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I've been reading the forums and noticed some people mentioning that they always talk with potential renters by phone to suss them out. That seems like a good idea, but do you just tell the person that you always talk with people before renting to them? Obviously the transaction could be negotiated entirely over email, so I'm wondering how one diplomatically arranges to talk with a potential renter without coming out and letting them know that you would like to essentially screen them.
What other information would people suggest getting from potential renters (besides, of course, a credit card number)? Some of the stories I've been reading here about nightmare renters are pretty unnerving, so I'd like to protect our property as best I can.
I tell them that I would like to talk with them on the phone "to answer their questions and make sure everything is well understood, before making a booking."
I have everything spelled out in the contract, but you would not believe how many people sign it and return it to me, and then sound completely surprised about things that are clearly mentioned in the contract.
So ... the way I am phrasing it is that I want to be sure they understand everything about our cancellation policies and the amenities we provide, before they commit financially. We do charge a cancellation fee, and I want to be sure they are aware of the cancellation deadlines, etc, before booking. I phrase it as if I'm doing THEM a favor, with the phone call. Which is true. Sometimes from the phone conversation, it comes out that the person didn't realize that it's a "no pets" apartment or a "no smoking" apartment, or that it's a studio where the queen bed and the fold-out sofa are in the same room ....it is all spelled out clearly in the photos, the wording of the listing, the contract, etc ... but I think some people are just trying to book something quickly and don't really read or look at anything. Thank goodness we are able to talk on the phone and get that all straightened out on the phone ahead of time.
The phone call definitely has a benefit for the client, and I make sure to phrase it that way.
SV, that is super helpful. Thanks very much! I like the idea of framing it that way. From my very limited experience so far, it seems you're right - people don't always read through the contract or the entire listing. For example, we had someone ready to give a deposit; she emailed me and said "Oh, I just noticed you don't allow pets. Can we bring our dog if it's crated the entire time?" etc. etc.
I can see the phone call definitely having benefits for the client. Is there information you also look for, or potential red flags other than making sure they understand the terms of the contract and the amenities?
I wish I had training in law enforcement or something that might make me good at sniffing out the bad apples, but I don't. I just talk with the people about the apartment. Sometimes I ask them, "What grabbed your attention about our listing?" So this way I can find out what is important to them.
The red flags for me are ....
1) people who want to bring too big of a car and park it in our driveway
2) people who want to sleep more than 2 adults in the apartment
3) people who are trying to cut corners and bargain
4) people who aren't sure how they are going to make payment
5) people bringing pets
6) people who smoke ... our place is very small, and we do not allow smoking on the premises
These red flags are really about the person's basic ability to comply with the guest rules and fulfill the contract, but I don't have a way to suss out whether they will be an ideal guest or not.
For longer term (month or more) rentals, I have been about doing a more thorough screening ... maybe even doing a credit check ... same thing as when you apply to rent a regular apartment. Or it might be valuable to ask for personal references, and chat with thos people on the phone. I'm sure you wouldn't do that for a short-term rental ... if poeple feel they are being hassled, they'll just book a hotel room, right? But for a longer term situation, it might be a good idea ... I'm not sure because I actually have not yet had a booking longer than about 3 weeks.
Does anyone else have any ideas about how to better screen the guests, without hassling them? Do you have a more throrough screening process for longer term rentals?
SFv, I've incorporated your advice since starting two months ago to rent our place out, and it's worked well so far. I first have a chat with them on the phone to make sure our accommodations fit their needs, the they understand we're no snoking, pets or shoes in the house (I'm a little leluctant to ask about the latter, since I know a lot of people in the U.S. are accustomed to wearing shoes in the house, which just seems unsanitary to me. And I also try to get a sense of what they're doing in town (i.e. family visit? outdoorsy stuff? high school reunion?) in case there's anything that would be helpful to them, like providing a driving route or something like that. If they're interested and about to book their stay, i also ask them a few questions about what they like to drink and do they have any food restructions, etc. Then I put together a basket with some locallly made cheese, beer and (sometimes local) wine, plus some terrific chocolate made about 10 minutes from where we live, and some divine flatbreads with rosemary If there's anything they would especially like, I'll try to get - for example, a woman who's from Seattle is coming back to stay at our place. She mentioned on a blog that when a friend came to visit her in Europe, where lives, a TSA person took away the jar of bacon jam she brought for them and she never got to try it So I plan to pick up some of that and surprise her. I also leave a hand-written note card.
