You have reached a critical stage in the rental of your house. You are ready to begin dealing with prospective residents and filling your vacancies. It is absolutely vital that you read and understand the entire rental program in this book before you do anything else. The initial contact with your prospective residents will set the tone for all your future dealings with them, and those dealings could go on for years. Understanding and following this program will prevent you from making mistakes now that could cost you money, both now and in the future.
At every stage, you must project the image to the resident that he is dealing with a large business. The resident must view your rental real estate business as he might view the power company or any large bureaucracy. You must foster in the resident the perception that they must obey the rules of the game if they want to live in this house.
Also, now is the time for you to take on your new responsibility, being the PROPERTY MANAGER.
In all of your dealings with a resident or prospective resident you should present yourself as the Property Manager, not the owner of this property. Owners SELL properties, while Property Managers RENT properties. By nature, residents rent property, so the only person they need to deal with is the Property Manager. It really should not matter to them who the owner is, as long as they know that you are the Property Manager, and you manage the property.
If they ask who the owners are, you can answer simply and honestly by saying that the owners are a group of investors. There is no reason to explain further who the investors are or even that you are one of them. Explain that the investors own the property and make all of the decisions, but they don’t deal with the day to day aspects of the property, that’s why they hired you as the property manager. If the resident later asks the neighbors and they tell him you are the owner, you can say that you once owned the house (as an investment), but now it is owned by a group of investors who hired you to be the Property Manager.
Keep in mind that if you hold title as an LLC, corporation or in a trust, you are – in fact – not the owner. The LLC, corporation or trust is the owner.
Note: It is beyond the scope of this book on landlording to discuss entities for ownership of your real estate, but know that I have more information available on this subject. Call me at 404-373-6000 and tell me you are looking for “The Real Estate LLC in Georgia.”
This separation between you (as Property Manager) and the owner is critical, because if the resident believes you are the owner, then it becomes much easier to try to take advantage of you. But if you are not the decision-maker, they will have to play by the rules. And the rules will be very clear.
Furthermore, because you are not the owner, you should:
1. never accept checks or money orders payable to you
2. never give them your home address
3. never give them your home or mobile phone number
4. never meet them anywhere except the property
REMEMBER, you are simply the Property Manager. This is business – it’s not personal!
You take applications to the owners, and they make all decisions. Later, if the resident asks for some sort of change in the lease, you are just the Property Manager. You take any requests to the owners and they make all the decisions. If the change can’t be made (most such requests won’t make any sense), then you are just the messenger, not the bad guy, and the resident will not harbor any ill will toward you.
THE DISTANCE YOU PLACE BETWEEN YOURSELF AND THE RESIDENT IS CRITICAL TO YOUR SUCCESS AS A PROPERTY MANAGER.
This is one of the main reasons I recommend that you do not hold the title to the property in your personal name. The resident has internet access just like you do, and can easily view at the county website who is the record title holder.
If the resident believes that you are the owner, your ability to enforce the rules is greatly diminished. But if you follow my plan, you will be in a much better position to maintain a professional relationship with your resident.
We used to use CRAIGSLIST for advertising our vacancies. However, in recent years, Craigslist has become a favorite spot for scammers and title thieves. The ads are mostly free and you can also link to photos on your own website if you have one. Remember to update (or remove, change slightly, and replace) your listing weekly or it will drop off the site. Ads that link to photos pull much more response than those which do not offer visuals.
As of 2022, the dominant rental listing site is ZILLOW.
How much does it cost to list a rental property on ZILLOW?
The first listing you activate with Zillow Rental Manager is free until it expires (see “Which listings require payment?”). Starting with your second listing, you will be presented with a weekly or flat fee payment option, depending on your market.
The weekly cost is $9.99 per week (or $4.99 in AK, AR, IA, KS, MS, MT, ND, NE, SD, or WV) that your property is actively listed for rent.
Certain areas have the option to pay a flat fee to list a property for up to 90 days. The flat fee listing price for properties in these locations varies by state. The flat fee is $29.99 for in CA, WA, and WI, $19.99 in DE, WY, AL, NV, KY, MO, DC, and $14.99 in NH, HI, ID, RI, SC, IN, MD, OR.
Your listings will renew automatically, and you can deactivate them at any time.
