While Internet advertising makes it easier to find a higher number of rental prospects, these tools do not guarantee a higher number of qualified applicants.
The better policy is to use some method of prequalifying the individual prior to granting a tour.
Many professional property managers use an online prequalification form to get some basic information before they talk to a prospect. Asking the candidate to fill out a similar form prior to the tour is another way to prequalify tenants. At the very least, a landlord should ask prequalifying questions over the phone, and write down the applicant’s answers. Verifying that information against the rental application and tenant screening reports is a crucial step in finding the right tenant.
Here’s what you want to find out through prequalification:
1. Is this candidate serious about renting my property? One easy way to gauge the candidate’s interest is to ask how they found out about the property. If they can’t remember which property is yours or how they found it, that’s a tip that they are looking at several properties at once. Be wary about spending too much time accommodating this candidate until they show a higher level of interest.
2. Will they abide by the rules? Go over specifics like smoking restrictions or pets.
3. Are they able to afford the property? Review the details about rent and the term of the lease and make sure the prospect agrees to those terms before they see the property. While it is not uncommon for a person to be protective of financial information, a candidate who is hedging about their income or other qualifying information may not be ready to rent.
4. Do they have a good rental history? Explain that you require a tenant background check before renting, and that you will require references. If the person has a bad tenant history, this may discourage them from applying, which saves everyone time and money.
5. Why are they moving? The answer to this question can reveal problems with the existing landlord, or other issues about the person’s rental history.
6. When are they moving? Don’t fall into the trap of showing a rental property to a seemingly qualified prospect who is just looking to see what’s out there. Avoid the frustration of having a candidate ask you to hold the property vacant for them while they get ready to move. It is also important to discover if the current landlord knows the tenant is planning to move out.
Be prepared to speak with applicants before you start advertising. Have your rental policies hammered out beforehand. Imagine typical scenarios, and prepare your answers. For instance, decide if you are going to allow applicants who don’t have an extensive credit history to provide a lease guarantor or co-signor. Decide what supporting documentation you will want with the rental application, and how you will verify income when someone is self-employed or on government assistance.
For safety’s sake, make sure you verify the identity of any prospect before you bring them to the property and take steps to protect your personal safety. Online advertising makes it much easier for criminals to randomly target victims, but even those who find the property through a “for rent” sign can cause harm.
After showing the property, follow up by obtaining a completed rental application and run tenant screening reports before you allow the applicant to sign a lease agreement.