Image of a happy couple signing a lease on a rental property.

Finding the Best Tenant

Updated January 1, 1 . AmFam Team

Purchasing a rental property is one of the biggest investments you’ll make, you want everything to go well with it. And that includes finding the best tenant for your rental. Take a look at these tips to help ensure you’re advertising well and find great tenants to keep your dreams on track.

As a landlord, you perform many jobs across the year. From collecting the rent to coordinating repairs and hiring contractors, the job can be demanding. But as a landlord, one of the most important jobs you have is finding the best tenant for your rental. Whether you’re managing a 200 unit complex or just half of a duplex, keeping your rental units occupied with well-qualified, long-term renters is a high priority. And the fact is, finding good tenants sometimes isn’t as easy as you’d think. So, take a look at these tips on setting yourself up for success when listing your property.

Appeal to High Quality Tenants Through Their Smartphones

Of course, the ultimate goal of a well-screened tenant is that they’re more likely to pay their rent on time and take care of your place like it was their own. And recruiting these well-qualified tenants where they shop — when they’re looking for a new place to live — is all about knowing where to find them.

The reality is that over 70% of today’s tenants are searching for their new apartment online through a handful of websites and apps. Take a look at these tips on placing an ad that stands out in the crowded online rental property marketplace.

Create an Ad for Your Rental That Gets Attention

Writing a rental ad that works is all about targeting your message to the tenant by appealing to their wants and needs. Like purchasing a home, renters want to know they’ll be content in their new digs. Craft your ad so the tenant knows what they’re getting, and what you’ll expect from them. This way, you’ll find applicants that want to live there. And they’re likely well-qualified because they know about the credit, renter and criminal history research you’ll be performing in your selection process.

Imagine your ideal tenant. Define who you’re marketing to, and write your copy directly to that demographic. Think about who’s best going to live in and love your place most. They’re the target because they’re going to pay on time, and take care of the place well.

Tell the story next. Write about the ideal day in the life for the tenant to consider. As they immerse themselves in your narrative, they connect emotionally to your place which increases the odds of an application being submitted. Include details about the abundant light in the space, how close it is to parks and public transport.

Define the amenities and terms. Get down to business by continuing the story of what a find your place is by detailing the appliances, smart home upgrades and other benefits that are included in the package. Transitioning then into details about the credit, background and rental history checks you’ll be performing tells the tenant that these amenities are valuable and only well-qualified candidates will be considered. Next, identify in the ad that you expect tenants to carry renters insurance to add an extra layer of protection for your investment property.

Take great photos. If you need to, schedule time with the current tenant to take quality photos of your rental instead of using old or less-than-optimal images to promote the place. Eye-catching shots of the living space, kitchen and other unique close-ups can set your place apart and inspire interest. If possible, build captions for these images that describe how your rental makes life better.

Start With Craigslist

This is a tried and true answer that can produce a consistent stream of leads. Listings on Craigslist are free and viewed by potential renters across the U.S. every day. Research the way well-organized ads capture your attention and then do your best to reproduce these property listings. Always stay competitive by reviewing the way successful rental property companies advertise. Then, use that information to build your ad and price your place competitively.

Save Time and Market Your Property on a Rental App

Boasting effective and user-friendly interfaces, marketing your property on rental apps, like Rentec Direct and Cozy, offers landlords a one-stop-shop for listing a property and managing the "business side" of being a landlord as well. Once you create your ad, the apps send the listing to multiple real estate and rental sites. They are affiliated with almost every real estate property listing service out there, so you’ll be casting a very wide net. These groups also feature a suite of tools for landlords to manage and receive online tenant rent payments among other business tasks. They perform a credit check, review employment history and deliver details on address history, helping you to get the raw data you need to make that tough decision.

List on Zillow Rental Manager

Arguably one of the largest rental listing groups on the Internet, Zillow is at the top of its game for a reason: they’ve built a massive, well-organized presence online and it’s easy to use. One benefit here is that Zillow saves your old listings, even after they’ve been removed after your place has been rented. This means you won’t need to rebuild your listing when the rental property becomes available again — just log in and re-activate the old one, updating as necessary. Once you’ve listed on Zillow as a rental manager you’ll get an array of tools found in their Rentals Resource Center that can really help you with all aspects of being a landlord.

Ask for Referrals

Sometimes, knowing where to list your property is as easy as tweeting about it. Post your ad on your favorite social media site and let your contacts spread the word about the rental for you. Ask the neighbors next door if they know of anyone who needs a place to rent — after all, they’ll be the ones who have to live next to the tenant and you’re doing them a favor by asking for their input. If you have several rental properties, offer an incentive to your current tenants who refer a winning tenant. This could be in the form of a rental discount or something as simple as movie tickets.

Place Ads in Local Newspapers and on Bulletin Boards

It may seem like a relic of the past, but a percentage of renters seeking a place to live defer to hard copy postings. Place rental ads in local newspapers on weekends and in the Sunday edition to up your odds of finding a great tenant. Photocopy a well-written ad, include a link of your listing and distribute it through neighborhood bulletin boards, at grocery stores and laundromats. Include tear-offs at the bottom of the ad so people can grab your contact information when they're on the go.

Don’t Forget the For Rent Sign

People passing through your area may see the For Rent sign and tell a friend, or call to apply themselves. Include this option when seeking a new tenant because the cost is so nominal — you might just find your next great tenant with one.

Filter Out Bad Tenants and Comply With the Fair Housing Act

Getting the optimal tenant for your rental may require you to make the hard decision of ruling out applicants because — according to the financial information received through the credit report — they’ve not been able to meet their financial obligations in the past. When you do have to make this call, be sure to keep a hard copy of all documents that went into your decision to prove that your choice to deny the application was based on data from the applicant’s credit report and any other official groups that contributed to your process. With these records at hand, you’ll be able to deliver copies of these files to the tenant in the event that they want to understand why you rejected their application. These documents are also important evidence to retain in the event that the prospective tenant should decide to file an appeal with the state.

Screen Tenant Applicants With SmartMove

Partnering with American Family Insurance, TransUnion’s SmartMove (Opens in a new tab) can help you screen tenants and verify that they’re able to pay the monthly rent. You’ll also get a customized, detailed tenant report to help you find the optimal candidate for your rental.

A rental property’s ability to generate income is only as good as the tenants you select, and we’re here to help make sure that you’ve done all you can to find reliable people for your rental property. Programs like our landlord toolbox give you a great foundation for everything you need to keep your property running smoothly — and that can deliver real peace of mind. From sample rental application forms to running background checks, you’ll find most everything property managers need there.

While you’re working on marketing your property and tenant screening process, don’t forget to check in with your American Family Insurance agent (Opens in a new tab) to review your landlord insurance options. You’ll have the coverage your property needs and you’ll know that your investment is well-protected, too.

This article is for informational purposes only and is available through different sources. This information does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. You should contact your attorney for legal advice specific to your situation.

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