As most landlords will tell you, the stress level of any income property owner is directly related to the quality of the tenants they currently manage. Finding the right tenants can be tricky but settling for an under-qualified applicant may come back to haunt you.
A fantastic and underutilized technique to attracting great renters is the open house. Though this is traditionally used for real estate agents to pick up new buyer clients, hosting a well-planned and professional open house could land you the elusive low maintenance, rule abiding, long-term tenants you’ve been dreaming of.
The key to any successful open house is getting a lot of visitors. A crowded event will make guests know the unit is desirable and will motivate them to act quickly. This will net you more applications and in return, increase your odds of approving the right tenant. To attract the most guests, you should make sure you:
- Schedule at the Best Times. Saturday and Sunday 12-3pm works well because it is late enough in the day to get the after brunch crowd. If those times don’t work for you, just be sure to pick a time when most people won’t be working and stay open for at least two hours.
- Advertise. There is no such thing as too much promotion.
- Use a free picture editor like canva.com or picmonkey.com to overlay your pictures with text describing the open house. Include the address, date and time of the open house, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and the price of the apartment. Then use those pictures for all of your online marketing. Also, if possible, hang a sign in front of the unit with the same details.
- On the day of the open house, place a few open house signs directing traffic from the busiest nearby streets. If you turn people off a main road, give them a sign at every subsequent turn. The cheap red open house signs from a home improvement store work well. Write “rental” in big black lettering to make it clear that you aren’t selling a house.
- Invite people! If you own multiple units, you should put your other tenants to work. Good renters know other good renters and they are just as afraid of getting a bad landlord as you are of getting a bad tenant. So who better to sing your praise than your already satisfied clients? Send out a mass email at least two days before the open house inviting anyone and everyone you know. Put it on Facebook and ask friends to share. (Set the privacy setting on that post to public.)
- Push All Showings to the Open House: Tell everyone who calls to inquire about the apartment that they may view it during the open house. This will help you keep your open house crowded and keep your weeknights free. Win-win.
Now that you have the whole town coming to your open house, let’s discuss some logistics to ensure it goes off without a hitch.
- The unit should be move-in ready. All outstanding work should be finished ahead of time and the unit should be cleaner than your own home. A sparkling unit will give them no leverage for price negotiations and will stand out compared to the other units they see.
- Use a sign-in sheet. Gathering all of the guests’ contact information will allow you to build an email mailing list for openings in your buildings and result in faster turnover of units in the future.
- Be prepared with applications. If you are a user of property management software, either bring an iPad with internet access to permit guests to apply on the spot, or simply print out postcard sized flyers with information about how to apply online. The postcard is another good opportunity to highlight any conveniences you provide that may set you as a landlord apart, such as accepting rent payments online.
- Allow yourself enough time for set up. Getting to the unit an hour or two before the start of the open house will be plenty of time to turn all the lights on, open a few windows for fresh air (if weather permits), and set out all of the signs to direct traffic from the main streets. Consider providing a small snack as people tend to linger while eating and it will give you a chance to have a conversation with them.
- Take your safety and the security of your property into consideration. Never do an open house alone and make sure to check that all the doors and windows are locked when you leave.
Not so fast. Even if you receive a few applications after your open house, take this as an opportunity to get even more. Send an email out to the entire sign-in sheet that let’s them know that due to high interest in the unit, you will be reviewing all applications at 5pm Monday night. Setting a hard deadline will get anyone on the fence to act fast.
Now that you have all the tools, get out there and host your first open house! And be sure to come back and let us know how it went.