This might sound crazy, but part of being a landlord involves interacting with people. Today, I’d like to talk with you about one of the more time consuming interactions: the walk through. I’ll cover the three general types, in order of the most interaction required, and their pros and cons. Then I’ll share 7 tips to use during the walk through that’ll make your walk throughs like “a walk in the park”.
1) One-on-One Meeting
The one-on-one meeting takes the most time because you go to your property multiple times, but you get to know each potential tenant really well. I recommend starting out with one-on-one meetings to get a feel for the process and practice your pitch multiple times. Plus, when people are house hunting, they’re looking now, and may not sit around until your next open house. When you do this, require them to call/text you prior to the walk through at least 10 minutes before you need to leave. So, if it’ll take you 20 minutes to get to the property, ask them to text you 30 minutes before the meeting to confirm. This will eliminate no-shows. I say something like this after we confirm the time: “Great. Now one last thing. You’ll need to text or call me 30 minutes before we meet. That way I know you’ll actually show up. If you don’t, I’ll assume you’re no longer interested and not show up myself <add a chuckle here>. Can you do that?”
2) Open House
The open house is nice because multiple people see the property at once. It’s hard to personally speak with everyone, but you do get a psychological benefit: competition. With multiple people visiting and only one unit available, people experience a heightened sense of urgency to be the first to turn in their application and not lose out on the unit (we make it clear that we process everyone in the order they turn in their application). The big downside is that it’s harder to hold a personal conversation and get to know each person. If you’re going to go the open house route, try to pick multiple 1-2 hour times throughout the week to accommodate multiple schedules.
I am constantly learning new tips to improve my business. Here’s one I learned just a couple days ago. So, I haven’t tired this yet, but I love the idea and am totally going to do it for our next vacancy: Create a Frequently Asked Questions handout. I usually create a flyer with quick facts and our rental criteria which I tape to a window and hand out to people, and this takes it a step further. Here’s what you do:
During your one-on-one meetings, pay attention to the questions people ask. Afterwards, write out a quick answer and add it to the document. Some examples that I’ll be adding include:
- How much are utilities? (and what’s included again)
- Where is the nearest laundromat? (For our apartment that doesn’t have laundry facilities)
- Can I get an AC unit?
- Who else lives in the building?
Again, this is why I recommend starting out with one-on-one meetings because they’ll help you build this list. Then hand these out to everyone who attends your open house. That way they can find the answers themselves instead of constantly trying to talk to you.
3) Lock Box
Finally, you can put a lock box on your door. Then, after you’ve pre-screened them, give them the code to check it out on their own. The obvious advantage is that it doesn’t take any of your time. The disadvantage is that you don’t get to meet them in person and ask any follow-up questions. If you do this, have a pile of applications on the counter along with your screening criteria, a fact sheet on the property (I take the craigslist ad and pretty it up a little bit), and the FAQ. You’ll also want to regularly visit the property on your own to make sure you have enough applications and ensure that there’s no unwanted guests.
Which one is best for you?
That depends on your situation and how flexible your schedule is. If your not sure, try one way for two weeks, then try another the next couple of weeks. I personally like the one-on-one meetings, but my wife likes the open houses. So depending on who’s taking the lead on a vacancy, we’ll change it up. As long as you’re consistent with everyone (dare I say, Systematic), you be fine.
7 Tips During the Walk Through
Here are seven things you can do to get the most out of a walk through and/or keep you out of trouble:
- If you’re concerned about safety, don’t show the unit alone. Or, at the very least carry pepper spray.
- If you have multiple units available, show whichever ones they’re interested in. If you choose to only show certain units, that can be considered “steering” and is a form of unlawful discrimination.
- When walking through, you don’t need to point out obvious things like, “Here’s the kitchen”. Instead, focus on the features/benefits of the unit, “The kitchen includes a large walk-in panty so that you can shop less frequently and spend time at home”. Think of it as your sales pitch to sell them on the place. Remember to be honest about any drawbacks, “Yes, the trains are active on those tracks in the backyard.”
- If you can, tell a story about one of the features. People love stories. They remember stories. They’ll decide to rent from you because of your story. If you previously lived in the rental or fixed it up yourself, you probably have a story or two worth sharing. Another option is to tell a (good!) story about the neighborhood. Choose something that happened to you, or that you read about.
- Face the people you’re talking to, not the feature you’re talking about. It’s a subtle change that will make you feel much more personable.
- Offer rental applications and your written criteria to everyone. Let them know you check each application thoroughly in the order you receive them. By systematically offering an application to everyone you’ll avoid any discrimination issues. So they’re getting 4 items from you: 1) the rental application, 2) your written criteria, 3) a property fact sheet, and 4) your FAQ sheet.
- Once they walk through, ask them what they liked and didn’t like. This provides good feedback for future improvements and features to include in your advertising and FAQs. Plus, it’s an opportunity for them to verbally commit to their level of interest.
Now it’s time to sit back and wait for the applications to roll in. We allow people to email them as attachments, or hide them under the rental’s welcome mat, or sometimes meet them in person. I would not, however, give out your personal address for safety reasons.
Pre-Screening Is Critically Important
A successful walk through also depends on asking thorough pre-screening questions. That way you don’t waste your time meeting people who won’t qualify. It also offers a good balance for the open house and lock box options because you still get to spend time talking to them on the phone 1-on-1. If you haven’t check out the pre-screening questions yet, do that now. If you’re all set with your questions, start drafting up your FAQs now so it’ll be ready for your next vacancy.