Finding a quality tenant is one of the most challenging phases of owning a rental property. In fact, finding tenants can be an outright stressful process. However, finding a tenant is also the single most important part of owning a rental property. After all, it is the property’s main source of income.
If you’re looking to find a tenant, you need to know the right resources, strategies and techniques to make the process as smooth as possible. Thankfully, having been in the residential rental industry for over a decade, in some of the most competitive markets in the US, I can help you find a tenant quickly!
I have renovated 100’s of rental properties and managed the lease up of a few thousand rental units throughout the state of Texas, including single-family home rentals, duplexes, fourplexes and multi-family communities.
So regardless of whether you are trying to find tenants for a traditional rental property like apartments, or single family homes, or you’re wanting to market to tenants looking for alternative housing options like livable sheds (re: tiny houses), I’ve got some great strategies for you!
In the paragraphs below, I’ll share some of my most successful rental property marketing strategies that you can apply today and see results as soon as tomorrow.
Read on for some powerful, proven methods that work when you need to find a tenant for your rental property.
Find a Tenant Quickly
In this first section, I’m going to cover some of the rental strategies that you can use to market your rental as efficiently as possible so that applications start rolling in quickly.
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These strategies are applicable regardless of whether you want to find commercial tenants or residential tenants.
The name of the game is high visibility – the better chance that a potential tenant has to see your listing, the quicker you start getting applications.
Create a Rental Listing
The first step in the process is to create a high-quality rental listing because you need a place for potential applicants to be able to learn more about your rental. First impressions are everything, so here are a few things that make a rental listing awesome:
- HD Photos (landscape only, no vertical images)
- HD Walk-Through Video and/or 3D Tour
- Highlight Property Features (alarm system, internet, fitness space, garage, etc.)
- Highlight Local Amenities (public transportation, good schools, etc.)
Make sure that the listing is accompanied by a colorful and professionally written description of the rental property.
Market Your Rental Early
One of the biggest mistakes that even seasoned property managers make is they wait until the current lease is close to the end date before listing the rental property.
Typically, a property manager will see that their tenant’s lease is expiring in 30, 60, or maybe 90 days at most and then they’ll send the tenant a renewal offer. There is rarely any sense of urgency, and oftentimes, the property manager will not require that the tenant decide until as late as 30 days prior to the current lease expiration date.
This is a common mistake that often results in the rental property sitting vacant for longer than it should have when the current resident decides to move out.
What I’m going to share below is one of the best ways to ensure that you find a tenant quickly, and completely eliminate lost rental revenue between the time that your old tenant moves out and your new tenant moves in.
Try this instead:
- Send a renewal offer to your current tenant as far as 4-5 months out from the lease expiration date. Let them know that the rental market is extremely competitive, and tenants are already looking for rentals in your market several months out (they often are, you just don’t know because you never market your rentals out that far).
- Give them 2-4 weeks to sit on the renewal offer, then follow up again at the 3-4 month mark. This time, let them know that the renewal offer is only good for the next 30 days, and then it will increase. This will work especially well if the initial renewal offer is a great deal. FOMO is real and it can be a powerful influence in any purchasing decision, including rentals.
- By this point, the tenant may have already renewed their lease. If not, you are now within the 60-90 day time frame anyway, so now it’s time to let the tenant know that you’re going to start marketing the rental property since you have not received a commitment from them. Let the resident know that once you have interested renters, you will accept applications.
- Inform the current tenant that once you have an application from a prospective tenant, the current resident will only have 24 hours to accept/decline the renewal before you default to approving the new applicant. If the existing tenant does not renew within that 24 hour time frame, then you give the existing tenant a notice to vacate by the end of their current lease, and you’ll set a move in date for the new tenant shortly after (remember to give yourself adequate time to do the make-ready on the rental unit).
This strategy may work on a slightly different timescale in your local market, but nonetheless, never wait until the lease is 30 days within the expiration date to start marketing your rental.
In my experience, most tenants already know well before the lease end date whether or not they’re going to plan on renewing. I have had hundreds of tenant’s sign leases as early as 5-6 months prior to their lease end date over the years.
The sooner you start marketing the rental, the quicker you can find a tenant (or get a renewal signed by the current tenant) and the more stable your rental property revenue will be.
As always, check your state and local laws. Some places have restrictions regarding how soon/late you can offer and sign residential lease renewals.
Ask for Referrals
One of the quickest ways to find a tenant is to just ask for referrals from your current tenants. If your current tenants are happy living at your rental property(s) or apartment community, then let them know that you have rentals available.
