Nearly two-thirds of recent renters are thinking about moving again within the next three years, with about one in five considering moving in the next year, according to the Zillow Consumer Housing Trends Report 2021.
That means for landlords, finding a good tenant isn’t a one-off event but a routine part of doing business. The quicker a property gets rented, the higher the occupancy rate is and the more consistent potential cash flow is.
In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the best options to find a tenant, how to advertise for tenants, and tips for screening prospective tenants.
- Effective ways to find tenants include working with a leasing agent, holding a for-rent open house, and using a rental listing website.
- The best local property managers often have waiting lists of qualified tenants who are ready to rent a nice home.
- After gathering rental applications, landlords screen tenants based on a number of criteria including credit score, income-to-rent ratio, background check, and pet ownership.
10 common ways for finding great tenants
A good tenant can be worth their weight in gold, but finding tenants isn’t always as easy as it might seem. Fortunately, there are several good ways to find prospective tenants, when a landlord knows where to look:
1. Property manager/leasing agent
The best property managers have an in-depth knowledge of the local rental market and may already have a waiting list of tenants that are ready, willing, and qualified to rent.
Good managers and leasing agents know how to set the rent at a competitive price to reduce the time the property is vacant, tout features the property has that tenants are looking for, and spot potential red flags when showing the property.
Best-in-class property managers from Roofstock are vetted and monitored for ongoing performance, and generally charge a leasing fee equal to the first month’s rent or less.
2. Open house
Real estate agents who sell homes hold open houses, so there’s no reason a landlord can’t have an open house as well.
In today’s day and age, an open house for a rental property can be done in-person or virtually with an interactive 3D tour. In fact, nearly one-third of renters in 2021 say virtual tours are very or extremely important when deciding which home to rent, according to Zillow.
Holding a rental property open house can also be a good way to point out unique features of the home, get an initial impression of prospective tenants, and discuss applicant qualifications such as income-to-rent ratio, pet fees, and move-in dates.
3. Rental listing sites
Nearly every demographic group – from Generation Z and millennials to Generation X and baby boomers – use online resources like rental listing websites to find a home to rent.
Landlords using a rental listing website benefit from significantly increased marketing exposure, saving time and money by reaching more prospective tenants faster to get a vacant home rented quicker. Many rental listing websites also offer optional features such as tenant screening and automated rent collection.
Popular rental listing websites to consider using this year include:
4. For rent sign
Putting up a “For Rent” sign in the front yard or window can be a simple yet extremely effective strategy for finding a new renter. Oftentimes prospective tenants drive through the neighborhood looking for a home to rent, or the neighbors might know of someone who is looking for a rental in the area.
Be sure that the contact phone number is easy to see from the street, consider including a website address for the property, and check with the HOA to make sure posting a “for rent” sign is allowed.
5. Property website
Even for landlords with just one rental home, a property website can be inexpensive and easy to set up. Website builders for real estate include Wix, Weebly, and WordPress.org, with pre-built professionally designed website templates for real estate and rental property.
Include key information about the rental property such as:
- Attention-grabbing description
- High-quality photos
- 3D video tour
- Floorplan of the home
- Number of bedrooms and bathrooms
- Monthly rent price
- Available move-in date
- Contact information for the landlord or property manager
6. Social media
Leverage the network effect that social media has to offer by sharing an available rental property on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to let the world know there’s a great home available for rent.
Asking friends and family to do the same on their social networks can help to get the word out much faster, because nearly everyone uses social media as part of their daily routine.
The Facebook Marketplace is another good site for advertising a rental property, then follow up by posting an account status update and a photo of the rental home on Instagram.
Print media can still be an effective way to find tenants for a rental property, especially in smaller cities or urban areas where there is a community newspaper.
Check with the newspaper to learn what days readership is highest, then run an ad on the days when the paper sells a large number of copies.
Rental real estate ads generally run only a few lines, so plan on using abbreviations such as BR for bedroom, or consider spending a little bit more in marketing to run a larger classified or display ad.
Printing and handing out flyers can be another strategy to use for getting the word out that a property is available to rent or to announce an open house. Think of a rental property flyer as a large classified ad, and include information a prospective tenants needs to know:
- Property description
- Monthly rent
- Available move-in date
- Landlord or property manager phone number
- Property website address
- Social media accounts
9. Bulletin boards
Public locations such as grocery stores, churches and community centers, and laundromats have a high amount of foot traffic and usually have bulletin boards for the general public to use.
Post a version of the rental property flyer used to hand out, being sure to use an eye-catching headline and attention-grabbing photos, along with tear-off tabs with contact information so prospective renters can take on while they are walking by.
10. Word of mouth
According to Forbes, word of mouth marketing is the original social media platform and still one of the most effective forms of marketing. Investors who let everyone in their professional network know a home is available for rent may be able to quickly find a qualified tenant.
Another good source for word of mouth advertising are current tenants who may have a relative, friend, or co-worker looking for a great place to rent. Some landlords even offer tenants a small referral fee for referring an applicant who ends up renting.
7 tenant screening tips to find qualified tenants
As prospective tenants apply to rent, the next step is to screen for the most qualified tenants, being sure to treat every applicant equally and fairly.
Typical tenant criteria set by landlords includes a minimum credit score and history, proof of employment, funds on hand to pay the first month of rent plus security deposit, and a passing background check.
There are seven steps landlords follow to fairly screen tenants for a rental property, according to QuickenLoans:
- Determine minimum tenant criteria, such as acceptable credit score, rent-to-income ratio, and tenant lifestyle (such as smoking or owning a pet).
- Pre-screen tenants that respond to a rental listing by disclosing the monthly rent, security deposit amount, rental application fee (paid by tenant), background check requirement, and need for references from previous landlords.
- Consider COVID-19, especially for multifamily properties, by considering laws that may limit group gatherings, amenities that may not be available for use (such as a community swimming pool), and realize there may be gaps in a prospective tenant’s employment due to quarantines and the pandemic.
- Collect a rental application and obtain consent for screening and for contacting the applicant’s current and previous employers and landlords.
- Run a credit check and a criminal background check, then use these reports to cross-check information on the prospective tenant’s application, including correct name and date of birth, current address and employer, and consider whether any disclosed criminal history could put other tenants or the neighbors at risk.
- Verify other tenant information, such as employment and income, and contact previous landlords and personal references. Key questions to ask when verifying a tenant include:
- Reason for moving
- Desired move-in date
- Length of time the tenant would like to rent
- Number of people living in the home
- Pets, including age, breed, vaccinations, and training
- People who will live in the home that smoke
- Prior evictions from other rental housing
- Decide on the tenant and sign the lease, using a lease agreement that adheres to state landlord-tenant laws and Federal Fair Housing laws.
Landlords want to protect their rental property by finding the most qualified tenants, but also don’t want the home to sit vacant for so long that potential profits are reduced. One of the best ways to find a good tenant is by having a number of qualified applicants to choose from. By using a multiple number of ways to find potential tenants, landlords can help increase the odds of quickly finding a good tenant for a vacant rental property.