Landlords and agents should always aim to find not just any tenant but the very best tenant for a property. The best tenants are more likely to have fewer problems, look after a property better and stay longer too.
But exactly how do you find the best tenant?
Finding the best tenant is about much more than whether they can easily afford the rent or have great references. Here are some other tips that can help find the very best tenant too:
Make your property the very best it can be. Good tenants often have several properties to choose from and so can afford to be choosey .... and vice versa.
Do any repairs or maintenance that are needed, or improvements you were planning anyway, before putting your property up for rent.
Advertise your property extensively. It’s simple, but not always obvious: The more you advertise a property the more potential tenants you will attract. The more potential tenants you have to choose from the greater the likelihood will be that you will find a good one.
Decide on a minimum advertising period (for example two weeks or four weeks etc.) before closing the application process.
Include as much information as possible in your ad. The more information you include the more a property is likely to attract the type of tenant it is suitable for .... whilst filtering out those for whom it isn’t.
Include as many pics in your advertising as possible. Today many people make a split-second decision on whether to investigate something further (or not) based on what it looks like.
Speak to would-be tenants sooner rather than later. It’s much better to ask would-be tenants to phone about a property rather than ask them to email or fill in an enquiry form. You can get a much better idea of what a prospective tenant is like by speaking to them.
Conduct viewings before deciding. Once you’ve drawn up a shortlist of possible tenants offer them all a viewing before making a decision. This is a good way of deciding who will be the best fit for a property .... and again filtering out those for whom it isn’t.
Invite everybody who will be living in the property to come along to the viewing .... including children and dependant relatives etc. This will give you a good snapshot of their personal situation.
Interview potential tenants .... but do it as informally as possible. Meeting prospective tenants at a viewing is a good way to interview them in a informal way. Keep everything friendly and relaxed. Make your questions as unobtrusive as possible and slip them into normal conversation. You’re likely to get much more useful answers than you would get from a formal application form this way.
Here are a few questions you could ask: Where are you living now and do you like it there? Do you have any relatives/friends in the area? Why are you thinking of moving? Have you looked at any other properties around here and what did you think about them? Why do you think this house/flat would suit you? Are you looking for somewhere to live just for the short term, or longer?
(You can also get useful feedback about your property and about the local letting market too by asking questions like these.)
Don’t make hasty decisions. Wait until you’ve met all your prospective tenants at a viewing before making a decision. It could be that the perfect tenant for your property is the one you see last!
Avoid being swayed by tenants who say that they need to move urgently. Or tenants who offer to pay more than the asking rent .... it could be a sign that they’ve been turned down by other landlords.
Do a home visit. If you have a number of potential good tenants, or aren’t really sure whether they’re right, arrange to visit them in their current home before deciding. You’ll get a very good idea of whether they’re the best tenant for your property. (It’s OK to use an excuse so that it doesn’t seem like they’re being checked out, such as you happen to be in the area and have a couple more questions to ask etc.)
Avoid stereotypes when choosing a tenant. Sometimes, tenants who are well presented, who seem like perfect professional tenants, and seem like they should be able to easily afford the rent might make terrible tenants. While tenants who are maybe less well presented, can only just afford the rent but who are open and honest could be the perfect tenants for your property.
So avoid making a decision about who is the best tenant based on stereotypes. Instead use all the information available to you including applications forms, referencing and a personal meeting to help find the best tenant.
Most of the time landlords feel under pressure to let a property as quickly as possible. That helps to keep the rent coming in, avoids voids and the problems that empty property can involve. But it’s better to take some time to find the best tenant. An extra month spent finding and selecting the best tenant is a small price to pay compared to months and years of problems that can be caused by finding the wrong one!