Dollar D says: The following is a guest post from my wife, Mrs. Dollar. She’s our ace property manager and she’s here to share some tips on leasing. Take it away, honey!
Renting a house is easy. It really is… at least in the DFW area. DD and I have had no troubles renting any of our houses in a timely manner. After purchasing a home we often sign a lease before finishing the rehab and refinancing out of the Hard Money loan. In today’s post, I’ll show you the tips and tricks we use to make the leasing process go smoothly.
When I tell people that I have a vacant property, the first question is usually: how do you field all those calls? Well, I technically don’t. I set up a free Google Voice account with a local number. I record a personalized voicemail message describing the property and requesting that the caller leave their contact information so we can call them back. I have the ability to forward this number to my cell phone, but why would I do that? Instead, people can call 24 hours a day. This may be attractive for those that work during the day and look at listings until the wee hours of the night.
Google Voice also attempts to transcribe the voicemails you receive, so you can preview what the message may say. Sometimes it’s dead on, sometimes it says stuff like this:
How We Rent it. Or… Marketing!
Even though I am a licensed real estate salesperson, I do not list the property on MLS. Maybe my real estate agent friends would scoff at this, but I know that it isn’t necessary for me to find a quality tenant. We start by placing the For Rent sign in front of the home with the price, phone number, and when it will be available. We also attach a flyer to the door with more information like square footage and specs.
For our first rent house, we paid for space in the Greensheet, a local classified publication, but it ended up eliciting a response from less than savory people. After that initial attempt, we only use online sources. This also helps ensure that we attract people that are at least a little tech savvy.
I begin my online marketing by creating a Postlets listing. Postlets is a fantastic marking tool I discovered from our real estate mentoring group. It creates a very attractive listing with the images you upload. This free service then syndicates your listing to all the major housing websites like Zillow, Trulia, and HotPads. They also provide you with HTML code to paste into Craigslist, making it very easy to create beautiful ads.
While I get the majority of my leads from Craigslist, I do get some responses from the other websites as well.
Now, On to the Cold Calls
This is something that DD doesn’t particularly like, but I actually enjoy it. It’s the thrill of the hunt, if you will. Often times, you can gauge the quality of the tenant by how they conduct themselves over the phone. Good tenants are polite and articulate whereas bad tenants may be rude or have long winded excuses to explain why they may not qualify.
On Wednesday morning I posted the listing for the house that recently went vacant. By Thursday afternoon, I had 11 voicemails and 5 emails! Within a few hours I followed up on all of them and emailed several applications and rental criteria documents. To track the effectiveness of our marketing, I ask where they found the listing.
Tenant Application Process
We charge a $35 application fee for each tenant 18 years and up. This covers the cost for the credit and criminal background checks. We prefer to accept payment via Paypal, but we do allow them to meet up with us and pay with certified funds. However, we often get tenants to fill out an application and pay the fee without meeting us at all.
Typically, we only have an open house if we haven’t approved a tenant within the first week!
We have a custom tenant application and qualifying criteria that’s branded with our company logo. The application covers all the bases needed to run the background checks:
- Previous and current rental history and employment
- Information on all occupants (spouses, kids, pets, etc.)
- Credit and criminal background (according to them…)
I use the application to call employers and landlords in order to verify all data. I also do a quick search on the county’s appraisal district website to ensure that the landlords I’m calling actually own the property. I do the same for employers by calling the phone number on their website (if available) rather than the one provided on the application. I don’t want to be calling Janice’s cousin’s baby daddy that was in prison last year, who will pretend to be one of these people! ”Sure.. Janice is a…great tenant…or uh…employee.”
At noon on Thursday, I contacted one prospective tenant who needs to move to the Dallas area after accepting a promotion. Sounds like a winner, eh? She agreed to fill out an application and pay the fee without even seeing the property.
By 1:45pm I received fee and completed application, which gives us the ability to run the background checks. I used National Tenant Network (NTN) to run these checks. Using out previously configured criteria, we can input the tenant’s information and the system spits out a qualifying score.
This particular tenant checked out fine, so after verifying all the other information on her application, I happily called her back with the good news.
Sign That Lease, Get That Payment
We’re meeting tomorrow morning to sign the lease! I have to break it to all the other interested parties that the house is no longer available. However, I do not take down the listing until I have met the tenant, signed a lease, and collected the deposit and first month’s rent. This ensures that I do not miss out on opportunities if this person decides to back out at the last minute or realizes they can’t pay up front.
At the lease signing, we only accept payment in certified funds such as a money order or cashier’s check from a bank. That way, we don’t stop marketing if the tenant’s personal check bounces.
After the initial payment, I encourage the tenant to pay online via eRentPayment.com. It isn’t free, but it is completely and totally worth the $3 per rent payment that we pay. We don’t have to visit our P.O. Box, cash a check, or meet the tenant to get payment (not okay!). The money is simply deposited into our business account each month! This is also convenient for the tenant since they know exactly when the money is taken out of their account.
Sit Back and Make the Cheddar
While being a landlord isn’t actually passive, if you’ve fixed the house up, set expectations with a detailed tenant policy manual (yea, I know they won’t read it, but you can’t fault a girl for tryin’), and choose tenants who contact you via email, you aren’t often inconvenienced. Right now, all my tenants pay online and email me for repairs. I couldn’t be more happy! Overall, I find the renting life cycle to be easy and painless. I especially love it when I only have to market it one full day!
What about your experiences with renting? What tactics do you use?