The best way to get referrals and find a tenant quickly is to offer a credit or rent reduction for whoever refers a tenant to you that applies, qualifies, and moves in.
Not only will you find a qualified renter rather quickly, chances are, your tenants will also get along with each other. After all, they’re already acquainted!
Your current renters get great neighbors, you find a tenant that meets your rental criteria, and your current tenant earns a referral commission.
It’s a win-win for everybody.
Work with an Agent
Some rental markets utilize apartment locators more than others. In Houston, for instance, I rarely used rental agents to help fill my properties. In Austin, however, real estate agents were constantly bringing qualified renters to my properties.
But that’s not to say that apartment locators aren’t needed in Houston. They are. And they can be a great asset if you are trying to find a tenant for your rental property, regardless of which city you are located in.
Just keep in mind that when you use an agent, you have to pay a commission for when they bring you a qualified tenant who becomes a renter at your property.
Also keep in mind, that if you want to find a tenant even quicker, then offer an above-market commission for any locator who brings someone to you.
For example, if the average rental commission in your area is 25% of the first months rent, and you want to be really aggressive, then consider offering a 50% or even 75% commission. Then, make sure every rental locator’s office in your city knows about it.
You’ll have real estate agents bringing prospective tenants by your property in no time at all.
At the end of the day, working with a tenant finder service such as an apartment locator can be a great way to find a tenant quickly for your rental property.
Not everybody can get off of work whenever they want to go tour rentals.
One of the most frustrating experiences someone can have when trying to find a rental property is finding a rental you like online, but they only tour during a very rigid schedule of 9 AM – 5 PM.
If you want to find a tenant quickly, then be flexible with your touring schedule and offer a way for people to be able to tour outside of regular business hours.
Setting up a self-guided tour option for your rentals could be a great idea if you have the capability to do so. That way potential renters can pre-qualify and go tour on their own whether you’re available or not.
Avoid Rental Application Roadblocks
Even the most qualified tenants will walk away if the application process is too cumbersome and presents too many roadblocks.
To find a tenant and keep someone engaged through the application process, it’s important that you avoid inadvertently setting up rental application roadblocks or making things over-complicated.
Make sure that the application process is simple, and clearly laid out. Also don’t ask for ridiculous deposits – qualified renters don’t want thousands of their dollars sitting in your accounts for years when it could be in their accounts instead.
In fact, some states are starting to require that if you charge excessive deposits, that you have to keep track of interest earned on those deposits, and they must be paid to the tenant when the lease ends and the tenant moves out. That can be a pain to deal with for both you and the tenant.
Find a tenant quickly by reducing the number of roadblocks in the application process. The more streamlined and simplified it is, the quicker you find a tenant.
Keep a Waitlist
Keeping a waitlist can be one of the quickest ways to find a tenant. This works especially well if you have a lot of rentals, or manage an apartment community. But there’s no reason this strategy can’t work for smaller rental portfolios, or if you have an amazing rental property that everybody wants to get into.
Every time you have someone interested in your rental, add their name and email address to a rental waitlist for your property. Every time you have a tenant decide they’re not going to renew their lease, send out an email blast to your rental email list.
Even if the people on your list are not able to take advantage of it, chance are, they will know someone who can. Chances are, you’ll get referrals and you’ll have a new tenant in no time at all.
Make it even easier for the people on your waitlist to share the rental listing by including a direct link to the listing in your email blast.
Find a Good Tenant
According to a SmartMove survey (a Transunion screening product), some of the top landlord concerns about how to find a tenant are:
- Rental Payment History
- Prior Rental Eviction History
- Prior Criminal History
- Fraudulent Rental Application Info
- High Maintenance Tenant
- Short-Term Tenant – Never Renews
That being said, if you want to find a good tenant and keep that tenant around for the long haul, you’ll want to consider the following:
Curb Appeal is a Big Deal
A highly qualified tenant does you no good if they drive right past your rental property and never come back.
Why would they do that?
If you want to find a highly qualified tenant and keep them around, then you’ll need to make sure that your curb appeal is on point.
What is curb appeal? It’s precisely how it sounds. How appealing does your property look when standing at the street curb out front?
You’ll want to check the following:
- Trim the trees and bushes
- Keep the grass mowed and edged
- Make sure there aren’t any weeds
- Touch up paint on rough spots
- Gutters installed and looking good
- Window blinds/curtains
- Steps, sidewalk, deck, etc., cleaned and presentable
If your curb appeal is good, you’ll find a good tenant.
