Technology has changed the way landlords work, and if you've been in the business for more than a few years, you've already seen some far-reaching changes. Just imagine what a landlord would have said a decade ago, for instance, if they were asked to do a Skype interview. Now, however, Skype and phone interviews are the norm. When conducting these types of non-traditional interviews, though, it's important to ask the right questions.
What is your income level?
There are plenty of ways to save time when screening potential tenants, but asking immediately about their income may be one of the best ways to speed things along. It's a good rule to look for tenants with a monthly income that's around three times higher than the rent they'll be paying.
Of course, asking for this information over the phone or Skype is no guarantee that they'll be truthful, so follow up by requesting pay stubs upon your first meeting. Income doesn't show everything, so using online property management tools to run a credit check is also a good idea.
What's the reason for your move?
Maybe the applicant decided that her dream was to leave the country and move to the big city. Maybe she accepted a new job that was too far from her current residence. Whatever the reason, the answer can reveal a great deal about a prospective tenant.
If the interviewee is moving because of an eviction, that's an immediate red flag you should ask about. Additionally, watch out for interviewees who claim that their landlord or neighbors are "crazy" or difficult to get along with. While they may be telling the truth, it's just as likely that they're the ones causing problems.
Will you be bringing pets?
Asking about pets during the phone interview allows you to get a few things out of the way and saves you time in the long run. If you allow pets, you can inform the interviewee about any additional deposits. If you don't allow pets, you can go ahead and let him know now.
What's your move-in date?
Asking for the move-in date may not seem like an important question, but it can reveal important information about a prospective tenant. If the tenants wants to make the move in a couple of weeks or a month, there might be nothing to worry about. But if the tenant is asking for a more immediate move, then you'll want to dig into the situation a bit more.
The simple fact is this: there aren't many legitimate reasons that a person would need an immediate or relatively quick move-in date. Circumstances such as a home fire, sudden job change, or domestic abuse will obviously require quick moves, but outside of these and a few others, quick move-ins often showcase some level of irresponsibility.
Most landlords, for instance, require a 30-day notice before vacating. Did the interviewee skip this step, or did they simply procrastinate finding a new home until the last minute? Either of these reasons could be a red flag.
Will you be able to provide references?
Don't wait until a prospective tenant is sitting in front of you before you ask for references. Use the phone interview as a first step in ensuring that your prospective tenant will be able to provide references from former landlords and a current employer.
You should be wary when an interviewee claims that they can't provide any references. There aren't many reasons why a person wouldn't have at least a few positive references, and if you let this slide, you may end up being the next reference they don’t disclose.
Pre-screening interviews may seem like an extra step in an already long list of things to do as a landlord, but pre-screening applicants will make your job easier in the end. Use these questions to highlight any make-or-break issues and ensure that you get the best tenant possibly for your property.
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