Management Tips From

You Snooze, You Lose!

A landlord named David shared how he had lost out on a possible good resident even though he had attempted to get back with him within two hours after receiving an emailed application. The applicant had already "found something!"

My Response and Suggested Strategy for the Future: 

David, I've had it happen in a similar way. After a potentially good prospective resident actually filled out an application, even given a small application fee, and two hours later when we called the person back to let them know they are "pre-approved," we were told by the applicants that they've already been approved for another place.


My policy/goal now is to get back to potentially good residents within "1 hour" if we are going to pre-approve them and "CONGRATULATE" them that they have been pre-approved.


In the past, sometimes I would not get back to applicants until one or two days later (after all the verifications have been totally completed) to let them know they were approved. But we started getting told more and more, "Sorry, we've already found another place and already given a deposit."


Once we have started the quicker "Congratulations - Pre-Approval" practice, I have not had that "Sorry" previously mentioned scenario happen again.


Another landlord, Larry, followed up with me in the discussion and asked: 

Jeffrey, what do you mean by "pre-approve" and what portion of the checking have you completed when you contact the potential tenant with your "pre-approval?"


My response: Larry, within an hour, at a minimum I have done the credit, eviction and criminal reports. And I have also looked at pay stubs. Admittedly, in some cases, all landlord or employment verification has not been completed within the first hour, so I will (for the moment) base my "pre-approval" decision on the face value of answers given on the application.


Please understand, my pre-approval at this point is "conditional" and is based on the assumption that everything the applicant has stated is true. If anything cannot later be verified or is proven false, the applicant is not given the final approval.


After the initial Congratulatory Pre Approval is communicated to the applicant, I've accomplished my goal. The hopefully qualified applicant at that point is definitely hooked (and begins anticipating moving into my rental) and is no longer seeking other possible rental homes or apartments while I complete the verification process. 


And most importantly, I have not lost a good or great resident to a competitor. As you know, really good residents are often few and far between. So I do all I can to give myself a competitive advantage. Not only with my properties do I try to give myself a competitive advantage, I try to do so with my application procedure as well. - You snooze you lose:)


Craigslist, Content Not Position, is Key!

Another person asked: I just posted our unit for rent on Craigslist. When I went to check the listing I noticed that the posting was well down the page- we were the 38th posting. Several other SFH, duplexes and a few apartment postings were at the top of the page. Does anyone know how to get to the top of listing page?

Responses from other landlords included: It doesn't matter that much (where your ad is positioned) as I don't think the tenant reads the list from top to bottom. Instead they search for specifics. Indeed, this is critical (to understand). The key in areas with lots of posts like yours is NOT to worry about being at the top of the list -- but to provide the best keywords so that people SEARCHING for a place will find yours. Worry more about writing the best title and then including the best content inside that you can. If it is in a certain popular area, make sure that is listed. If you allow pets, make sure you use a term like "pets welcome" (as people searching for "pets" will find "no pets" too often -- so give them something they can actually search for like "pets welcome"). That sort of thing.

Nine Pre-Screening Questions for Rental Applicants!

Landlords pre-screen in different ways. Some landlords ask questions to rental applicants PRIOR to scheduling a property showing. Those landlords look to get the responses back in different ways. Some landlords prefer hearing from applicants by phone; others want responses first by either email or text. Below are one set of sample pre-screening questions asked by one landlord.

"It is more than enough to get them talking, and I usually read between the lines for all the other information, and anything else they happen to say. I've had them tell me they have bad credit, or that one of their roommates is a registered sex offender, or that someone has a criminal record.  All before they have even filled out an application."

  • Why are you moving?
  • When do you plan to move in?
  • What is your monthly income?
  • Will you be able to pay security deposit and first month rent at move-in?
  • How many people will be living on the property?
  • Will you consent to a credit and background check?
  • Do you have any pets?
  • Do you have landlord and employer references?
  • Do you have any other questions?

You Never Really Know!

Here's a friendly warning from a landlord sharing what she just uncovered in her screening process when she checked the criminal background of a potential resident.

“So, about this nice lady (age around 55ish) who has lung problems and needs to get out of her place to find something healthier: I just did the screening process.  Looked her up in the local County Court System to find out that she has a criminal past.”

  • 4th degree CSC --aka Criminal Sexual Conduct.
  • Larceny from Person - We all know what that means, huh?
  • A&S - I'm not sure about this one.
  • HOA 4th offence - Well, that can't be good.
  • Accosting a child for immoral purposes - Oh crap!
  • Indecent exposure - Really?? She seemed so nice.

