Our philosophy is to run a low profile and low overhead office which allows us to charge a Flat-Rate Management Fee of as little as $95! Screening tenants is one of the keys to successful management, and we excel at it. We have had just about every trick in the book pulled on us in the past, so we seldom get fooled anymore! No one bats 1,000, and if we make an error we step up to the plate and take responsibility for it.
For our owners we always try to maximize their rental income and control their expenses.
“Don’t believe what they say on their application … verify it!”
- Jeff Christensen, 2010
Everyone claims they are the best choice, promising to pay on time and take good care of the home … but many of those claims prove to be false. So how do you effectively screen a rental application?
- FIRST, HAVE THEM Fill ONE OUT – You can get them online or from an office supply store. Each adult should fill one out COMPLETELY, legibly and leaving NO BLANKS. Have them sign a release statement, giving you the right to run their credit report and contact their references. Also, remember to charge each adult $20 – $40 to apply … you will need that to pay for the credit & criminal reports.
- RUN THEIR NATIONWIDE CRIMINAL REPORT – Focus on “the majors” (felonies, multiple DUI’s, sex crimes) and not so much on “the minors” (misdemeanors, old marijuana charges, DWLS). Warning – all states report into “nationwide” criminal reports. Consider also that many good people did wrong things in the past that they will NEVER do again!
- RUN THEIR LOCAL COUNTY CRIMINAL REPORT – Use the Pierce County LINX system to check for charges in Pierce County. Sometimes a charge will appear on the LOCAL RECORD but be missed by a NATIONAL REPORT … AND YOU DON’T WANT TO MISS ANYTHING!
- RUN THEIR CREDIT REPORT – A score of 600 or more is preferred. You do NOT want to see ANY accounts in collections from the last 2-3 years from apartment complexes or for “the consumer basics” (utility bills, VISA cards, TV or cell phone invoices). Look for indications of RESPONSIBLE BEHAVIOR.
- CALL THEIR PRESENT LANDLORD – How long have they been there and are they there now? What is their rent? Did they have a co-signer? How many lates? Would the landlord rent to them again? Don’t be afraid to ask blunt questions … if you offend someone you can always apologize!
- CHECK COUNTY RECORDS – Verify that the name of the owner of record MATCHES the name of the landlord that they gave you. If it doesn’t, call the applicant and ask for an explanation.
- DRIVE BY WHERE THEY SAY THEY LIVE – Do you see cars on the lawn? Bags of garbage piled on the side? A big dog chained to an old refrigerator in the front? Leopards don’t change their spots and people that live this way are probably going to do the same things if you let them into your home!
- MAKE A DECISION – Assemble all the data that you have gathered and consider your “gut feelings”, make a “PROS & CONS” list for each applicant and (finally) MAKE AN INFORMED DECISION to ACCEPT, ACCEPT WITH CONDITIONS or REJECT the applicant.
Next we will learn a few things about the rental contract and what it should contain:
PM – 104 The Rental Agreement
Advertising for Rent
“On the highway of life, if you’ve got something important to say, blow your horn!
No one else is going to blow it for you.”
-Jeff Christensen, 2001
Now that you’ve completed the Property Management 101 course “PREPPING YOUR HOME FOR RENT’ you are ready to try your hand at ADVERTISING. If you happened to go to college you call this MARKETING, but for the rest of us commoners let’s just stick with “advertising”.
- CHECK OUT THE COMPETITION – Go to Craigslist, Zillow or a site of your choice and see what your property will be up against. Remember, the name of the game is BEAT THE COMPETITION. As much as possible, you want your place to be the biggest and best deal for the lowest price.
- SELECT THE PHOTOS – Remember all those photos I told you to take in the PM 101 course? Well now is the time to sort through them and select the BEST 20 to run in your ad. Pretend that you are a prospective renter and think about what you would want to see in the ad … front of house, what you see when you first open the front door, all rooms, washer & dryer, back yard … and don’t forget to take a picture of the neighborhood too! The wording of your ad matters but
IT WILL BE THOSE PHOTOS THAT WILL DO “THE HEAVY LIFTING”!
- POST YOUR AD – Pull out the rough draft of that ad you wrote in the 101 class and put the final polish on it. Look for misspellings and sentences that run on. Try to remove as many unnecessary words as you can and yet still convey the basic facts with a sense of drama and flair! Don’t brag too much about your home … LET YOUR PHOTOS DO THAT!
- SIGN IN THE YARD – Buy the BIG “FOR RENT” sign at the box store and add your phone number with a BOLD BLACK MARKER. Bigger is better when advertising to people driving by at 35!
- FLYER IN THE WINDOW – Just the basic information please … bedrooms, bathroom, square feet, lot size, special features, kitchen upgrades, surprises to be found inside. Limit yourself to maybe 10 bullet points. Be sure to include your contact information. This flyer is to serve the folks that see your sign and stop to look around a bit when you are not at home. It’s like the tasty bait on the hook to get the fish to bite!
- TALK IT UP – Don’t be afraid to VISIT YOUR NEIGHBORS, give them a copy of the flyer and tell them the news … YOUR HOME IS FOR RENT!
So there!- YOU’RE OFF AND RUNNING! Stayed tuned for the next step for the D.I.Y. rental property owner:
PM – 103 : Screening Applications
Prepping to Rent
“It’s so easy, I could train a monkey how to do it!”
- Jeff Christensen, 2009
Ready to learn?
Now put down that banana and let’s get started!
- ESTABLISH THE RENTAL AMOUNT – Go to Craigslist or Zillow and see what owners of properties SIMILAR TO YOURS in the same general area are asking (and likely getting!). WHAT YOU SEE THERE WILL BE YOUR COMPETITION.
- FIX THINGS – Pretend that you are a prospective renter … go through your property and write down things that you notice that you would want fixed … IF you were a renter. Torn window screens? Dirty walls? A door with a hole? Broken light fixtures? IF IT BOTHERS YOU THEN IT WILL BOTHER THE GOOD PEOPLE THAT YOU WANT TO RENT TO.
- DECLUTIER & DEPERSONALIZE – Try to remove half of your belongings to make your home look TWO TIMES LARGER! Renters need a “blank canvas” onto which to project their ideas of “how it could be” if they rented your home.
- CLEAN – Everything doesn’t need to be new but your home needs to be VERY CLEAN. Do the job well so that in your advertising you can HONESTLY say “MRS. CLEAN LIVED HERE!”
- WRITE THE AD – Take some time to write a rough draft of an upbeat ad to be posted on Craigslist or Zillow or a website of your choosing. Emphasize “the good” but do not lie about “the bad”. If it has no garage or small bedrooms, figure out a way to say so in a novel way with some clever humor. IN TODAY’S BUSY ADVERTISING WORLD, EVERYONE APPRECIATES HONESTY & HUMOR!
- PHOTOS – Take lots of them … at different times of the day (esp. important for the exterior shots), the front, the back, all the interior rooms and any special features or upgrades. Then, later, LOOK THROUGH THEM ALL and select only those that BEST represent each room or feature. An out-of-focus photo with poor lighting will not help your cause! YES, IT’S TRUE! … each good photo will be worth more than 1,000 words in your ad.
So there – that’ll get you started. Want to know more? Good! Stayed tuned for a future post on the next step for the D.I.Y. rental property owner:
PROPERTY MANAGEMENT – 102 : Advertising for rent