenants have been thoroughly screened as well as the effort I place into making their home a safe and comfortable place. Because I place such effort into finding good tenants in the first place I work to keep them as tenants and typically I hate to see them move not only due to the cost, etc. of finding a good replacement tenant but because they are good people who I have come to know a little bit.

          I truly believe my tenants are way above average quality for the demographics of the area of the rentals (I have good to great tenants). The screening is one aspect.

          This year I have had less than 2 weeks unoccupied units in total (but another tenant has given notice moving out this month so time will tell how long it takes to find a good tenant for that unit).

          Good screening = good tenants.

  2. Andrew Syrios

    The last one is the biggest in my mind. There are certainly good ways to market and sell a house to a tenant, but the house itself is the best thing to sell a potential tenant. If it is in good shape and looks clean and well maintained, you should be able to get apps from good quality tenants. And then the best way to keep them is with good maintenance.

    • Kevin Perk

      Andrew,

      Agreed. We get so many tenants from other landlords who are just frustrated because they will not make simple repairs.

      I know these repairs cost money and are a pain in the rear, but how much did you lose when your good tenant left?

      Thanks for reading and commenting,

      Kevin

    • Kevin Perk

      Robert,

      I see more and more properties advertised on the MLS here. And you are right, professionals may trust a professional realtor and thus be inclined to use them. But my experience here is that CL is still the way to go. I guess it depends on your market. The lesson is to keep a close tab on how people are finding properties and adjust accordingly.

      Thanks for sharing and I appreciate you reading my post,

      Kevin

  3. Jerry W.

    I have recently had good luck with Trulia and Zillow. I was surprised at the number of calls from there. Also nearly every town has one or 2 local sale sites on the internet. Those seem to get word of mouth going quickly on your rental.

  4. Margaret Cole

    When I was renting, it was so discouraging all the people who required a credit check. I understand the app fee and background check and references. I think those are great filters. Same with no smoking (covered in another forum). Since I don’t do credit cards or have any loans (haven’t had either for a good while), I would think that would make me a better risk. But it seems landlords only look at the credit score and don’t bother to interpret it. Like Katie R, I’ve always been a good tenant, and the landlords that did take me would want me back.

    • Theresa Minifield

      I have used CL in the past and now I use rree Postlets (they post on CL, Zillow, Trulia, and Hotspot) and have not had problems with tenants. They do attract C and D tenants but if I get a tenant that is somewhat risky but has been on the job for at least the last two years and net income can sustain the rent, I take a two-month security deposit and explain to them why. This way, if the tenant does not have or cannot come up with the money they will walk away. Works for me since my properties are in A neighborhoods and all my rents are $1,400 +++/mo per SFR and they would need 3x rent to move-in.

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