Last updated Mar 26, 2020
One of the most exciting parts of the ramp-up to finding your new tenant is showing them the rental property. This process surprisingly enough can also be a key component of your tenant screening process. If you have properly marketed your rental and built anticipation, you should have a number of potential tenants ready to see the home when it’s ready.
During the marketing phase, you will have cleaned, repaired, and, perhaps, staged your rental for maximum impact. Now it is time for people to see it in person. How can you ensure that it looks as good as the photos they’ve seen online? How can you use this time to conduct a proper tenant evaluation and what is the best way to show your property?
Types of showings for optimal tenant evaluation
The first decision you will make is when to show your property to potential tenants. Controlling the showing is an essential part of framing the way others see the property and its value. You may decide on one of three possible showing scenarios.
Scheduled private showings
You may choose to have interested renters contact you in order to schedule a private showing. During this time, the renter will have your undivided attention and you will be able to learn more about them while also highlighting various aspects of the property.
Here are some ways to make your scheduled showings more productive:
- If you haven’t already, sign up for a scheduling platform like Calendly or Acuity in order to streamline the process of signing up walk-throughs. This will allow you to open a window of days and times that are convenient for you to conduct showings and help you keep track of your calendar, send reminders, and gather contact information.
- Decide ahead of time what questions you will ask and what features you will point out. Remember, your questions and requirements should be the same for all applicants in order to conform with fair housing requirements.
- Put together a packet of information to give to each potential renter. The more organized you are ahead of time the more smoothly your showing will proceed. This packet may include application information, screening requirements, and a brochure or flyer outlining features of the property and neighborhood, including local schools, parks, dining, and shopping options.
- Prepare a place to sit down with the prospective tenant and answer questions, review information, and discuss logistics. If the unit is not staged, you may want to bring in a couple of chairs and a small table in order to create a conversation area or, if there is a bar area in the kitchen, add two stools for impromptu meetings.
You probably already have in place an informal screening process that has worked for you in the past. The purpose of formalizing your process is to create benchmark requirements that you implement consistently with each rental application. That offers protection to you, to your property, and to potential renters.
Drop-in private showings
Rather than keeping track of appointments, you may want to open a window to facilitate drop-in, private showings during a limited time period. For example, you may choose a one or two day period and stay at the rental property throughout that time in order to walk through with interested potential renters.
Enlisting the assistance of a member of your team may be a good option so that you don’t end up with multiple interested parties trying to see the home at the same time. While you conduct one showing, your assistant can spend some time reviewing the home’s features and the application process with the next group.
Just as with listing a home for sale, an open house is a great way to get to know potential renters and ultimately how to find good tenants. You may choose to hold the open house during a limited period on one day or during the same two or three hour period over several days.
Since an open house can be crowded, it’s a good idea to have an assistant with you in order to ensure that everyone gets their questions answered and the property is properly supervised. Be sure to put out a sign-in sheet or a tablet with a sign-in application open so that you can capture names and contact information. That will give you the opportunity to reach out to attendees, either to follow-up on your current property or with another property better suited to their needs.
Open houses don’t have to be fancy, but you may want to put out some bottles of water or even some snacks. If you’re in a particularly competitive market, you may want to go further, adding eye-catching signage, a bounce house for the kids, and more elaborate refreshments from an ice cream or taco truck.
Open house or private showing with pre-screening
If your property is located in a particularly desirable market and demand is exceptionally high, you may want to pre-screen potential tenants before showing the property in person. In this case, only qualified applicants would be eligible to see the home.
This is an especially wise move for luxury properties, furnished properties, or properties for which you expect a lot of applications. In these cases, it is important to limit the number of “looky-loos” and curiosity seekers in favor of serious, motivated inquiries.
The psychology of tenant evaluation
When you meet with a potential tenant in person, you probably think of it as an opportunity for them to evaluate you and the property. In reality, it is just as much an opportunity for you to evaluate them and their fitness to rent your property. Understanding some basics of tenant evaluation will help you develop a list of positive and negative characteristics to watch for.
Remember, there are no hard and fast rules and different people respond in different ways. The following are not intended to be strict deal-breakers upon which you should exclude a renter. Instead, they are simply guidelines that may make you take notice and conduct tenant evaluation as well as assess their application -- a bit more carefully.
