This page was originally written in English and this is a Google Translation. If you are reading it in another language we apologize beforehand for the many translation mistakes.
The idea for this post started with the need of finding good tenants for our rental properties.
Every landlord, including us, dreads what we call the “Calamity Tenant”, meaning people that, among many other things, don’t pay and, even worse, damage our properties.
Thinking about this, we wanted to create a screening system that would allow us to better identify and avoid the Calamity Tenant.
We did that, but the initial idea evolved to something else: we realized that everybody’s life would be a lot easier if all the stakeholders in a leasing transaction knew exactly what were the other parties expectations.
By knowing what the others need we can better adjust our own actions and expectations, so everybody wins.
That is why this post will address three different perspectives: tenant, landlord and realtor.
We strongly suggest you read the entire post, since only by understanding the whole picture you will learn how to navigate the leasing process, from the very beginning to the move out day.
We will start by addressing the tenant needs. We believe the tenant is the most important stakeholder, since he/she is the one paying rent.
So, what are the tenant needs?
We have more than 25 years working in real estate and all this time shed some light about the usual tenant needs. The fact that during a significant part of this time we were tenants ourselves only helped.
Every human being needs shelter
In a broader sense, shelter means that the tenant needs to feel safe. It is important that the landlords provide in their properties all the big and small features that will provide that. Here is a list of some features that would make a property more attractive to a tenant:
- Solid construction, with no apparent structural problems like cracks, broken glasses, doors and windows falling apart
- A sturdy roof, capable of facing severe weather
- Storm proof windows
- Strong locks and bolts
- Safe neighborhood: this is not something that can’t be fixed, so it is really important to research the neighborhood before buying a property
- Burglar alarm, etc
Those are all big and small details that, together, will make a property more or less attractive to the tenants.
Amenities are important
Amenities are about making a property comfortable and cozy, but it is also important to make it easy to keep nice and clean. In these days where all the adults work, nobody has time to waste in houses that are hard to keep. Thus the importance of practicality.
Nice and cozy:
- Colors of the walls and floors are very important. A landlord should always use neutral colors in order to please a bigger number of potential tenants, and avoid loosing a good one because of strong or odd colors;
- A fresh coat of paint between tenants works miracles and will increase a lot the feeling of coziness to the prospective tenant;
- Nice curtains and blinds also help tenant to imagine him/herself at home when visiting a property;
- A well maintained front yard is another aspect that some times is neglected by landlords and that could easily be a deal breaker for a tenant
Easy and practical:
- Garbage disposal, washer and dryer, dish washer, microwave, etc, are all items that are mandatory in today’s houses. Many landlords do not provide some of all of these trying to avoid the maintenance and replacement costs, especially in low income properties. Depending on the type of property this might be an option, but most of the time it backfires by making the property a lot harder to rent;
- Floors and walls should be always easy to clean. In warmer climates ceramic or laminated floors should be considered since they are easier to keep clean
Status is important
Everybody likes to cause a good impression, so it is important how a property presents itself comparing to other homes in the same neighborhood. Curb appeal is extremely important, and the same applies to the inside. Granite counter tops, stainless steel appliances, light fixtures and ceiling decorations go a long way in winning a good tenant.
An important thing to keep in mind if you are a landlord: the better the property is, the better are the chances of the tenant committing him/herself into keeping it nice and clean. It is hard to motivate yourself into taking care of a property that is not nice in the first place.
Customer care is important
Gone are the days where a tenant would pay just for the right of living in a rental property. More and more rental is seen as a service and, as such, tenants demand good customer care. Some features are becoming standard practice and every landlord should consider them in order to maintain the appeal of their properties:
- Fast and reliable maintenance
- 24h emergency phone service
- Tenant portal for online payments and maintenance requests
Every single property available for rent is now on internet, which makes really easy for the tenant to shop. The price should be compatible with the location, size, amenities and general conditions of the property. Set the wrong price and your property will sit in the market for a long, long time.