You will not be charged to manage your off-market properties or to access Zillow Rental Manager’s tenant screening, lease management, and rent payment tools.
Only one account is eligible per household to receive the free first listing. Archiving a property will not make your account eligible for an additional free listing.
We also use ZILLOW RENTAL MANAGER to create a visually pleasing template for my rental ad. The free version allows you to have featured photos, and there is room to post a link to another site where you may have additional information and/or more photos.
Craigslist has disallowed HTML sites like POSTLETS from appearing on CRAIGSLIST itself, but you can still create your webpage on WIX or WEEBLY or GOOGLE SITES, capture the URL, then include that DIRECTLY in your ZILLOW ad. EDITED to this point BY JLA on 2/13/2022.
CREATE YOUR OWN FREE WEBSITE for EACH RENTAL:
I recommend that you look at WIX.com.
The free Wix version lets you build a good-looking website on a Wix-branded subdomain. With a free plan, you can use almost all functional features of Wix website builder. The plan is never-ending, which makes it possible for everyone not only to test the features of the service, but to create multiple types of websites with it to practice and improve your skills. Mind, however, that a free plan comes with the system ad banner, subdomain and some other limitations. But is free, and super easy to use.
If you are completely new to the concept of building your own website using a free website builder, go to
Then click on WEBSITE BUILDERS
Then click on WIX
They offer a pretty good tutorial but their site makes you endure annoying pop-up ads. You can also find lots of WIX tutorials on YouTube.
Don’t make the mistake I did when I first got involved with creating websites. Don’t call GoDaddy.com or any other major website supplier and let them sell you a fancy schmancy website that you don’t need for $27/month or more.
If you need to register a custom domain (like 225OaklandStreet.com) I recommend using NAMECHEAP.com and saving some money. Good support – low price. All you want from them is the domain name. Then they POINT that domain name to your WIX website. Less than $10 per YEAR!!!
MAKE SURE you include the URL of your custom domain in several locations. If it is too long, go to BITLY.com or TINY.cc and shorten the URL to a small size, then use that.
Finally, I use the camera on my cellphone to take lots of photos of the property inside and out, including street views and pictures of each room of the property.
If possible, these photos should be time and date stamped. The more pictures you take the better. Approx 30 is ideal. More than 50 is probably too many.
Then download your photos into a free photo storage & editing program, like GOOGLE PHOTOS.
Inside your storage program, you can edit or delete any photos that are visually unattractive, and keep the rest permanently as a visual archive of how your property looked on that day.
In Google Photos, select the 30 or 40 best photos that visually represent your property, and click on UPLOAD TO GOOGLE WEB ALBUMS.
At this point, you may be prompted to open your GOOGLE ACCOUNT or create a free Gmail account. Go ahead and create a new Google Account named after the street address of your property:
Use an easy to remember password, like the name of your first dog and your year of birth: Fido1980
or maybe the street on which you live and the last 4 digits of your Social:
Tip: We use the FREE version of LASTPASS to keep up with all our passwords. It is easy to use, you can either supply your own chosen passwords or you can let LASTPASS generate one for you. The best part is that you only need to remember your MASTER password to get into LASTPASS, then it keeps up with all the rest of your passwords!
Once you have set up your Google account, you will be allowed to easily upload your 40 best photos to GOOGLE PHOTO ALBUMS, and then you can add a description to each photo. This is completely free, and automatically generates a unique WEB ADDRESS called a URL.
You might want to use a URL shortener to shorten it.
Use the long or short URL in your ZILLOW page or your free web page to allow prospective tenants to see the 40 best photos, and add a description of each photo, explaining the view.
These photos serve three purposes:
1. They allow the prospective tenant to see for himself the property and the neighborhood. This is critical.
2. These same photos serve as an excellent and admissible form of evidence that you can present to a judge in an eviction proceeding as to how the property actually looked before the tenant moved in (and destroyed it). In fact, you could have side by side BEFORE AND AFTER PHOTOS taken from the same angle that would be hard to dispute, especially if the photos are time and date stamped.
3. Your insurance company will want some evidence of what was there in the event that you experience a loss such as flooding or (heaven forbid) a fire. If you are smart, you will also get a shot of smoke detectors and the fire extinguisher you keep in the kitchen under the sink.
The goal of the ad is get the prospect to call the number. Which brings us to the number itself. I call it the magic number.