After the phone call, I send a signable booking confirmation/rental agreement, which has all our policies. Once they sign that, a send a PayPal notice with a payment due date. We've only have two families come so far, but both worked out great, left our place spotless and chatted with our neighbors, who said they were super nice. So far, so good! .
Does anyone have a from that they have the potential renter fill out that answers questions about them? I've heard of people asking about their employer, what brings them to the vacation spot, contact info, etc. The applications that I've come accross only talk about the property and the rate and rules. What about a from to screen the potential renter. If someone has one and could forward it, I would appreciate it.
Well, let's think about this...
How much personal information do you include in your "Owner's Profile"? Some include very little, if anything at all. Why? Do the Owners consider it an invasion of their privacy? Are they trying to hide something ( are they not the Owner, but a Management Co. ) or hide from someone ( tax authorities, Homeowners' Assoc., some disgruntled neighbors)?
Your potential client may have similar concerns, and would hesitate to include personal information that might become available to anyone other than the Owner. It is a good thing to remember that it is a "leap of faith" on both ends of the rental process.
I share quite a bit of personal information on my listing, partly because my property is in France, and clients tend to be more cautious when doing business overseas. I also do this because it is the type of information that I would like to know about someone whose home I would be sharing.
I have learned to "Google" prospective clients - it is helpful as a background check, and since the client is not aware of it, not invasive. (On more than one occasion, guests have told me that they have "checked me out" this way). In addition, I schedule a telephone call to acknowledge receipt of the deposit and Rental Agreement. It's a friendly way to be able to run through the Agreement and make certain everyone is on the same page, as well as find out whatever personal information you feel you need to have (You might ask about special occasions, if you like to provide gifts; special events, if you cater to conventioneers; first-time visitors to the area, if you like to provide extra tourist info; mobility or handicap issues...)
For short-term rentals, though, it is a good idea to remember that you are not the FBI - just charge an appropriate deposit, then go with your gut. And good luck - most of the time, it all turns out fine!
I agree with you whole heartedly, Honestly a form is not needed. You can cover most of your basic questions that'll give you a cursurily understanding of the person over email and or the phone. The phone would be the most adept as you could pickup the tone in their voice when asked certain questions. In the end there is a reason why you charge a security deposit.
For longer term rentals you'll want to be more thorough and going over things like employer and the reason why they're interested in visiting this area are all smart questions to ask. But if you're talking about interrogating your inquiree's over a week or two stay than you'll probably just scare them off.
Thank you for the advice. The neighbor I know who uses a form has the best renters. They are so quiet and courteous so I was considering doing the same. But after reading your post I think I'm able to cover my concerns with a conversation asking about their visit and ages of guests under 25. You are right that I really don't need to know the employer etc unless its a long term rental. Both of us have designer homes with pools in quiet neighborhoods so we don't want it to become a party pad and we also want to provide protection if a family is coming with small children who can't swim.
I also wanted to know their preferences and ages because I like to stage the house accordingly with age appropriate books, games, etc and a gift basket.
I haven't talked to our prospective renters but I do email a lot with them. I actually learn quite a lot, and I always ask for a contract back signed with address, phone names of guests who will be in the house and from that info I can do a bit of googling (which mostly tells me if they are of age, which is my big concern as we had our house trashed once by a giant part of college kids posing as five mature adults).
We take a substantial deposit and tend to mostly attract professionals that i can find on LinkedIn and that gives me peace of mind. But I do try to suss out the 'high maintenance' renter that is likely to be unhappy with something no matter what. I have worked soooo hard to make it just as best as I can, we have 100% 5 star reviews....so anyone who gets nitpicky, makes issues with the contract clauses, starts to try to nickel and dime, asks a lot of obscure preference questions, or sounds whiny, I don't rent to them.
So far so good- our property manager who meets everyone says they are always so nice and respectful, and really reall love our house.