On the Larceny/Home Invasion charge - This one was dismissed so I'm assuming she's innocent:)  THANK YOU to my screening process for saving me from this one!

How to get your Kids Interested in Real Estate

Here's an idea for motivating your kids and helping them see the big picture. 

"The first house I got, I paid my kids about $75 each for their help during the rehab portion. They were 6, 9 and 12 at the time so this was pretty decent money for what they actually contributed.

For the second house (a year later) I gave them the option of getting paid like that again or getting $10 per month for every month the house was rented for as long as we own it. They thought about it for a while and decided they wanted the monthly payment. I made them save half of it with the understanding that that half can only be spent on something that can potentially generate cash flow.

By the time house number three came around they didn't even have to think about what they wanted. Now, if too much time goes by without a purchase, they get a little antsy. Right now they are at home unscrewing the handles and hinges from all the cabinet doors/drawers I brought home last night from the house I closed on last Tuesday.

In fact my youngest called me at work a little while ago to ask about cleaning them before painting. We are all pulling together and they seem to always know when the first of the month is!  

Another landlord shared a story regarding their child learning about real estate:  "My husband and I were discussing our one tenant who hasn't paid their rent yet, and I asked him to call her. He tells me that she said "thanks for the reminder; I forgot all about it. I will put it in the mail now." My 12 year old son, who is fully engrossed in a video game turns around and said, "How do you forget to pay your rent?!" Then he turns back around and goes right back to what he is doing. Too funny! I guess they are listening when you don't think they are....

(However,) My kids aren't too excited about the whole rental home thing, especially when we drag them down to where our houses are to clean up after tenants have left. We keep telling them, "one day we are going to leave it all to you" and my older son says "yep and then I'm going to sell them all."

My response: You stated, "especially when we drag them down to where our houses are to clean up after tenants have left."

If most of my experiences with rental property were "to clean up after tenants have left, I too would be ready to sell the first chance I got. Maybe you could enhance the "clean-up" experience by saying that you will give them a dollar bonus or five dollars for each penny they find left on the floor by the tenants. That could possibly increase their excitement in even wanting to come clean with you!

Renter Applicant Home Inspection

My biggest suggestion to anyone is to step up and MANAGE. Landlords are often timid and just hand the keys to a major investment to a total stranger based on some words written on an application. Stand up for YOUR investment and YOUR time. Set aside your fears and go protect your income. You might be protecting yourself from THOUSANDS$$$ in damage, the stress of evictions, and maybe even your family's safety. Go check out how rental applicants live at their current home.

YOUR property will look the same in a few weeks. Overall it's not rocket science. You'll know within SECONDS if their application is worth pursuing. Everything you see will be moved to YOUR property, including the music Add the following to your rental applications: "Screening may include an in-home visit to your current residence."

Sometimes the drive-by is enough to deny. Looking for mowing, trash piles, junk, vehicles, parking habits, grass worn down from dog chains... If the house is rough with delayed maintenance by the current landlord, that shows the applicants accept rough as part of their lifestyle.

Sometimes just walking up to the front door is enough. A no pet application with two dogs terrorizing the front door, odor of urine or weed wafting onto the porch, thumping rap shaking the windows, filth on the door, notes posted on the door like NO DRUGS, door hangers from the utility company about shut off for non-payment...

Check the yard... Check the neighbors. What kind of neighborhood is acceptable to this applicant? Filthy people don't mind filthy neighbors...

Your body inside the front door is usually enough to decide. If not sure, "So where is your kitchen? Bathroom?" -Toys, laundry being folded, un-made beds, dishes in the sink, etc. are just everyday living. It is a sign of busy people. I'm not worried about things that clean up like bedding and sinks. I'm looking for smell, trash, stains, crayon on walls, smoking, screaming, parking, marijuana posters, paw print doormats, hateful posters or signs...

If you want, snap a picture or two for your records.

Yes, you can deny someone based on their housekeeping (that's the idea)! IF they call or email, we simply state "Your app did not check out." If they press, we give the truth, "Your in-home visit did not pass." Go! Be Bold!  Protect your investment! Each visit can be worth THOUSAND$$$ to you! 

Reprinted by Permission. The above tips are shared by regular contributors to the popular Q&A forum, by real estate authors and by Jeffrey Taylor, To receive a free sample of Mr. Landlord newsletter, call 1-800-950-2250 or visit their informative Q&A Forum at, where you can ask landlording questions and seek the advice of other rental owners 24 hours a day.