Now that you are in the rental real estate business you will need a separate telephone number. This will be a number that you use for nothing other than your rental property. I suggest that you order an additional residential line at your house or investigate VOIP or other internet based phone options.
The quickest and easiest way to get a magic phone number is to go to www.Google.com/voice and sign in with your new google name and password. Ask for a phone number in the ATLANTA area (or wherever you are) and it will generate for you a free local phone number and a free sophisticated voice mail account.
You can set your Google Voice account to forward calls to you or your cell phone, to try multiple numbers where you might be, to take messages, and then to send you an email with a recording of the message plus a transcript of the message. It also features the ability to call back the number from within Google using their VOIP service – all for free. It’s hard to beat free.
A more professional alternative is RingCentral.com on the web. They offer an amazing variety of voice mail options, including a local phone number anywhere in the nation for as little as ten bucks a month. Also offers many of the same features as Google Voice.
Most of these services are pretty similar, but you especially need the ability to have an “extended greeting.”
My outgoing message usually lasts about 3 to 4 minutes, and it serves the purpose of telling the prospective resident everything they could ever want to know about the house I have for rent. Here is a sample script I use:
Thank you for calling about the home for rent – this message will take a couple of minutes and will tell you all about it, so get your pencil & paper ready. You can call this number as many times as you like to get the address right. If you are hearing this message, then the property is still available at this time.
The house is located in the city of Atlanta near Emory campus at 5025 Oak Street. That’s in “the EMORY area” and the zip code is 30030. From the intersection of Clairemont and Scott Boulevard, go south toward Atlanta about one block. Turn left onto Oak Street. You are looking for number 5025 Oak St. It’s near the end of the street on the left. There is no traffic, and the kids can walk to school. There is a city park nearby.
This is a 3 bedroom, two bath brick home with central heat and air conditioning. It’s in a quiet family neighborhood with a large fenced yard, and small pets are ok. Discount Rent is $1895 a month plus utilities and a security deposit of $1850, and we need a one year lease minimum. We do (or do not) take Section 8.
You can drive by and look at the house from the street anytime. Please don’t disturb the folks who live there. They will be moving out at the end of March. After you have seen the house from the outside, please call back for an appointment to see the inside. Again, please do not disturb the folks who live there now.
The house will be available for rent on April 1st. We will not be able to hold the house for you until some time in the future. If you don’t need to rent on April 1st, we can’t help you at this time.
OPTIONAL STATEMENT: THIS HOUSE WILL BE OPEN FOR VIEWING SUNDAY AT FOUR O’CLOCK P.M. ONLY. PLEASE BRING YOUR CHECKBOOK.
This house is available on lease purchase if you have a good job and good credit. Thank you very much for listening. We do not have anything else available today, and we do not keep a waiting list.
You can call this message as many times as you like to get the information. Goodbye, and thanks for calling. If you want to leave a message, you may do so at the sound of the tone. We will call you back as soon as possible.
The great thing about this outgoing message is that it answers almost every question that the prospective resident could possibly have. You can modify your outgoing message to meet your needs, but I recommend you use this one initially. Don’t cut back on the information.
This outgoing message frees you to go about your business, and the prospect gets all the info they want. They can drive by and look at the property whenever they wish.
If, on the other hand, you advertise a number that you answer, or use voice mail that just says to leave a message, you’ll spend all day on weekends answering the same questions over and over and over again. In addition, you are bound to miss some good prospects if you are out or constantly on the telephone. Know this: today’s voice mail companies will give your message to up to 50 callers at the same time – no busy signals!
One of the neatest parts of the message is the sentence that says the house will be open for viewing at FOUR PM on SUNDAY. Since the prospect is listening to a recording that says four pm on Sunday, he will rearrange his schedule to be there at 4:00 if he really wants to see the house. If you don’t do this, each prospect will request a private appointment for viewing at a time convenient for them, not you.
I used to spend all weekend meeting prospects at different times trying to fit their schedule. More than half the time they didn’t even show up! Now, they know that the house will be open at 4:00 pm, and they will try to show up at that time. And if they can’t make it at that time, they can still leave you a message.
