By Mike Baird
Finding great tenants for your rental can sometimes feel like searching for a needle in a haystack. Ok, I’m exaggerating a bit here, but if you’ve been a landlord, I’m sure you’ve got at least a couple of war stories under your belt about tenants that were less than desirable.
So once you find a good tenant, what can you do to keep them happy? Here are a couple of tips that you might find helpful.
Be the dream landlord
Remember that old saying “like attracts like?” If you want to get great tenants, then you’re going to have to roll up your sleeves a bit and prove that you’re a great landlord. Most real estate investors think that being a good landlord starts once the tenancy is in place. It actually starts long before, from the first communication you have with them.
Remember, they’re assessing you as much as you’re assessing them, and that’s why communication and building trust are so important. Do you keep your promises? Did you meet them at the time you said you would? Did you get back to them with answers to their questions? Were you prompt in delivering them the paperwork? Did you get any last-minute things fixed that they requested?
Once everything is signed and they’re moving in, consider giving them a little gift (who does this, right?) A welcome basket, a house cleaning certificate, a guide to the neighborhood and surrounding areas if they’re from out of town. These little things make a big difference and can show them right away that you’re a great landlord.
The next step is making sure that you’re always prompt in returning calls, that you get repairs done quickly, and that you are responsive to their (reasonable) requests. Whatever you do, don’t ignore repair requests or wait for the problem to get worse. That’s one of the most annoying things for a tenant and a guarantee they’ll soon be looking elsewhere for a house and landlord who’s more responsible.
The next step is to always respect the privacy of your tenant. Don’t show up unannounced for a “surprise” check on your property. By all means, keep an eye on the house by driving by once in a while, but don’t be obvious about it or become a nuisance about it.
Give them reasons to be good
Here’s an out-of-the-box idea to consider implementing: give your tenants incentives to encourage more of their great behavior. For example, you could introduce a point system for paying their rent on time that they could either put towards a discount on their rent, or an appliance upgrade, or a free house cleaning service.
If they ask for it – think about it
The difference between a good tenant and a not-so-good one is often the way they think about the property itself. Good tenants like to personalize a property and make it feel like “home” whereas not so good tenants might consider your unit a short-term place to “crash” for a while. That’s a big difference in mindset. So if your good tenant asks if they can repaint some of the rooms or if you’d consider installing new lighting over the kitchen table, don’t reject the request outright. If you still don’t think it’s possible, let them know why it isn’t possible and try working out a compromise where both parties are happy.
Your tenants are the “customers” of your real estate investing business. Make them feel special by finding out when their birthday and anniversaries are and sending them a small gift card. It could be something as simple as a couple of movie tickets or a gift card for dinner at a local restaurant. If you’re balking at this idea, just consider how much it will cost you if they hand in their notice and you’re left scrambling to advertise, interview, and screen for new tenants!
If They Leave, Find Out Why
If your tenants move out, find out why they’re going. It may be they have a legitimate reason, for example, they’ve been relocated or have bought their own house. But it might be that they’re fed up with the washer/dryer system in your place, or they’re after a nicer kitchen with granite countertops. If they’re leaving because of something you can fix, do it. If they found an issue with it, chances are the next tenants will also. Making a quick call to the tenant once you receive their notice can shed light on this and, who knows, maybe you can convince them to stay after all!