This article was posted on Wednesday, Jun 01, 2016

You Snooze You Lose!

A landlord name David, shared how he had lost out on a possible good resident even though he had attempted to get back with him within two hours after receiving an emailed application. The applicant had already “found something!”

My Response and Suggested Strategy for the Future 

David, I’ve had it happen in a similar way. After a potentially good prospective resident actually filled out an application, even given a small application fee, and two hours later when we called the person back to let them know they are “pre-approved”, we were told by the applicants that they’ve already been approved for another place.

My policy/goal now is to get back to potentially good residents within “one hour” if we are going to pre-approve them and “CONGRATULATE” them that they have been pre-approved.

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In the past, sometimes I would not get back to applicants until one or two days later (after all the verifications have been totally completed) to let them know they were approved. But we started getting told more and more, “Sorry, we’ve already found another place and already given a deposit.”

Once we have started the quicker “Congratulations-Pre-Approval” practice, I have not had that “Sorry” previously mentioned scenario happen again.

Another landlord, Larry, followed up with me in the discussion and asked “Jeffrey, what do you mean by “pre-approve” and what portion of the checking have you completed when you contact the potential tenant with your “pre-approval”?

My response: Larry, within an hour, at a minimum I have done the credit, eviction and criminal reports. And also looked at pay stubs. Admittedly, in some cases, all landlord or employment verification has not been completed within the first hour, so I will (for the moment) base my “pre-approval” decision on the face value of answers given on the application.

Please understand, my pre-approval at this point is “conditional” and is based on the assumption that everything the applicant has stated is true. If anything can not later be verified or is proven false, the applicant is not given the final approval.

After the initial Congratulatory Pre- Approval is communicated to the applicant, I’ve accomplished my goal. The hopefully qualified applicant at that point is definitely hooked (and begins anticipating moving into my rental) and is no longer seeking other possible rental homes or apartments while I complete the verification process.

And most importantly, I have not lost a good or great resident to a competitor. As you know, really good residents are often few and far between. So I do all I can to give myself a competitive advantage. Not only with my properties do I try to give myself a competitive advantage, I try to do so with my application procedure as well. – you snooze you lose.

Craigslist, Content Not Position is Key!

Another person asked “I just posted our unit for rent on Craigslist. When I went to check the listing I noticed that the posting was well down the page – we were the 38th posting. Several other SFH, duplexes and a few apartment postings were at the top of the page. Does anyone know how to get to the top of listing page?”

Responses from other landlords included: It doesn’t matter that much (where your ad is positioned) as I don’t think the tenant reads the list from top to bottom. Instead they search for specifics. Indeed, this is critical (to understand). The key in areas with lots of posts like yours is NOT to worry about being at the top of the list, but to provide the best keywords so that people SEARCHING for a place will find yours. Worry more about writing the best title and then including the best content inside that you can. If it is in a certain popular area, make sure that is listed. If you allow pets, make sure you use a term like “pets welcome” (as people searching for “pets” will find “no pets” too often — so give them something they can actually search for like “pets welcome”). That sort of thing.


Landlords pre-screen in different ways. Some landlords ask questions to rental applicants PRIOR to scheduling a property showing. Those landlords look to get the responses back in different ways. Some landlords prefer hearing from applicants by phone and others want responses first by either email or text. Below I share one set of sample pre-screening questions asked by one landlord.

“It is more than enough to get them talking, and I usually read between the lines for all the other information and anything else they happen to say. I’ve had them tell me they have bad credit, or that one of their roommates is a registered sex offender, or that someone has a criminal record – all before they have even filled out an application.”

  1. Why are you moving?
  2. When do you plan to move in?
  3. What is your monthly income?
  4. Will you be able to pay security deposit and first month rent at move-in?
  5. How many people will be living on the property?
  6. Will you consent to credit and background check?
  7. Do you have any pets?
  8. Do you have landlord and employer references?
  9. Do you have any other questions?
    Rental Applicant Home Inspection

    My biggest suggestion to anyone is to step up and MANAGE. Landlords are often timid and just hand the keys to a major investment to a total stranger based on some words written on an application. Stand up for YOUR investment and YOUR time. Set aside your fears and go protect your income. You might be protecting yourself from THOUSAND$$$ in damage, the stress of evictions, and maybe even your family’s safety. Go check out how rental applicants live at their current home. YOUR property will look the same in a few weeks. Overall it’s not rocket science. You’ll know within SECONDS if their application is worth pursuing. Everything you see will be moved to your property, including the music and screaming. They can look good at the showing and pass on paper – the liars are getting better at this! Add this to your rental applications. “Screening may include an in-home visit to your current residence.”

    Sometimes the drive by is enough to deny. Looking for mowing, trash piles, junk, vehicles, parking habits, grass worn down from dog chains…

    If the house is rough with delayed maintenance by the current landlord, that shows these applicants accept rough as part of their lifestyle.

    Sometimes just walking up to the front door is enough. A no pet application with two dogs terrorizing the front door, odor of urine or weed wafting onto the porch, thumping, rap shaking the windows, filth on the door, notes posted on the door like NO DRUGS, door hangers from the utility co about shut off for non-payment…

    Check the yard. Check the neighbors. What kind of neighborhood is acceptable to this applicant? Filthy people don’t mind filthy neighbors.

    Your body inside the front door is usually enough to decide. If not sure, “So where is your kitchen? Bathroom?” Toys, laundry being folded, un-made beds, dishes in the sink, etc are just everyday living. Signs of busy people. I’m not worried about things that clean up like bedding and sinks. I’m looking for smell, trash, stains, crayon on walls, smoking, screaming, parking, marijuana posters, paw print doormats, hateful posters or signs. If you want, snap a picture or two for your records.Yes, you can deny someone based on their housekeeping (that’s the idea)! IF they call or email, we simply state “Your app did not check out.” If they press, we give the truth, “Your in-home visit did not pass.” Go! Be Bold! Protect your investment! Each visit can be worth THOUSAND$$$ to you!

    The above tips are shared by regular contributors to the popular Q&A forum, by real estate authors and by Jeffrey Taylor, [email protected]. To receive a free sample of Mr. Landlord newsletter, call 1-800-950-2250 or visit their informative Q&A Forum at  where you can ask landlording questions and seek the advice of other rental owners 24 hours a day.