Qualifying Tenants – It’s Not About the Money

Qualifying Tenants For Rental Homes

It’s important to understand that qualifying tenants for rental homes is much different than qualifying a buyer to buy a home. It’s less about the financial qualification and more about the personality cohesiveness and expectation level between property manager and tenant, and sometimes owner and tenant. It is truly a matchmaking process.

Owners ask us to place good tenants in their homes and qualifying them financially is actually the last thing we do. The financial aspect of qualifying a tenant is so obvious it goes without saying. Instead, owners often want good people, with good intentions, good attitudes, those who know how to take care of their home, be a respectful neighbor/tenant and overall be easy going and not demanding, unreasonable or picky.

Tenants should expect to go through a phone interview before a showing occurs. This is one of the biggest differences between property management and sales. Typically, in sales, a buyer wants to look at half a dozen houses before they decide and the buyer is in the driver’s seat as to what they want to see and what meets their standard.

In property management, especially in a tight rental market such as ours, the opposite occurs. The property manager is scrutinizing whether this potential tenant would be a good fit for any house in the property manager’s inventory. We don’t drop everything and show our vacant homes like a listing agent might do upon inquiry. Quite the opposite. A reasonable pre-qualification needs to happen first before any showing happens. If the tenant shows red flags up front, for any reason, then a showing doesn’t happen. We are in the business of matching the right tenant to the right property and the tenant is not in the driver’s seat.

The Basic Process for Qualifying:

  • Tenant inquiries via email off of one of our many advertising channels. Agent asks the tenant to reach out by phone to discuss the rental in more detail.
  • IF the tenant calls (I will tell you that asking a tenant to call you weeds out 85% of the inquiries right off the bat), we usually play a little phone tag before finally getting on a traditional phone interview. Showing patience through the phone tag portion is also a test. I personally contact people in order and process each individually before moving on to the next inquiry. As you can imagine this takes time.
  • The phone interview is to establish the wants/needs of the tenant, what comes with them (family, cars, pets, etc.), what their desired move-in timeframe is, and how long of rental term are they looking for. We discuss the protocol for qualifying with Hawaii Life, the background screening process, and then their financial qualifications and what is needed to prove that.
  • If the phone interview goes well, we schedule a showing in person with the understanding that the only hurdle left after the showing is to officially apply, run background screening, and provide financial documents. By this point in time, I’ve usually widdled down the mass of initial inquiries to 2 or 3 ready, willing and able people. It is rare that I have to show a house more than 1 or 2 times before securing a good tenant.
  • If the showing goes well and we agree to proceed, we have them officially apply with $30 application fee, and run their background screening. If background screening goes well, and financial docs and references all check out and meet our standard, we proceed to creating a lease.

Trust me when I say that our Owners are absolutely thrilled with this methodology of qualifying tenants. It is difficult for a reason! In the end, we generally have the best candidate with the best attitude and everyone is happy.

Becoming a Tenant

Of course, once tenant is approved with Hawaii Life, the process for getting into future homes is much easier since a relationship has been established and tested.

All of our processing of applications, leases, rents, and owner funds disbursements are done through our Appfolio property management program. It is seamless, easy, and everything is in one place. Tenants are given a Tenant Portal and find the online rent option and auto pay feature to be the best way to keep current on rent with ease. Owners are given an Owner Portal where their property management contract and monthly owners’ statements are housed along with invoices for any bills we paid on their behalf. Owners like our direct deposit option as well.

At the end of the day, we are here to put good people in good homes and generate income for our home owner clients. Understanding the process is icing on the cake.

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