By the way, if you absolutely must set an appointment with someone to see the home, always call a few hours before the appointed hour to see if they have changed their minds. And I strongly discourage you from showing any vacant property after dark. The truth is that you have no idea WHO you are meeting or WHAT their intentions may be. If you MUST show a property after dark, take along a friend for security reasons.
Let’s look at some other brilliant parts of the outgoing message:
In the first paragraph, we tell them they can call repeatedly to get the address right. They will. We also reassure them that the property is still available. This is of major concern to the prospect. Understandably, they don’t want to waste their time looking at houses which are no longer available. They now feel they have a realistic chance of finding a house that is still available, and your message demonstrates a level of respect for the resident’s time.
In the second paragraph, we give them detailed directions from a major intersection. Remember that some of your prospects may be from out of town, and may not be familiar with your area. Also, you should assume that the prospective resident has access to Google Maps, so Google your property address and make sure the map is right, and make sure you give out the correct zip code in your message.
I like to throw in something about how nice the neighborhood is. If there is a school or city park nearby, say so.
In the third paragraph, we describe the house a little bit, and introduce the concept of DISCOUNT RENT. Everyone likes to get a discount. We’ll explain how to make Discount Rent work for you in detail later. We also specify a security deposit and a lease term. I state all these numbers up front, as fact. Once the resident is presented this information in such a manner, he is less likely to try to bargain or haggle over the numbers.
Next, I state that either we do or we don’t take Section Eight. Section Eight is the old name for the HOUSING CHOICE VOUCHER program, a low to moderate income housing program offered through the local housing authority, and paid for by the federal government through HUD.
On most of my older properties, I choose not to participate in the Housing Choice program. There is too much paperwork and too many inspections for me. People on Section Eight are hopefully persistent, and they are only looking for a house that will accept Section 8 vouchers, also called Housing Choice vouchers.
But on my newer homes, houses built after 1978 with no lead based paint issues, I usually will accept a Section 8 renter. Hey, the check is always good because it comes from the Treasury department, and the renters usually don’t complain too much because they are getting an almost free ride.
If you want more information about the Housing Choice program, call your local Housing Authority and ask.
The City of Atlanta Housing Authority has lots of educational information for you, and you can get landlord information by calling them at 404-892-4700 or by visiting www.atlantahousing.org on the web.
By the way, some of my landlord friends LOVE the Housing Choice program and make a lot of money at it, but they are set up to deal with the many demands of both the Housing Authority and it’s program participants. You will have to decide if you want to do that.
In paragraph four, we ask them to drive by and look at the house. We also tell them to not disturb the current residents. Remember that they are desperate to look at the outside of the house. This way, they can go by anytime, day or night.
I don’t want to even talk to them until they have seen the outside of the house. I certainly won’t schedule an appointment to show them the inside unless I believe they have seen the outside. It’s not worth my time to go over there and then have them decide from the street it’s not what they wanted. This demonstrates a level of regard for my time.
In paragraph five, we set a deadline of occupancy. You won’t believe the number of callers who want to know if you will hold the house for them for six months, because that’s when they will be moving. The obvious answer is NO, I won’t hold it for you, but this part of the message will save you many calls.
The OPTIONAL STATEMENT works like a dream come true!
If you will simply set a date and time for showing before you advertise, you will be amazed at the response. Prospects will be delighted to know in advance when the house will be open, and they will drive by in advance to see if they are really interested. If so, they will make it their business to be there on time.
The best part is YOU DON’T EVEN HAVE TO BE THERE! (I’ll tell you how later.) If you want to be extra consumer friendly, you can say the house will be open Sunday between noon and six p.m. I’ll cover open houses later. If you intend to be there, make sure you tell them to bring a checkbook. I am stunned at the number of prospects who show up without money!
In the next paragraph, we tease them with the offer of a “lease-purchase program.” I want residents who have a good job, good credit and ambition enough to think that they might own one day. At some price, I will be happy to sell!
The truth is that most renters hope to own, but after they have lived in a rental house a few months, they usually don’t want to (or can’t afford to) buy it. We’ll talk more about lease-purchase when we get to the lease.
Also, prospective renters all believe that you have other rental homes available, and they will ask you to put them on your waiting list. I don’t have a waiting list. It’s a waste of my time.
