Evaluating potential tenants is an important step for any property manager, and is especially important for non-professionals, who may be trusting guests with their personal, intimate spaces. But while it's easy to get to know a potential renter in person, it can be much harder to evaluate applications when they come from out-of-town or out-of-state, making face-to-face meetings impossible and giving property managers less of a chance to get a good gut-feel for things. Thankfully, with the rise of social media, there are a few simple ways maintain proper communication and use social media to evaluate out-of-town renters.
1. Set Up A Skype Interview
Of course, it doesn't have to be Skype--you can use Google Hangout or even Facebook Chat's video messenger system. The important thing is that you're able to get a face-to-face (virtually, anyway) with your potential renter. More than just a way to verify that they are who they say they are, a Skype interview can also provide some valuable insight into how your potential tenants conduct themselves. Not only that, but you're also likely to get a glimpse of their current living situation, and any secrets--like dogs or kids--that they might be waiting to spring on you.
2. Look for Warning Signs
This is the part that involves a bit of digging. Since most everyone is on Facebook these days, it operates as a sort of virtual scrapbook--which means there's plenty of info there for the taking. Dig around a bit on your potential renter's Facebook page (or Twitter, or Instagram, or Pinterest). Look at not only what they post, but what their friends post too. A self-described quiet medical student looking for a place in the city might turn out to be a big-time partier by way of his Facebook photos.
3. Watch for Me-Centered Language
Messaging with potential tenants on social media can be a highly instructive experience--not only for what they say, but how they say it. One thing to watch out for is a lot of me-centered language--"what I want" or "what I need" in an apartment, for example. While of course renting is about meeting the tenant's needs, a good tenant is also mindful of how he or she can fit into the space that is offered. Someone who only focuses on what they need may not be respectful of someone else's property.
4. A Social Media Message Is Not A Contract
Sometimes, when using social media to converse with applicants, property managers can feel pressured to make a promise of availability--and this can happen with even the most well-intentioned tenants. It's important to remember, though, that even though social media can feel like real communication, a message is not a contract. Don't get stuck waiting for tenants who bail: only honor real, legal contracts, and know when to shift from social media to signed forms. Serious applicants will respect this as a sign that you're a responsible property manager.
5. Always Use A Secure System for Payment
The most important rule of all: never use social media to transfer any kind of financial data. Social media can be great for screening applicants, but when it comes time to make payments, be sure to use a safe system, such as the online rent payment system at Landlord Station or another third-party site. This will help keep you safe from fraud and allow for a comfortable, convenient renting experience for both you and your tenants.
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