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How to show a rental property without wasting time

by Dana Dunford

One of the most frustrating aspects of property management is finding a qualified tenant, as you can waste a lot of time driving to and from the rental to show the property. Tenants do not care about your valuable time as much as you do. Oftentimes, tenants will schedule a showing with you and not show up, show up late, or reschedule last minute.

As a REALTOR®, how are you currently showing your rental properties? Individual property showings? Open houses?


I find individual showings and open houses are not effective ways to find and attract the most qualified tenants in the shortest amount of time. These methods work for buying and selling properties, but here is a bit more insight into what happens with rental properties.

Here's why ...

Individual rental showings waste time

If you have hosted a rental showing, then you may have experienced this firsthand:
“Oh, sorry this afternoon won't work any longer. Can we try for tomorrow?”
“Can you wait at the property for a bit longer? I'm running 30 minutes late.”

Take the situation where it is Saturday afternoon and the weather suddenly got nicer. Tenants may want to meet their friends at the beach. Since there is not an up front deposit to attend a rental showing, they have little incentive to actually show up. As the REALTOR®, you have planned your day around the showing just to find out that the tenant cancelled 30 minutes beforehand.

Why is this? Tenants are not making a large purchase decision, since leases are typically 12 to 24 months. And, tenants have the choice between your rental and others on the market. Unless you're rental is one-of-a-kind or below market rates, tenants are likely to flake on a showing.


Open houses don't focus your attention

An open house can be chaotic or too calm. You have no prediction of what demand will be and you may miss the opportunity to speak with a qualified applicant if an unqualified tenant is taking your time.

During an open house, you may spend the first hour waiting for a tenant to walk through the door. And, how do you know the second hour won't be similar? Or, you may have everyone show up at the same time rather than in a steady flow.

It is important to have a solid strategy to show your rental property. Time is precious and your goal is to get a qualified tenant. You want to create an effective process that allows you to meet qualified applicants and does not waste your time.


Require tenants to sign up for showings

You get the best of individual property showings and open houses, without the negative consequences. By allowing multiple tenants to show up a particular viewing, you:

  1. Don't waste your time: Leasing a property can be stressful and should not take too much time away from family, work, and other engagements. By setting a schedule and sticking to it, you save yourself the headache during the leasing process of reschedules, cancellations, and last minute additions.
  2. Understand demand which breeds interest: By allowing multiple tenants to show up at the same time, it gives the impression of desirability. You don’t get the same sense of urgency with individual showings or at an “open” house without other attendees.
  3. Eliminate time wasted on researchers: Rent is likely the largest monthly expense for a tenant. Prospects view multiple rentals, even properties that are not their top choices. By scheduling a couple of prospects at the same time, your time is not as wasted when a “researcher” attends the showing. And, you can cancel showings with anyone who is not qualified.

What about lack of demand?

Lack of demand for a property can be very emotional for you and for the rental owner. If there is not a lot of interest to view the property, then you may have:

  1. Priced it too high: You may want to consider reducing the price or making the listing more attractive. Read this article to learn more.
  2. Listed during the dead season: Did you get stuck with a winter turnover? With a small portfolio, it is very stressful to your bottom line. You may need to wait longer to get a qualified applicant. TIP! When you write the lease, make sure the duration will have a turnover during the high demand season
  3. Chose bad showing times: Everyone’s schedule is different. You will want to select different times, from early evenings to weekends.
    You want a healthy amount of demand to select a qualified applicant and therefore give them flexible options on viewing times.

How do I make the showing effective?

A property showing is meant to answer questions, give a preview into living there, and to close on qualified prospects. Here are pointers to be more effective:

  1. Schedule showings for convenient times: Early afternoons on weekends (primarily Saturdays) and early evenings on weekdays (during daylight) typically work best.
  2. Have fast response times to advertising inquiries: Immediately respond once a tenant inquires about your property. Delay may lead to risk of no response. If you do not have time to respond immediately, then consider Hemlane to respond to inquiries.
  3. Capture lead information: Your response to inquiries should include an ability to sign up for a rental showing. This will capture serious prospects’ contact information, for better follow-ups and communication.
  4. Qualify leads: It is best practice for REALTORS® to pre-screen tenants before scheduling the showing. Make sure that your screening follows Fair Housing guidelines. I recommend asking whether their income and credit qualify meet your minimum threshold. Tip: Include pre-screening questions in the registration for property showings.
  5. Limit the number of attendees: You want to show demand, but you do not want chaos. Based on the size of your property, you should limit the number of sign ups per showing to 5 groups.

Are there any exceptions?

One size does not fit all. Here are some exceptions:

  1. You live next door: It is not as inconvenient when someone cancels or is late to an appointment. This exception also applies to REITS with full service leasing agents.
  2. Very, very, very high-end properties: Prospects expect a personal showing if the property caters to the 1%. You should anticipate fewer inquiries for luxury rentals.
  3. Out-of-state inquiries: They may visit for only a couple of days during a “house-hunting” trip. If your property is one of their top choices and your showing schedule does not fit with their timeframe, then you may want to consider an exception.
  4. Qualified and pre-approved applicants: If a prospect cannot make any of your showings but completes the application, then you may want to consider an exception based on their intent.
  5. Broker-dominated areas: If your city is broker-dominated (where agents personally tour prospects), then it is a different model.

Rental owners lose money every day the property is on the market. REALTORS® and owners should have a solid and streamlined process to take leads and convert them into qualified applicants. Open houses do not capture lead information very well. And, individual showings can make the process long and time intensive.