Fill vacancies at top rents with qualified
tenants through the slow, winter months.
The Bay Area is a major employment hub with the tech-sector being the fastest growing part of the economy, and trends show no sign of slowing down. People from all over the world continue to move to the Bay Area, San Francisco being a top desirable city. So how can rental property owners keep this positive momentum going through the slower winter months?
When autumn begins to peek its head, days slowly become shorter, and the holidays quickly come and go, the stresses of a vacant rental seem never-ending. Yes, many of us feel the pain when winter yet again sneaks up on us. The end of the year is a time to reflect, while the beginning of the year is a time to take action. The first step is having a clear understanding of your rental business needs.
It’s important to understand where your rental business stands. The tech industry is the fastest growing part of the employment economy; technology disrupts the traditional nature of all businesses. This could mean a number of things for a rental business, from more complex and time consuming building upgrades, to day-to-day operations.
Arguably, day-to-day operations may also seem time-consuming, unless you’ve opted for innovative processes and technology that fit your budget and needs. In today’s tech-driven market, the most important needs are cost and agility. With the right tools, you will be empowered to confidently make quick decisions, and never fall victim to vacancy loss.
When you have an upcoming available rental or one that is ready for immediate move-in, the next steps shouldn’t feel stressful or tedious.
Get the word out by posting your available rental to as many online listing sites as possible and creating a repeatable process for communicating with all leads. Finding a new tenant is the part of your business where you have the most flexibility to offer a high-tech solution to match the demands of the market.
Start by templating the description for your rental advertisement. Include highlights about the location and the rental itself. Write short paragraphs and bullet specific details. Renters are searching for a new home in a sea of listings, skimming and quickly moving on to the next. Make the description easy to read, and if there is a highly desirable amenity you offer, don’t be afraid to repeat that amenity in more than one way throughout the description.
Include a ton of photos. The more photos, the longer you will hold a potential renter’s attention. Professional photos are a great investment, but may not always be an option. If you are limited to photos on a personal device, follow a few best practices for real estate photography like, choosing the right time of day, using natural light or a flash (or both), and working the angles. A quick online search of real estate photography tips can provide you with a number of different techniques to try for your unique rental.
Next, find a tool that creates multiple listings for you. Even with a template for your advertisement, having to post on more than one listing site can be very time consuming. This should not deter your efforts when it comes to your business, however; there are smart, affordable software tools that do the work for you.
Create a separate template for lead responses and prepare your schedule for open houses or personal tours. Many email providers like Gmail allow you to save templates in your email settings. Otherwise, you can save a Word document to your desktop, or somewhere you can easily open, edit when necessary, then copy and paste your response to each inquiry. This ensures you are able to respond rapidly, so you don’t lose the lead!
Make your template response personal: use the potential renter’s name, show enthusiasm for their interest, and include identifiable details, but keep it short and to the point. Remember, just like you are managing multiple inquiries, renters in the market are also managing multiple responses. Make it easy for them to find information they need, such as the address or your contact information. Whether scheduling personal tours or open houses, always try to obtain the renters’ contact information in order to follow up.
When coordinating your availability, it’s important not to schedule too far in advance. Manage your schedule on a per week basis. You’ll want to schedule right away. If you cannot be at the rental on a daily basis, try at least every other day, or list available times in the rental description. The San Francisco rental market is as fast moving as the tech industry; unless there is a specific reason for a showing more than a week away, it’s likely your lead will end up canceling and potentially wasting your time.
On the day of scheduled tours, confirm with perspective tenants at least three or four hours prior to the appointment that they will be there. If you were able to save their phone numbers, send an SMS, text message confirmation. Text is a fast and effortless way to communicate on the day of, assuming you will not have the time to check email or answer calls.
In the message, ask for their confirmation and welcome any reason for cancellation. Of course, it is never ideal to receive a cancellation—but your time is valuable, and being open to the cancellation upfront costs you a lot less than a no-show later.
The rental tour process gives you and the potential renter an opportunity to initially screen. They will better understand if it is a place they can call home while you talk about your business criteria such as required rent-to-income ratio, acceptable minimum credit scores, and types of documentation for proof of income. Seemingly eager renters will at times already have documents and credit reports on them. To protect your business, always ask that the renter follow your secure and vetted application process instead.
Send all potential renters the application to apply. This can be done prior to showings, during or after, as long as you have their contact info. Strong rental criteria and a thorough screening process, combined with allowing everyone who is interested to apply ensures you are finding the right, qualified tenant while increasing the number of submitted applications. If you are waiting until after a tour to send the application, don’t wait too long! Knowing the market, potential renters are more likely to apply right after they leave a showing.
Make it easy for your new tenant to apply by sending a digital, online application that gathers all data, documents and credit reports in one spot. Online applications are a more secure process in comparison to paper applications that have obvious personal information potentially floating from place to place. Plus, an online application gives the renter freedom to complete this step immediately and at their convenience.
Don’t waste time attempting to prescreen a second time. At this point serious renters know your criteria and do not mind filling out the application, uploading documents and submitting their credit report for your consideration. When reviewing an application, you want everything that is needed for you to make the best decision altogether, and ready in one spot. Leaving the process open to additional steps runs the risk of both decision fatigue, and losing a qualified tenant. The right technology for your process should include the application and credit report in a single easy step.
When operating in a market like San Francisco, you could have international applicants new to the United States who do not have a social security number. You want to provide the same rental criteria for all interested parties; lack of an established plan can potentially bring your fast moving process to a halt. Not to worry, there are solutions to help. Intellirent, for example, is partnered with TransUnion to provide U.S. credit reports, as well as Nova, a San Francisco-based company, to provide international reports for a growing number of countries.
By understanding the market, keeping up with your advertising, and committing to a fast communication and screening strategy, confidence in your process will seem like second nature.
Technology allows for growth across all business types, and our city has consistently benefited due to the high number of jobs in the tech-industry. As we approach a busier rental season, now is the time to understand and embrace available technology that will help your rental business grow.
Learn more about Intellirent by visiting sfaa.org > Resources > Tenant Screening. With a love for our hometown of San Francisco, we understand the rental market and care about providing you with access to easy, dependable rental marketing and tenant screening solutions.
Cassandra Joachim is the director of business development at Intellirent. She can be reached at 415-849-4400.