Make Sure the Price is Right
Pricing is important. If you’re priced too low, you might rent it out too quickly and leave money on the table. If you price it too high, it might sit on the market for longer than you might expect, costing you money in the long run.
If the price is right, you’ll find a good tenant quickly.
A quick way to make sure your rental is priced right (specifically in your local market) is to do a rental market survey. Back in the day (like ten years ago), you had to do this manually.
Today, there is software you can use to do it for you in a matter of seconds.
The data they use is up to date, and the results will help you price your rental property exactly how it should be priced.
Create Transparent Advertisements
A good renter is going to do their due diligence and look into all of the details about the rental property. If the rental listing is not transparent, seems confusing or maybe even illegitimate, then they won’t even reach out to you.
The more precise and transparent that the advertisement is, the more qualified leads you will receive and the quicker you will find a tenant.
If you do, or do not, allow pets, then make sure that’s on the listing. If you require a pet deposit, say that in the listing. If you don’t allow smoking in your rental, make sure that’s indicated. If you have to have a 650+ credit score, then be sure to make that clear.
The more transparent your rental advertisement is, the higher the quality of the leads will be that you receive, and the quicker you can find a tenant.
If your rental advertisements are transparent and detailed, then you generally won’t have to prequalify too many people because the listing will help do some of that work for you.
People who see that you do not allow pets will likely not bother applying. If you require a 650+ credit score, then people with a 500 credit score will likely not apply.
However, you still want to ask some pre-qualifying questions to make sure that the person reaching out to you is going to meet your rental application criteria:
- What is your expected move in date?
- Do you have any pets?
- Are you aware that you’ll have to pay a pet deposit of $300?
- Do you earn at least 3x’s the income?
If they expect to move in on May 1st, but your listing clearly says it’s not available until June 1st, you’ll want to clear that up with them so that you don’t waste their time and yours touring with someone who cannot even move in by their expected move in date.
Do Proper Tenant Screening
After you create a transparent rental listing, you’ve prequalified your prospective renter and now they’re ready to apply after touring – you’ll need to make sure you follow through with a proper tenant screening process.
This step is probably the most important step in the entire process. Afterall, you don’t want a bad tenant – you want the best tenant.
A good screening is one that makes sure the person who is planning to move into your rental property has a qualified:
- Financial Background
- Criminal Background
- Rental History
You’ll need to be careful at this step too. Some states and cities have started to regulate what you can and cannot do when it comes to financial and criminal background checks for rentals.
So make sure you are following the legal guidelines in your region of the country.
Be a Good Landlord
When you find a tenant, you want to keep the tenant around. Especially if you found a good tenant. But in order to do that, you need to be a good landlord.
All else being equal, a good landlord will keep a good tenant for a long time. There are plenty of resources out there to help you become a good landlord, but here are a few of the core principles of being a good landlord:
- Be a good communicator
- Make it convenient to pay rent, submit maintenance requests, etc.
- Resolve maintenance requests quickly and efficiently
Two of the primary reasons that tenants say they did not renew a lease are:
- Poor communication from the property manager, or difficult to reach them
- Unresolved maintenance requests, or it took longer than necessary
If you can do those two things very well, you’ll already be steps ahead of thousands of other rental property managers and you’ll find it much easier to convince your tenants to renew their leases each year.
Find a Tenant Online
By far, the quickest way to find a tenant is to make sure you have a highly visible presence online.
The more visible you are online, the easier you’ll find it is to rent out your rental property(s).
Here are the various ways you can make sure you can be found by tenants all over the internet…
National Rental Listing Websites
The most obvious place to be found is on the major rental listing websites online. These rental listing sites are specifically designed to help you find a tenant, and to help tenants find you.
Here are some of the biggest rental listing websites:
If you want to find a tenant quickly, then you’ll probably want to get your listing on one or more of the above-mentioned sites. The more, the better.
And the good news is, you don’t have to worry about manually posting your rental listings to each one of the above-mentioned rental listing sites. There is property management software that will do it all for you.
Local Rental Listing Websites
If you live in a major city, you may find that you have local rental listing sites that perform better than others in your area. For instance, LineCity performs really well in NYC, whereas Rentler performs really well in Salt Lake City, UT.
If your rental is near a college or university, then you’ll probably find a tenant pretty quickly through College Pads – a rental listing company that focuses exclusively on rentals located in communities near colleges and universities.
In fact, niche listing sites like the ones mentioned above perform better in their respective cities than any of the major rental listing sites.
You can find a tenant in your area by checking to see what local, niche listing websites are available in your city.