Finally, I tell them once again they can call repeatedly to get all the info, (I don’t care how many times they call, that telephone doesn’t even ring) and that they can leave a message at the sound of the tone. This system works great as long as you will commit to checking the messages faithfully (at least once a day, more frequently when you have placed an ad.)
Remember, if you use GOOGLE VOICE, it will automatically generate an e-mail transcript of each message that you can have forwarded to any email account you want. That email also contains the AUDIO of the message as well, so you can read it and listen to it if you want.
Prompt call-back is important because today’s rental market gives a prospective renter many options.
This outgoing message concept will save you thousands of hours of answering stupid questions and repeating directions to the property. It took me over ten years to come up with this idea, and it works very well.
As I said before, you can set a specific open house time on your outgoing message, and serious prospects will show up on time. But first you need a “Property Information Sheet”.
The Property Information Sheet serves the purpose of reinforcing all your policies and gives the rental information to the tenant in written form.
It also introduces the prospective renter to the concept that you have rules and that the rules must be followed. To a certain extent, renters are like children, and need to be told exactly what to do and when to do it.
In my career as a landlord, I have found that if my residents are given a choice, they often make the wrong choice. The more specific I can be about what they are to do and when they must do it, the more likely it is that it will happen.
Here is my Property Information Sheet:
DELTA RENTAL SERVICES
P. O. Box 7364
Acworth, Georgia 30102
INFORMATION SHEET ON 2495 Montgomery Street
Thank you for taking the time from your busy schedule to come by and look at this home.
DISCOUNT RENT AVAILABLE: The prevailing rental rate in this neighborhood for a similar 3 bedroom home is $1525, and the stated rent on the lease for this home will be $1495. However, we are pleased to be able to offer a DISCOUNT of $50 off your monthly rental if you will help us in two areas. First, we ask that we receive your rent (by mail only) no later than noon on the first day of each month. Second, we ask that you be responsible for the first $50 of repairs that might need to be performed to the house in any one month. The management will be responsible for all repairs over $50, and our experience has shown that very few repairs are necessary over the life of the lease if the home is well cared for.
YOUR DISCOUNTED MONTHLY RENT WILL BE $1445 PER MONTH.
SECURITY DEPOSIT: The security deposit for the home will be equal to one month’s rent, and will be maintained in an escrow account for the owner. The security deposit will be returned to the renter at the conclusion of the lease provided the terms of the lease have been met. In some of our homes, small pets may be kept with payment of a pet deposit and a non-refundable extermination fee. Check with your Property Manager.
OPTION TO PURCHASE: The owner has indicated a willingness to discuss an option to purchase at the conclusion of a one year lease, with portions of a rent to be determined applying to the purchase price.
LEASE TERM: One Year minimum, with an easy renewal option.
AVAILABILITY: The home is available now. We regret that we cannot hold the home for you until you are ready to move. Check with your Property Manager regarding your situation.
SCHOOLS: The home is served by Decatur City Schools, most of which are within walking distance. Parents who live in this district are particularly pleased with these schools. Renfroe Middle School and Decatur High School offer excellent educational opportunities as well. St. Thomas More Catholic School is also nearby.
HOW TO FIND OUT MORE: Fill out an application, and call 678-455-5555. This home will not be rented on a first come, first served basis, but instead will be rented on the basis of information received on the application forms. Creditworthiness, current income, rental history and job stability will be among the factors considered in the eventual decision. Equal Housing Opportunity.
Again . . . thank you for your time!
Make sure you have this information sheet ready before you run the ad, because this sheet will work miracles for you.
By the way, remember your POSTLETS ad which is now running on CRAIGSLIST?? You can easily take the text of this information sheet and paste it into the Postlets ad.
Let’s talk about the information sheet:
First we establish a business-like tone by thanking the prospect for taking time to come by and look at the house. We will maintain this business-like tone in all future contacts and communications with the prospect. It is absolutely critical that the prospect understand they are dealing with a business entity instead of a mom & pop rental situation.
Next we explain the DISCOUNT RENT policy. Remember that we have already introduced the prospect to the idea of a discount rent by mentioning it in the AD and by mentioning it in our outgoing message. Everyone loves to get a discount! The best part about this one is that you can set the discounted rent at maximum fair market value if you wish!