Still talking about price, it is a big mistake to set the asking rent above what is the market price, for a very simple reason: tenants are always very well informed and they know how important a good tenant is. Therefore they will negotiate and try to get themselves the best deal they can. The competition also know how important a good tenant is, and will be willing to reduce the rent if the tenant has a strong income and great background. So, guess who are gonna be the tenants willing to rent the overpriced property? Exactly, the not so good ones in the best case, with a much higher chance of a landlord renting their beloved property to “Calamity Jane/John”. They will pay whatever they have to because they were already denied by the seasoned landlords.
What about the Landlord needs?
The majority of the tenants have a misguided notion about who their landlords are. The average tenant seems to think that their landlord is a big, faceless corporation, or an eccentric millionaire living in a castle. They don’t know that 75% of the rental properties are owned by a single individual, and that, in the majority of the cases, the rent of that single property is their main source of revenue.
Not only that, a lot of times the rental property of a landlord was, for a long time in the past, their first home, meaning there is a sentimental attachment to it.
So, what are the landlord needs?
Pay in time
First and foremost. Always pay in time. You cannot forget the rent you pay is, at the very least, an important font of income to your landlord, if not the only one. They probably saved for years and this is their main source of income in retirement. Landlords go crazy when you don’t pay, and for a very good reason! They will not hesitate in evicting you if you have to, simply because they are terrified of loosing income for too long and getting in financial trouble themselves. That is why they seem to be ruthless when you are late. It is just self preservation.
On the upside, the tenant that always pay on time has a powerful bargain weapon when it is time to negotiate the price of the rent. If you are a tenant, you must keep in mind that your landlord loves that you pay on time and is scared of loosing you and ending up with Calamity Jane. Use this in your favor.
On a last note about payments, life happens… If you are a tenant and finds yourself in financial trouble, do your best to avoid an eviction. Remember that loosing revenue is what the landlords fear the most and they will deny your offer without much thought if you have an eviction in your background. If you find yourself unable to pay your rent, we believe it is in your best interest to be honest with the landlord, break the lease and prevent an eviction that will hurt your background history forever. You may loose the deposit money, but this is way better than the eviction.
Take good care of the property
Remember when we told you most landlords have feelings for their rental properties? You must understand this is not a joke. Even if they never lived there, we are talking about a very important source of income for 75% of the landlords. Of course they care!
If you are a tenant, make sure you take good care of the place you live. Yes, this is landlord’s property, but it is also your home. Along with paying always in time, this will make your landlord a very happy person and cut you some slack when you need maintenance or a few extra grace days. Your landlord will also be probably much more prone to withhold the rent increase when it is time to renew.
Finally, the realtor/property manager needs
In order to better do our job, we need to fully understand the needs of our clients, tenants and landlords. It is quintessential that we understand what we are looking for in order to be fast and effective. Nobody wants to waste time.
If you are a tenant or a landlord, keep that in mind and be patient with you realtor. If they are good they will ask you a whole lot of questions, a bunch of documents and more questions. Believe me, the effort will payoff in future time and money saved.
If you are a realtor, make sure you have all the information you need to do your job right. Ask a lot of questions, have at your disposal all information you will need, know your clients and the properties you are listing, and then ask more questions. Click here if you want to have access to a procedure and forms that will help you in your first interview with a tenant/buyer.
Besides having good information, what else do we need? Well, we are professionals that make our income by helping people at our own risk.
That means we risk and do work for nothing a lot of times. Did you ever hear about a tenant or landlord that decided to pay commission if the deal falls through? Guess what, we neither!
Like everybody else, we need to make money. So, if you want to be nice to your realtor, make sure you are loyal to him the same way he/she should be loyal to you.
We are going to work hard and spin our wheels to find you the best place/tenant, and we need to feel sure that we will be compensated in the end. Please just don’t work with more than one realtor at a time and I can assure you will find tremendous value in our help.