Facebook Rental Marketplace
One of the newer arrivals to the rental listing world is Facebook Rental Marketplace. I have personally seen how well this rental listing tool works, and it’s pretty incredible.
The leads tend to be of high quality, and it’s easy to make sure the person reaching out is who they say they are since you can see their Facebook profile, when it was created, and other helpful details about the prospective tenant.
You used to be able to syndicate rental listings to the Facebook Marketplace, but they recently discontinued that. So, if you want to list your rental on Facebook, you’ll have to do it manually now.
But don’t fret, it’s pretty easy to do. And judging by the results that I’ve seen – it’s probably worth the hassle.
Local Facebook Groups
If you join local Facebook groups in your city, a lot of them will allow you to post your rental property especially if it’s a smaller rental property like a single-family home rental, or a duplex.
They may be a little less approving of your post if it’s an apartment in a large multi-family community, but it never hurts to ask the admins of the group prior to posting.
In general, using Facebook to find a tenant is pretty easy. It’s also effective.
In some markets, Craigslist is a great place to list rentals. In other markets, not so much.
You typically won’t know until you try your hand at listing a rental in your local Craigslist rental marketplace, but it’s absolutely worth testing out.
In fact, Craigslist can be ineffective with a rental in one neighborhood, but incredibly effective with a rental in another. So, don’t write-off Craigslist just because you haven’t found a tenant using it in the past.
Pay Per Click Ads are ads that you run on major sites like Google, Bing, or other Ad Networks online.
You only pay when someone clicks on your ad, and, assuming all else is equal, people who click on an ad are generally people who have an intent to take action on whatever it is they’re clicking on.
Keep in mind… There is an art to creating great online ads and landing pages with higher conversion rates. Otherwise you can burn through your ad-budget pretty quickly.
If you do not have any prior experience doing this, it may be worth paying an experienced marketing person – or agency – to do it for you.
Social Media Ads
Another effective way to find a tenant is to create a social media rental ad. This is slightly different from PPC Ads, in that you do not just pay when people click on the ads – you also pay when people just SEE your ads.
Here are some of the more popular social media platforms you can advertise on:
Once again, there is an art to understanding each of these platforms, and the types of ads that you should run on each one.
If you do not have any experience with that – it’s best to hire someone who does.
Find a Tenant Offline
While having an online presence is absolutely essential, you may find success in your search for a tenant by going offline as well.
There are lots of ways to make sure your rental properties are visible offline.
Here are a few:
Have you ever seen those little 12″ x 12″ signs stuck in the ground at an intersection telling you about a local yard sale, or offering to buy your home in cash?
Those are bandit signs.
And people use them for a reason… they’re effective!
Why not try your hand at them yourself and post 8 – 10 of them at various high-traffic intersections around the community where your rental is located, or may even neighborhoods nearby?
Short and sweet bandit signs are the best.
“3B/2B in Parker Heights – $1,200/mo. Call (000)000-000”.
If you have somewhere to post a printed banner with a high-definition image of one of the best rooms in your rental (e.g. kitchen), that works too! Just overlay the text over the image on the banner.
I have personally used Signs.com for both bandit signs and banners and have never been disappointed. They make high-quality products at affordable prices.
Community Bulletin Boards
If you think that nobody pays attention to community bulletin boards – you would be wrong.
Not only do I pay attention to them, I frequently see other people stopping and looking at them as well. It’s not uncommon to see people take a “tear off tab” from something hanging up on a bulletin board in the local USPS office, or grocery store.
If you are wondering what I mean by “community bulletin board”, it’s those little cork-boards that they hang on the wall by the front door at places like:
- USPS Locations
- Grocery Store(s)
- Gas Stations
- Universities / Colleges
You’ll find full-sized bulletins or just business cards stuck on the board with a pin. It’s usually information about local service-based businesses, upcoming events, etc.
It’s also a great place to post information about your rental. Who knows, you might just find a tenant at the grocery store!
If you live in an area with large companies that are major employers in your area, it might make sense to offer special rates for employees of select companies.
It’s a great way to find a tenant, and because it’s a referral, the conversion rate is typically through the roof. How do I know? I’ve used this strategy myself many times.
Connect with their HR team and offer them “welcome packets” for new hires that include all of your rental property information, along with any company-specific benefits such as reduced rates or deposits, streamlined application process, quick move in benefits, etc.
This same strategy for finding a tenant can be applied to universities, colleges, unions, city government, or any other formally recognized entity in your area.
Make the deal worth it to the business and to their employees, and you’ll find the right tenant in a heartbeat.