All the resident has to do to qualify for the discount is pay the rent on time. In 20 years of managing properties, I have never met a resident who planned to be late with their rent. So that part should be easy. If they object, say: “You DO pay your rent on time, don’t you?” If they say, “No, I’m usually late”, you don’t want to rent to them anyway.
The next part always scares me. I have this fear that the prospect will look at the deductible for repairs and say “you can forget this, because I ain’t paying!” But that’s not what happens. Occasionally, they ask about the first $50, and I say this:
“We are willing to knock fifty bucks off the rent each month if you will just be responsible for the little things. You may not believe this, but one time a resident called me and said her light bulb was burned out, and she asked me when I was going to get it fixed. It cost the owner eighty bucks just to send over an electrician” .
At this point the resident will invariably get a shocked look on his face and say, “Oh, that’s ridiculous!” I’ll then become very serious and add, “We just want you to take on the little things like burned out light bulbs or loose screws. Anything over fifty bucks, the owner takes care of. Fair enough?”
I swear it works every time. I have never had a prospect say that they are unwilling to participate in a discount program and they usually take care of small maintenance projects without ever telling me.
Believe it or not, this really works!
Make sure you post a copy of your information sheet in the window of the vacant house where the prospective resident can read it. Tape it on the inside, or it will disappear.
Another twist on the open house concept is to say in your outgoing message that the house will be open Sunday between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm. That way, they can go by anytime that is convenient for them. The great thing is that you don’t have to be there.
Simply go by at 9:30 am, unlock the door, and leave a stack of applications and your information sheets on the kitchen counter.
I usually photocopy the application onto the back of each info sheet. That way, every prospect automatically has an application. Stick a note on the front door that says “Sorry I missed you, please take an application and call 678-455-5555 if you’d like to find out more. Thanks!”
Stop back by at 4:00 and see how many applications are gone. Then go home and check your messages to see who wants to apply.
An alternative would be to say on your note that you would be back at 4 o’clock sharp if they wanted to meet you. Once again, if they are interested in renting the house, and think that there may be other people interested as well, they will make sure that they come back to meet you at 4:00.
In using this idea, make sure your home lends itself to being open by itself. In other words, what is the possibility that someone will back up a truck and steal all your appliances while you are away. I have never had that happen to me, but you need to judge each neighborhood and each house on its own. And if there is nothing to steal, that’s even better.
The idea here is to make it as easy as possible for the prospective resident to see the house, without you having to stay there all day or having to run over there every time some prospect says he might want to see the inside.
The best thing about this program is that the prospect really appreciates knowing in advance when they can see the house. Again, this is designed to make it easy for the prospective tenant while at the same time showing respect for his time. Amazingly, very few landlords do this!
Remember that they are calling about lots of houses, and most of the time they get brief recordings asking them to leave a number and giving them no information. By using my program, you not only make things easier on yourself, but you also gain the advantage of appearing more professional than your competition. You win twice!
Recently, I have found it worthwhile to create a free website at a place called WIX.com. For free, you can create remarkably fancy websites, and one of the easiest to create is a photo album. The reason to do this is that you can then upload your photos and include this information in your outgoing message as well as your information sheet.
Another provider of free websites is Weebly.com. The free sites from WEEBLY.com are all created with the first name WEEBLY then DOT then WHATEVER YOU WANT then DOT then COM, such as
If you really want to get fancy, you can go to namecheap.com, and create a custom domain name, such as
which would then either point to your WEEBLY site or to your WIX site.
Many of today’s prospective tenants are REALLY into the web, and the easier you make it for them to find out about your house, the faster it will rent.
Occasionally, you may find that it is worthwhile to pay the neighbors to open and close the property for you. If you live several miles or more away from the rental house, you can hire the next door neighbor to open and close the house on viewing day. Sometimes I will even ask them to meet a prospect at a specific time if I truly want the prospect to see the house but I am not able to drive over there myself.
One reason the neighbor will do this is that they want to “pick their own neighbor” instead of leaving things to chance. I always instruct the neighbor to tell the prospect what a nice area they are looking in, but to please not try to answer any questions about the house itself. I make sure there are plenty of information sheets in the property, along with an application copied onto the back.
Last time I did this, I agreed to pay the neighbor $5 each time she opened and closed the house. It saved me hours of driving, and resulted in many prospects getting in to see the house that would otherwise have missed it. I think I spent a total of about $50, and the neighbor was quite happy to have the extra money.