A last note about presentation
The process of renting a property is a trade where the landlord is, at the same time, a buyer and a seller. Landlords are selling to tenants the idea that their property is tenant’s best available option, and they are buying the idea that the tenant is suitable, able to pay and willing to take care of the property.
The same way, tenants are buyers, but are also sellers. They are buying the idea that a property is the best available for their needs, but they are also selling the idea that they are able to pay and take care of the property they want.
In sales, presentation is everything.
A professionally kept property, with great curb appeal, great front yard, freshly painted and priced right will rent fast to a good tenant. By doing a good job of choosing your tenant you will avoid loss of income and damage to the property. By providing good customer care you will have your tenants renewing year after year, saving lots of money in commissions and vacant time. If you don’t have the time or the experience to handle that, we strongly encourage you to hire a property manager to do the job for you. The experience a good professional will bring to the table will by far outweigh the cost.
Click here to have access to our Tenant Screening free page
You want to rent the best possible home for the best possible price, right? We get that, but you also have to get that you are selling yourself to the landlord. The better you present your self, the better your chances of getting the house you want at the price you deserve.
We suggest you prepare a Tenant Resume, showing the landlords all the good stuff you have working in your favor. You will need, at least, to provide:
- Presentation letter, with basic information about you and everybody living with you. Tell a story. Let them know you are good person, hard worker, loyal and reliable;
- Drivers license and social security card;
- Credit score search – if you do it yourself you can prevent several inquiries that will end up lowering your score;
- Criminal background check – same concept, do it your self and be upfront about any issue you might have had in the past. Landlords will find anyway, so why try to hide it?;
- Proof of income – the current standard is proof of 2.5 times the rent. Again, this is a sales process. Landlords usually have more than one offer for their property and will choose the most capable tenant. If you can’t afford a place, you better just adjust your expectations and lower your target rent. You wanna be the best tenant when you make an offer;
- Deposits – remember when we talked about how much the landlords fear damage to their properties? Instead of 1st, last and security, offer first and 2 months for security. It is going to cost you the same to move in but will make the landlord see you in a different light. Just make sure you take care of the property so you don’t loose everything for damages in the end.
- Rental History – you must give the landlord good reason to believe you will be a good tenant and a reference letter goes a long way in doing that.
- A video about your current living arrangements – again, this is about showing you are capable and willing of taking good care of the property. Show everybody how neat, clean, organized you are.
You might be thinking that if, you are paying, you don’t need to be worried about selling yourself. If you think like that, I am sorry but you are wrong. You want the best house for the best price, so you better give reason for a discounted price. And this is all about showing what a great tenant you are.
When you go out to see properties, keep in mind you will be selling yourself. Be on your very best. A seasoned landlord/realtor will be paying attention to all the small details that give away who you are: the way you dress, how loud you are, how neat is your car, how your kids behave, even how you smell. I know because I am a landlord myself and I do want to look my tenant in the eyes.
Last, but maybe the most important thing about selling yourself: you don’t want to lie. You want to show your best, but you can’t lie. Do you know when you talk to someone and you just know they are lying? How do you feel? If a landlord, property manager or a realtor catches you in a lie you are done, no good deal for you.
In our company, we have people that specialize in helping renters find the best possible deal for their rental. How do we do that?
- We will interview you and ask a lot of questions to really understand what you are looking for;
- We will help you put together your Renter Resume;
- We have a special tool called MLS that gives us access to absolutely everything available for rent in the market. We will search and find you the best possible deals;
- We will send your package to the landlords and narrow the search to only the properties you qualify for;
- We go out together to see those properties, choose the best one and send the offer.
- Lastly, we will be together till the very end, when you do your move in inspection.
Being a tenant, landlord or realtor, we hope this post could give you at least some good food for thought.
We would be delighted to hear you comments, don’t be shy.
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