After all the work of getting your house ready for inspection, showing it to tenants should be easy, right? Tenants are going to have a lot of questions, if you are ready for them you will seem helpful and professional. There are things about the house (and about you) that tenants need to know before making a decision. Good tenants will work fast, so having the answers up front will go a long way in securing a great tenant.
I’ve written out some of the most common questions I have heard at inspections over the years, just so you can be ready for them. If you are renting out your property with a partner who will also be dealing with tenants, go over the questions together. That way you will both give the same answers and avoid confusion.
When Will It be Available?
What they are really asking is “When can we move in?” No matter what you put in your ad, they may be hoping to push things up a bit to fit their plans, or they just want confirmation “straight from the horse’s mouth”.
Try to give them a clear date, “You can move in anytime from the 15th”. If the date is still a little up in the air, I like to give a conservative answer like “It will be available on the 20th of July, but you might be able to move in a week earlier.” This gives them a date they can work with without closing the possibility of an early move in.
How Long is the Lease?
Some people seem to get confused between the length of the lease and how long they will be able to live there for. The original lease may be for a year, but the tenants may be able to stay for 3 or 4 years depending on how things go.
My reply is usually “I prefer a one year lease to start with”. This gives the message that you are looking for long term tenants, which is what most tenants are looking for.
Are You Looking to Sell the Property?
Tenants feel burned when they have to move because the owner decides to sell the property. I can understand the frustration, but as a property owner I also realise that you can never tell what opportunities the next day will bring.
Unless I am 100% sure that the house is going on the market in the near future, my answer is usually: “We have no intentions of selling the property, so we are looking for long term tenants”. By definition, some of us keep the idea of selling an investment property in the back of our minds, but there is no reason to miss out on good long term tenants if a possible sale won't take place for two or three years.
Are Pets Allowed?
My standard answer is “I’ll consider pets upon application”. Many property owners would answer with a flat out No, and I can understand that as well.
However, if you automatically reject all pets, you could miss out on a terrific applicant who happens to dearly love a parakeet or a tiny, harmless older dog. While there are definitely pets that you are better off keeping out, you never know until you screen each application, people and their pets together.
Can I Have an Application?
The message here is a good one: “I like your house and I want to move in”.
Before the inspection, be sure to know where to point the tenant to apply for your property. If you are using Cubbi, they can apply online directly from your listing. Otherwise have some printed application forms ready to hand out.
Would You Consider a Reduced Rent?
One of the first steps you took in renting out your property was to take a good look at the local market so that you could set your rent competitively. Why would you want to consider dropping your rent and losing money? There is no sense in negotiating with anyone unless they have submitted an application. If they are brilliant tenants, it might be worth taking a lower rent.
Although you may feel you have set the rent competitively, keep in mind that every day your property stands vacant you are losing money. Let’s say that your rent is set at $520/week but they are offering $500. Over the span of a one year lease that equates to about $1000. However, if it will take you more than two weeks to find tenants you are going to lose that much anyway (and possibly more).
If their application screens well and you think they will make good tenants, you might decide to meet them halfway, $510/week. This could be on the basis that they move in a week earlier, removing any loss of rent.
Keep looking at the big picture.
What Happens From Here?
I have a standard speech if a tenant asks this question after giving them an application: “Once you have filled out the application with 100 points of ID and proof of income, I'll need a day or so to check everything out and then I'll get back to you with an answer. If you are approved, I will ask you to make the first rent payment and sign the lease. Once that is done I’ll take the ad of the internet and the house is all yours.”
Tenants will appreciate your honesty and professionalism, and will appreciate having a clear vision of what is expected of them if they are approved. Knowing that the ad is still live will put a little bit of pressure on them to get the lease signed and locked in.
Your now in a great position to start talking to tenants, they’ll really appreciate you knowing these answers up front rather than waiting for an agent to get back to them.