If the neighbor seems offended, ask if her 15 year old son would like to pick up some extra cash. This works, too!
Home Depot carries a “KeySafe Lockbox” device that you attach to the front doorknob. You enter a four digit code and the front of the box opens, hopefully revealing a key to the property. I know some landlords who put a key in there and tell prospects to go take a look by using the lockbox. The only problem is that the prospect will open the house and forget to put the key back and forget to lock the box back. In fact, they may simply forget and take the key with them.
Then the next people you send over there will be mad that they can’t get in, and YOU will have to pay to re-key the locks or change them out altogether. Remember, you now have knowledge that your security has been compromised. That puts you in a tough spot if a burglary were to occur in the future, and there were no signs of forced entry.(!!)
Don’t forget to either rotate locks from one property to the next or better yet, RE-KEY the existing locks so the old keys no longer work. Keep a written (or digital) record of your re-keying activities so that you can PROVE that you did not re-rent to a new tenant with the same locks that were on the property with the last tenant. Talk about a lawsuit waiting to happen!
We have started looking at PUSH BUTTON digital locks that have settable and changeable entry combinations. I use these on my personal and beach residences, and I love it. The only rub is that the devices cost between $40 and $100 each. Maybe the price will come down.
If you run the ad in Craigslist and on Zillow, record your message, post your information sheet in the window, hold your open house, and nobody shows any interest, there is something wrong.
There are only three reasons why any house won’t rent. They are:
1. NOT READY TO RENT – The house is not in good enough condition for anyone to be interested.
2. NOT BEING MARKETED PROPERLY – Nobody knows it is available. Put up a yard sign and advertise!
3. NOT PRICED PROPERLY – You are asking so much in rent that nobody even wants to come take a look.
If you are sure the house is in pretty good condition, move on to problems 2 and 3.
Reassure yourself that your pricing is competitive, call other landlords advertising on ZILLOW, CRAIGSLIST or with FOR RENT signs up and ask them if they have had slow response. Certain weekends of the year, like Christmas and Thanksgiving are particularly slow because prospects have their attention turned toward other matters.
Look into other marketing avenues. If your property is near a college or university, see if you can list the rental at the housing office. Many large schools have their own property listing service that the students and faculty use to find housing near campus.
Try calling local schools and churches, asking if they have a bulletin board where you can post a 3″x5″ card with information. Teachers make great tenants, and if you can own a rental house near a school, you will experience little vacancy.
Prepare a brief flyer about the property, and distribute it to other homes in the neighborhood. By doing this you take advantage of the fact that the neighbors already live there, and clearly like the area enough to stay.
They are likely to tell their relatives, their friends and their acquaintances that a home in their neighborhood is available, and that it’s a nice area to live in.
Call local real estate agents and offer to pay them the a finder’s fee if they send you a prospect. (Agents usually want at least one month’s rent, so this can be expensive.) Run an ad in community newspapers and neighborhood tabloids. Many grocery stores have bulletin boards also.
If there is a major employer nearby, call the personnel office to see if you can post flyers or 3″x5″ cards. Same thing for military bases and athletic clubs and YMCAs, and warehouses or businesses.
By the way, I have considered the ethical propriety of this technique, and I have decided that offering my detached single family home to residents of nearby apartment buildings is not only not unethical, but I am doing them a service. This is a free country, and the resident has a right to decide for themselves which property best suits them.
I have found that a good source of prospects is nearby apartment complexes. While the apartment manager may not appreciate your solicitation of his residents, there are many folks living there who would probably rather live in your house or condo. No paper thin walls, no third story walk-up, and a driveway instead of an assigned parking place.
It’s probably against the law to stuff mailboxes or hand out flyers door to door, so don’t get yourself arrested. But you are free to do a blanket mailing to the residents, even though that can get expensive.
My experience has been that if the home is attractive and ready to move into, if the rental rate is competitive, and if I am advertising in the right places, I can rent ANY property within 3 or 4 weeks.
If you have tried everything and failed, one of the three problems mentioned above is afflicting your property. I guarantee it!
At this point, you have gotten the house ready to show, run the ad, had an open house, and prospective residents are standing in the kitchen asking how they can fill out an application. It’s time to move on to the next chapter, where we start to talk about my favorite subject: money.