I have been in the property management industry for over a decade, and if there is anything I know, and know well – it’s that finding a reliable tenant can be challenging. But finding the right tenant for your rental property isn’t the only challenge you face.
It’s difficult to know who offers a trustworthy tenant finder service and if you should go with DIY software, or go with a third-party company option.
Since a good renter is more likely to pay rent on time, keep up with maintenance and repairs, and follow rules in order to keep their lease; it’s important that you find a tenant quickly – and not just any tenant. You want to find the best, high quality tenants as quickly possible – every time.
DIY Tenant Finder Technology vs Third Party Services
As a landlord or property manager, finding reliable tenants is one of the most important things a landlord and property manager can do to keep expenses low and guarantee rental income.
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The problem is… finding a reliable tenant finding service can cost you time and money, and depending on the market your rental is located in, it may make sense to take advantage of modern technology to reduce your search time and costs.
In the article below, I’ll cover both the third-party tenant finder service option, as well as the technology available today that allows rental managers to go the DIY route which is oftentimes just as efficient.
What is a tenant finder service?
But first – let’s define what we’re talking about when we refer to a “tenant finder service”.
The definition of a tenant finder service is not the same for everyone. Some people interpret this as just being a screening company that provides information about tenants to landlords or property managers.
Others view a tenant finder service as an application that allows landlords to view potential tenants who are looking in their area, and invite them to apply to their rental property.
Others define it as a company that physically brings prospective tenants to your property to tour. And some simply define it simply as a company that sends you potential leads that you have to respond to, build rapport with, and ultimately tour and sell them on the rental.
Whatever your definition, it’s easy to see how effective a tenant finder service can be in finding the perfect tenant for your rental property depending on the needs of your rental and what level of involvement you’re comfortable having in the advertising and leasing process.
Tenant Finder Service Options
A tenant finder service could be either software-based or a third party company such as a real estate brokerage firm. Here are three different types of listing and lead tenant finder services that you can use to find renters for your rental property:
1. Software for rental listings and leads
Rental management software companies and apps typically provide some type of platform where you can list your rental property, and it’s either listed directly to their rental listing website(s), or they syndicate it out to an entire network of listing websites to give you increased visibility.
There are several dozen rental management software companies out there, so there is a wide variation of services that they offer. Some are better than others – most are just ok.
These software platforms used to be free for the most part, but over time, they’ve almost all switched over to some type of pay-to-play model.
Quite a few of the rental listing and lead software platforms have also become one-stop-shops.
Many of the tenant finder service software platforms now also offer full rental management services built into their software. They offer things like applications, background and credit checks, tenant screenings, lease documents, e-signatures, maintenance portals, tenant online payment services and much more.
If you have never chosen a tenant finder service software system before, here are some things to look for:
Rental listing syndication functionality (you want your rentals as visible as possible).
A built in CRM system to follow up with leads, schedule tours, and close leads quickly.
Customizable online applications that are part of a seamless rental search experience for your prospective tenants – too many roadblocks or issues, and qualified tenants give up quickly.
Tenant screening functionality to select the best, most qualified applicants for your rental.
2. Real estate brokerage firms
In the event that it’s a third-party company that you go with, these are typically brokerage firms that have access to their local MLS (Multiple Listing Service) which allows them to post your rental listing on the platform that every real estate agent in your market can see and opt to bring their clients (your prospective tenants), to view your rental.
This is generally a very expensive model since real estate brokerage firms do not charge the prospective tenant anything to find them a rental. Instead, they charge commissions to the landlords for each real estate transaction, such as a successful tour that results in a lease.
While that’s generally the most expensive route to go, oftentimes it’s the quickest and ensures that you get tenants into your vacant rentals quickly. And as any landlord knows, cash flow is king when it comes to rental properties.
Brokerage firms also tend to either offer full rental management services, or they have agents on hand who offer those services outside of the brokerage firms direct oversight.
If you have never chosen a third party tenant finder service before, here are some things to look for:
A brokerage firm with rental management experience – it’s not the same as real estate sales.
