Whenever we have a new rental vacancy, the first thing we consider is: when are we putting it on the market? List too soon, and the current resident may not cooperate with showings. List too late, and we may not have the vacancy filled in time and lose out on rent daily. So, our recommendation is to list your property vacancy 60 days prior to the current resident vacating. This provides the current tenant with a fixed window that they have to cooperate with showings and well as targeting the timeframe in which a new tenant will start looking for properties at the appropriate vacancy date.
Secondly, consider your list rental price. Now, this can come from a few recommended resources: your local MLS, Zillow.com, or Rentometer.com. Keep in mind, Zillow and Rentometer provide a broad scope of rents and do not necessarily pertain to your specific property. I prefer the Multiple Listing Service as this gives us a high level of search parameters and typically assists in narrowing down to particular layouts and amenities. If you don't have access to your local MLS, work on building a relationship with a local real estate broker that you can partner with on future purchases.
Third, photos are everything! The quality of your photos will be incredibly important when leasing your property and obtaining top dollar. Our system has found that contracting a local photographer and buying photos for multiple properties at once provided us the best deal in getting quality photos taken, edited, and then kept for future listing purposes. Considering a video walkthrough is also important. Using software or a device to keep your phone steady for video walkthroughs is preferable but not always required. We like to use devices provided by DJI Osmo for self-leveling and stability. Then, marketing to an appropriate platform is of utmost importance.
When it comes to marketing, our goal is always to maximize views with minimal out of the pocket expense. Naturally, this day is age; the internet is a tool of information. You can provide your rental vacancy information to the general public, but sometimes it comes at a cost. As of the time of this publishing, Zillow has already charged a listing fee, and Craiglist went from being free to charging a listing fee. Do these companies have enough leverage on listing views to justify charging a fee? That's for you to decide. For now, our favorite listing platforms are Facebook Marketplace, Rentthink, and as needed – the local Multiple Listing Service.
Now the fun part – prescreening leads and showings. Perhaps the biggest expense and time-wasting task of the leasing process. Answering leads questions, often on a repetitive basis, is mundane and a time-wasting activity. Furthermore, showings can add up in time-wasting activities when it comes to drive-time, having to show to multiple parties, no-shows, and the hope that one gets an application.
So, we recommend these tools when it comes to leveraging prescreening and showings.
Checkout Lethub.co. This tool will let you set up chatbots, and draft questions for tenants, for them to respond to automatically. The tool syncs to a Google or Microsoft calendar and also acts as a CRM. You can obtain showing feedback and process applications through this tool as well. The only drawback, it's not particularly affordable for the small landlord.
Other Chatbot resources. So, if Lethub doesn't fit your budget. Checkout other chatbot tools. While Facebook does provide a few autoresponder options, you may want to consider ChatFuel, ManyChat, or Autobot. While we have not tried any of these platforms, the fact remains that chatbots can be a phenomenal way to leverage your time by prescreening tenant leads on your behalf.
Self-showing lockboxes. I love this option as potential tenants can preview the property themselves, without your attendance, through the use of a special lockbox. Naturally, the initial feedback I receive is, what if they move in? Well, prescreening tools are provided by the self-showing services to limit this outcome and often come with a small insurance policy wrapped around potential damage to the vacant unit itself. Some of our favorite self-showing services include RENTLY.COM, SHOWMOJO.COM, and TENANTTURNER.COM.
Leverage your current resident. Often, your current tenant will show the upcoming vacancy on your behalf if there is an incentive tied to it. This could be a waiver of past late fees, a gift card to a local restaurant, or permitting an early move-out date. The point is that creativity is a powerful force with this task. However, with creativity comes – consult legal console first and obtain their blessing or documentation that will permit this use.
Pointcentral. My favorite resource for smart home automation, PointCentral provides a variety of tools from digital door locks to smart thermostats and water monitoring. The point here is that you can use a digital door lock system in conjunction with software like ShowMojo to prescreen and set up self-showing options. While the cost of hardware can be considered expensive, for the long-term buy and hold investor with the right demographic being targeted too, this option can provide years of time savings very quickly.
Finally, let's discuss the rental application process.
As for my recommended providers, here's what we like to use:
Rentapplication.net. While the most hands-off means to handling rent applications, it's also one of the most expensive. Usually, landlords like to charge a $5-15 surcharge for processing applications, but this site makes it too expensive to obtain. However, you will have the ability to run a full credit report, nationwide criminal background check, and eviction background check for one flat fee while providing a one-stop-shop to have tenant-applicant upload paystubs and ID. Also, you can create your own unique URL to direct tenant-applicants too providing maximum efficiency.
NTNOnline. On the opposite end of the spectrum, while old and a bit archaic, it's also affordable. Nations Tenant Network still doesn't provide an option for collecting an online application or paystubs, but you can process a wide variety of reports for minimal cost. As the landlord or property manager enters the information to provide the report, it is not what we would deem as efficient to your system.
Rentscreener.com. Rentscreener provides a nice balance between the two previous options. Relatively affordable provides a nice set of report options at a cost reasonable enough for a landlord or property manager to make a marginal profit when accepting applications.
Keep in mind, the primary drawback between processing your own rental applications is not only taking the time to do it, but your office will also need minimum criteria for screening.
Congratulations! You have completed lesson 4. Lesson 5 will dig into the rent collection process and obtaining efficiencies in making the rent collection process easier for you.