Have you ever watched a car slow down in front of a property with a “For Rent” sign, stop, back up, then speed off again? Why did they stop to look? If they were potential applicants, what made them speed off again, rejecting the property?
Lots of factors enter into whether someone decides he or she might be interested in a particular place to rent, and not all of them are under your control. But in order to rent your property, you have to get them to stop the car. And whether or not applicants stop their cars depends on first impressions.
The rule of thumb is that the better a property looks, the better the applicants will be, regardless of what part of town where your property is located. Quality people, the kind you want for renters, have pride in themselves and in their surroundings. That means if good applicants drive by a property that has an unkempt yard, has peeling paint, and has old junker cars in the parking lot, the driveway, or out in front on the street, they are going to keep right on driving.
On the other hand, if they drive by and see a well-kept yard, freshly painted stripes in the parking lot, and a building that is obviously cared for their first impression is of a landlord who cares about his property and who will take care of the rest of his business just as well. At that point, if that is your property for rent, the applicant is yours to lose. You see, that applicant has already decided that if the inside is as nice as the outside and it fits his or her needs, he or she wants to make it his or her new home.
Just as good tenants are driven off by unkempt properties, bad tenants are drawn to them. They want to live near people like them and to rent from landlords who don’t care much about their properties or the type of tenants they rent to. Unkempt properties shout at them that the owner of the property meets both their criteria. This same landlord wonders why he never gets good applicants and his tenants are always a problem.
I was driving through an upscale neighborhood the other day and noticed a “For Rent” sign in front of a single-family house. The front yard had dandelions two-feet tall and the rest of the yard and house gave the same impression. I found myself shouting, “You idiot!” to the landlord, who was no where around, of course, and wouldn’t have been able to hear me if he was.
Think of who is going to be attracted to rent that house. It won’t be good tenants, it will be marginal ones at best, and probably bad ones.
An interesting sidelight is that bad tenants are often afraid to even call about nice-looking properties. They figure that the landlord cares about his investment and whom he rents to, so there’s no point in even thinking about living there. Maybe they are the ones who slowed down, stopped the car, backed up and sped off again, saying to themselves, “No chance.”
Here are some of the things you can do with your properties to make them give an inviting first impression to great tenants:
1. Mow the lawn, edge the yard, trim the shrubbery, paint the front doors, repaint the stripes in the parking lot.
2. Sweep the sidewalk for the entire block.
3. Make sure there are no junker cars or other trash in front of or around your property. Call the city to have them removed if there are.
4. Drive by your property and try to get your own first impression. Take a picture of the property and look at it to see if that shows anything that needs tending to.
5. Have someone else drive by and make notes about his or her first impressions. Don’t get mad if the impression isn’t a good one and you get the truth.
There is simply no way you are going to get a dream applicant back after he or she has driven away from a rental property that has “bad landlord” written all over it. You’ll get the nightmare applicants instead. Take a little extra time and get the good applicants, the people you want to rent to, to stop their cars, call you and make your property their new home.