Make sure they provide you with references from prior (or current) rental property owners.
Make sure they have experience with tenant screenings – it’s a whole process.
3. Rental marketing firms
With the rise of social media platforms, property managers have a lot of options to choose from when looking for innovative ways to advertise their rental properties.
The problem is that it can take a masters degree in marketing to know which platform your prospective tenants are currently using, and how to talk to them via their preferred social media software.
This is where rental marketing firms that offer tenant finder services come into play.
Rental marketing firms can help rental properties in difficult markets decipher the world of social media platforms and craft your marketing message to resonate with your prospective tenants and generate high-quality leads that result in quality applications and great tenants.
This route can also be a little pricy, but depending on the rental market that your rental property is located in – it can be a great option that has the potential to achieve fantastic results.
If you have never selected a rental marketing agency, here are some things to look for:
Prior experience in the rental industry with a proven track record to stick within the budget.
Preferably a local rental marketing agency that has a keen understanding of the rental market in which your rental property is located.
How do you choose the right company?
It is important to research your tenant finder service carefully and make decisions based on both your company goals, and the market in which your rental is located.
Not every rental market works well with rental locator services. Likewise, not every market works well with rental listing software – or maybe it does, but it may be a local platform that performs better than the national rental listing platforms.
In NYC, for instance, interested renters use a local rental listing platform called StreetEasy more often than they do sites like Apartments.com or Zillow to find potential rentals.
So it’s important to know your market when making a decision on which tenant finder service is the best for your rental.
If going the software route, it’s helpful to find a company that has experience and expertise in things beyond just listings and finding tenants. If you can do listings, applications, screenings, leases, etc., all on the same platform – it’s a life saver.
The 5 Best Tenant Finder Service Apps
Based on all of the prerequisites and information shared in the paragraphs above, here are the five best tenant finder service apps based on the scope of services and features they offer, ease of use, as well as overall support once you’re onboard:
TenantCloud is an end to end property management software system that has you covered from the time you need to list a vacant rental, all the way through syndicating listings to other rental platforms, a complete CRM system to track incoming leads, a rental application process, full screenings, sending leases for e-signature, automatically billing recurring rental charges, and much more.
It’s also one of the most affordable tenant finder service software platforms on this list.
Avail is not quite as complete of a rental management software system as the rest of the software on this list, but if you just need a very simple, stripped down listing platform and rental management tool, then Avail may be just what you’re looking for.
Buildium is a borderline enterprise rental management software solution with a pretty significant accounting system, and if you need a tenant finder service, then they offer that as well. But it can have a pretty steep learning curve, and it’s not as affordable as some of the other options on this list either.
If you’re already managing a significant number of rentals, or need super sophisticated rental management software, then Appfolio will probably suit you well. It has a suite of tools and accounting features that will make your accountant happy – but may drive you to pull the hair out of your head.
Yardi is a full-blown enterprise solution for property management companies that need a sophisticated set of tools to manage rentals on a massive scale. They launched Yardi Breeze a while back in an attempt to create a solution for small to medium property managers and landlords who do not need all the bells and whistles. If that’s you, then Yardi Breeze might be a good solution.
At the end of the day, you want to make sure you’re selecting the best tenant finder service for your rental property needs. The quicker you find a qualified tenant, the better and the right software or company can be all the difference.
Here is a recap of some of the things we’ve discussed in the paragraphs above:
What are the service(s) or platform(s) that prospective tenants in your rental market gravitate towards using? Locators? Software? If so, what software platforms do they search for rentals on?
Does the real estate brokerage firm have success with previous rental management efforts? Can they provide you with testimonials from a property owner who they’ve managed rentals for either currently or in the past?
Does the rental marketing agency have a keen understanding of your local rental market and do they have prior experience with rental advertising?
The answers to those three questions will help you to make a better, more informed decision so that you can find the best tenant finder service possible.
In the end, if you do not find any success in managing your own rentals, or you get tired of having to do things like learn how to write an eviction notice, chasing after rent collections, marketing vacant rentals, etc., then you may want to just hire a property manager instead!