How We’ve Automated Much of the Follow-Up With Potential Tenants

by | BiggerPockets.com

This is the fourth part of a series of automation projects we’ve done in 2017 for our buy-and-hold real estate business. This post will show you how we’ve automated some of the tedious parts of converting a potential tenant to a current tenant.

We look at the tenant sales cycle in several stages: initial inquiry/guest card, rental application, approved applicants, and current tenants.

Initial Inquiry/Guest Card

A potential tenant in this stage has probably come across one of our ads and reached out to us about an available home. We answer any questions they might have and try to arrange a showing of the home.

We have two goals at this stage: One is that the potential tenant will complete an application, and the other is that he will sign up for one of our lists (email, text, and/or Facebook) to stay updated with newly available homes.

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When potential tenants submit a guest card (simple inquiry through Zillow, for example, that gives the name, phone, and email of the person and states that he/she is interested in our home at 123 Main St), they receive an automated email and text message stating that we’ve received their guest card and will reach out to them soon, while also providing a link to our rental application.

At times, we’ve added the phone numbers and email addresses automatically from our guest cards into our texting and email lists, respectively, on a weekly basis. I’ve had an ethical dilemma about this. When we’ve done it, we’ll let the potential tenant know what we’ve done and make it easy for them to unsubscribe. Our lists grow noticeably when we do this, and complaints are rare. Other times, we turn off this automation and manually ask them through emails, texts, and calls to join our lists to stay updated with our homes.

The best thing to do is probably edit our automated email and text message to include information on joining our lists to stay updated with available homes but not automatically add them to these lists.

When a new guest card is submitted, a message is posted in Slack as an additional reminder to follow up with that person and their information is added to Hubspot CRM.

Rental Application

Potential tenants have shown that they’re at least somewhat serious if they reach this stage. Our typical fee is $20. We run background checks and talk with previous landlords and employers.

When the potential tenant submits a rental application, they receive an automated text that we’ve received their application and will get back to them soon with the results. They also receive a link to pay a hold deposit to hold their desired home that will be refunded if their application is rejected.

At the same time, my team receives a message in Kyber (project management chatbot in Slack) that we need to screen this new applicant.

Our primary goal at this stage is to screen the applicant and mark their application as approved or rejected. A secondary goal is to get them on one of our lists to keep them updated with available homes if they haven’t already done so.

Approved Applicants

For the rejected applicants, our sales cycle temporarily ends. We ask them to stay in touch with us and let us know if their situation improves. It would probably be a good idea to send one or a series of automated texts in the future that follows up with that person.

The approved applicants who are ready to rent one of our homes need to pay a $100 hold deposit through our website. At that point, one of our closers will schedule a closing with them to sign paperwork and collect money owed.



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Once they’ve paid the hold deposit, they’ll receive an automated email a couple weeks later asking them to complete a survey in exchange for a $5 credit. This provides us valuable feedback on our tenant sales cycle.

We send those approved but not ready to buy some automated emails and texts between 30 to 120 days later reminding them to join our lists to stay updated with available homes and negotiating with us about homes that have been available for a while.

We also receive a report in Slack on a monthly basis of all recently approved applicants who haven’t yet converted to tenants. This is another opportunity for us to manually reach out to this valuable group who’s close to converting to current tenants.

Current Tenants

At this point, the sales cycle is done for that person, but this is an ongoing relationship. We’ll still reach out to this group for testimonials, for referrals for lower-demand homes in exchange for small rent credits, and to remind them to keep us updated if they know of similar homes for sale. Most of this should be automated.

Much of this is possible regardless of your using Appfolio, Slack, and/or Kyber. These are just the systems we like for now and have automated around.  

Need help getting something like this set up?

Comment below!

About Author

Aaron Kinney

Aaron Kinney has been investing in mobile home and land properties since 2011. He writes about this occasionally at MobileHomeEbook.com and helps real estate businesses implement automation at SelahSoftware.com.

11 Comments

  1. Rob Cook

    Aaron, you have really opened my eyes up to how POORLY I am at managing my rentals currently! I own and ran a $6 Mill a year residential remodeling company for 30 years, and have over 50 long term rentals, and I am in the stone age at dealing with tenants instead of doing it like a grown-up business person should. We have property managers for many of our units, until the last 2 years, so have to step up now. Thanks for the info. I will go back and study your series now, this was the first I had seen. Inspired! Thanks!

  2. JL Hut

    This topic needs more discussion on BP, there are many ways to approach Tenant screening, but many are very time consuming. I would like to see others share also so we can all become more efficient. I like your method Arron. Great organization and skill. You approach this like a serious business. Need capital? P.M.

  3. Dave Rav

    Aaron, fellow investor out of SC here. Great post on the use of technology to automate tenant lead management throughout the spectrum.

    I own an MHP and a few rentals and have found the least interesting (most annoying!) part of the process is the tire-kicker folks who initially inquire but have no real interest. Fielding their calls is a waste of time. Your system seems like it would help weed out these folks. Something else I’ve done is use a business voicemail whereas I tell prospects to leave detailed information (full name, phone number, etc). If they dont, they aren’t guaranteed a call back. That helps some.

    What has been your experience with “low tech” prospects who prefer doing business in person and/or on paper?

    • Aaron Kinney

      Great idea, Dave. Phone calls are still our primary source of converting hot leads and we sign paperwork in person, but nearly all of our marketing is online as well as our application and rent payment portal.
      For the low-tech folks, we can “hold them by the hand” to walk them through these various steps (seems to happen often with inherited tenants), but we also attract (due to our online marketing) those who are comfortable with the internet. I know we’re missing out on these low-tech folks…

  4. Amy A.

    You do showings without pre-screening? Pre-screening is the most tedious thing I do, but it is very necessary. Before I started pre-screening, I wasted a ton of time showing to people who would never qualify. They would show up drunk, high, with a dog, or not show up at all. I think you need to re-write this and explain your pre-screening procedure.

  5. Cliff H.

    Thanks for sharing this Aaron. Followed a similar automation process in my rentals, with the addition of full prescreening and showing management.

    Curious on how you’re working with Zillow. Wile I have found Zillow great for lead gen, it is frustrating to be unable to simply reply back to the Zillow leads by a predetermined email workflow. Sounds like that is still something your team is handling personally via notification in Slack?

    Lastly, your use of HubSpot and real CRM software for lead management is something not enough R/E investors are doing yet. Could be a worth a follow-up to break that process out, since it often becomes the lynchpin in moving folks from prospects to applicants.

    • Aaron Kinney

      Hey Cliff,

      In regards to Zillow leads, we have a little automation but ultimately they still have to communicate back and forth with us typically through text or a phone call to move through our funnel. We may experiment with some electronic lockboxes to see if we can automate more of this early part of the sales process.

      I’m pretty happy with our CRM tracking for sellers and investors, but we haven’t figured out a great system for tracking tenants in a CRM. We haven’t had complete buy in with Hubspot and also use Appfolio for taking notes on a tenant after they’ve completed an application. With these Appfolio notes, we’re doing a good job of tracking our warmest tenant leads but could do better for those who have shown an interest but haven’t completed an application. If not for the Hubspot automation, I would probably abandon it. We have plenty of room to improve in this area.

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