1. Watch for extreme responses
When you feel good about the home you’re showing, you hope that potential renters will like it, too. However, unusual reactions -- whether overly enthusiastic or overly negative -- could mean that the person is either trying to butter you up or preparing to lowball you on price. These types of unusual reactions are especially suspicious if they are out of step with the evaluations of other prospective tenants and with your professional knowledge of the local market.
Most people you meet with will be happy to see the property and interested in its features, the neighborhood, and local amenities. Beyond that, most of their attention will either be on the logistics of the application process, if they’re interested, or they will politely decline to apply. Overly dramatic responses about the property could mean that the applicant is trying to distract you from some of the things that may come up in their screening.
2. Watch for excessive story-telling
You’ll be trying to get to know the applicant and will no doubt make small talk alongside your screening questions. If the person you’re talking to begins to tell long, detailed stories, they may be setting you up.
Watch out for tales that cast them in the role of victim, especially in regards to their previous landlord. They may be laying the groundwork to excuse away a bad reference or a troubling detail in their background screening.
3. Watch for someone seeking exceptions
- “I don’t have quite all of the deposit. Could I add some to the second month’s rent?”
- “My roommate works long hours. I know you’d like to meet him in person, but is it okay if you don’t?”
- “I know you have a no pets policy, but my cat is very quiet and well-behaved.”
We’ve heard the saying, “give an inch and they’ll take a mile.” Tenants who start out asking for exceptions up front may be the same tenants who will be asking you to take the rent “a little late” each month or offering excuses for not mowing the lawn on time. Set your criteria and ensure that your tenants adhere to it in order to save yourself headaches down the road.
4. Watch for excessive complaints
Many unreliable and unscrupulous people struggle to take responsibility for their own actions. They project their frustrations and dissatisfaction onto other people, including bosses, landlords, neighbors, and even friends and family members. Watch out for someone who explains everything in terms of fault-finding and complaints about others.
In addition, some people have a negative view of the world that can extend to you and the property you’re showing. If someone nitpicks every detail of the home, the yard, the process, the timeline, and the rent you charge, consider whether they are a suitable candidate for your rental. The odds are that they will be even less happy once they move in, and you’ll have to hear their complaints day-after-day, month-after-month.
5. Watch for the condition of clothing, cars, and other indicators
There is no shame in driving an older car, wearing clothes that are out of fashion, or otherwise living frugally. However, a filthy, poorly maintained car, dirty clothing, and unkempt personal appearance may indicate a lack of regard for cleanliness, hygiene, and orderly living. After all, if someone treats their own clothing and car poorly, how will they treat a property they don’t own and for which they feel no responsibility?
Transitioning to the Rental Application
Once you have toured the property and conducted your tenant evaluation, and most significantly determined that you are both interested in moving forward, you’ll want to be ready to proceed with a rental application.
You’ll have a number of decisions to make about the logistics -- whether to use a paper or online application, what to charge, what information to gather, and how to evaluate the application.
An online application, like the process provided by RentSpree, can help you streamline your tenant screening process. Here’s how:
- An online rental application is generally faster to complete and receive than paper ones, providing additional convenience for you and your potential tenant.
- Online applications give prospective renters the ability to pay for their screening, upload supporting documentation, and add information for multiple tenants. That simplifies the entire process for you and saves you time and frustration. For them, it keeps their personal information more secure and offers added convenience.
- Online applications with comprehensive reporting provide peace of mind for your clients. Whether you are a real estate agent specializing in rentals or a property manager, your property owners will love the comprehensive information they find in a well-designed application and reporting process.
Remember, even if you find someone you really click with and want to rent to, it is vital that you use the same screening process for all applicants. This not only keeps you in compliance with fair housing regulations. It also protects you and the property owner from making a mistake and renting to an unqualified tenant.
Now that you know how to conduct a tenant evaluation through showing your rental property, it’s time to look at how to run a rental background check.
Continue to Chapter 8: What is a rental background check? or jump to a different article.
- Tenant Screening 101
- Creating your tenant screening checklist
- Tenant Screening Laws
- Determining Tenant Screening Criteria
- Rental Property Marketing
- Questions To Ask Rental Applicants
- Showing the Rental Property
- What is a rental background check?
- Top 5 Problems With Tenant Screening Services
- Onboarding A New Tenant