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How do successful people order their lives to be their best? Several real estate investors share a habit or two that contributes to their success! Below are one dozen of their best success habits.

1) Check your financial status EVERY morning every account – and regularly run reports to know where and how we are spending our money… This has kept us on track for many years. This ‘habit’ allowed us to buy rental homes, keep them full and allowed us to ‘retire’ (well, switch professions anyway!)

2) Keep lists. I write down everything I have to do and keep checking things off. I keep punch lists for each property,  I keep a list of the dates when bills are due and make sure they get checked off each month. And  keep lists of business things that have to be done…

3) Delegate and elevate. Focus on the things that you are either a) good at; or b) enjoy doing. Otherwise, I try to offload everything else on people who are better at those things, or enjoy them more than I do. Makes me happy, and usually makes the other people happy too.

4) Do SOMETHING every day to move FORWARD, even if just a tiny step or a single phone call. It’s easy for a landlord to get busy with minutia and not spend effort to grow their profit.

5) Avoiding time wasters:  Running errands on different days, time waster. Running to the Home Depot store more than once when repairing something, time waster.  Filling my car with gas when it’s only half empty, time waster.  Being stuck in traffic, time waster.  Running to the store because I ran out of toilet paper, time waster.  Shopping for food more than once a week, time waster.

6) Reading the question and answer forum on  is one of the best habits I’ve developed over the last year. I search first to see if a subject’s already been covered and then if I don’t find the answer I ask all the great folks there.

7) Be proactive with keeping good tenants. Find out what they’d want to stay and extend their lease. This is something I’d put in my calendar to think about a few months before a tenant’s lease is up.

8) “ZERO INBOX”. Immediately upon seeing something, I mentally categorize it as meaningless or meaningful. If meaningless, I trash/delete/forget it. If meaningful, I decide what it means — do I need to give myself a “to do” or “appointment” in my calendar? Do I need to make a phone call? Do I need to pass along the info? I don’t necessarily solve the issue at that point (if not needed), but I always set some future reminder or time frame. This gets me to a “zero inbox”, so I’m never vaguely worried about forgetting something or putting off something. It also forces me to screen out useless clutter or meaningless info.

9) Plan any work before you do it. This should be everyone’s #1 habit, but it really isn’t. You need to measure, draw pictures, look at videos, etc. I like to plan renovations months ahead, then draw up the plan and refer back to it in the interim. The time allows me to reconsider or scale back/simplify. Sometimes I start off wanting to do something ambitious but realize when I get into the details that simple is better, especially with my target rental rates being in the 1000-1200 range. Sometimes you can do a 5k renovation job and get 90% of the results of the 10k job.

10) I pre-screen callers over the phone. If they pass the first wave of screening then they get the combination to the house they are calling about. I let them view themselves on THEIR schedule. I never miss a showing that way and I never waste MY time driving to and from a showing or just sitting in my truck waiting for them to show. I have been doing this for about 7-8 years and I figure I save about 30 minutes per scheduled showing. Add that up over the years…. WOW.

11) Paying my bills, ASAP. Lying to yourself by ignoring them is a really bad idea. That way, you may have to eat Rahmen noodle soup for a few weeks, but you won’t be utterly stupid and run up debt which is no longer manageable.

12) My best habit: work to build and reinforce my DREAM daily. When I am inspired, everything else is a detail.



Always Highlight (include) a WOW factor. When prospective residents do call and come to view your rental, most often one of two things will come to mind when they see your place. Either they’ll think “WOW!” or “Whoa!” Obviously you want them to think, “WOW!” A landlord recently confided with me that her rentals were nice, but there was not really anything impressive about them. She said it was common for her places to remain vacant for a couple of months before she is able to rent them. I believe that there may be a correlation. Your rental needs something to SPARK the attention of prospective residents in a positive way. If it’s something that also separates you from your competition, even better!

If prospects are coming to view your property and no one (or very few) is filling out an application, then that’s a sure sign that you need to add a WOW factor.  Wow factors don’t have to be elaborate amenities.  Wow factors can be something as simple as squeaky clean windows that glisten from a distance as the prospect walks up to the home. Or a WOW can be a thoroughly clean rental. I’m amazed at how many prospects tell me other rentals they’ve looked at are dirty. I pay someone specifically to do cleaning detail as the final preparation step on my rentals so that they will be in showcase condition. Wow factors can be a beautiful but inexpensive ceiling fan, swirl pattern design added to the living room or dining room ceiling, two-tone color scheme. Wow factors can be amenities that I take the time to highlight and make a BIG deal about during the showing of the property, like a HUGE walk-in closet, dishwasher or the washer and dryer.

A WOW factor could even be a large “Move-In” basket, with lots of goodies, sitting on the kitchen counter that the prospect sees when they enter the kitchen. Or the pretty bath towels that were added to the bathroom along with the pretty matching rug.
A WOW factor can even be a bonus “service” that you include for free as part of the “Custom Rental Package” 

For example, WOW services can include Free Renter’s Insurance, Free Maid Service (once or twice a month–who says it has to be daily) or Free Lawn Care. You can work out a low-cost arrangement with a company that offers such services and then provide it for the residents.  In each example, you’re still talking LESS than a month’s rent, far better than having a place sit empty for two months. These type of WOW factors definitely separate you from the competition, plus they greatly encourage your residents to stay in your properties longer. On top of all that, these WOW service factors benefit not only the resident, but you as the landlord as well. The maid or lawn service helps to keep your homes well maintained. Renter’s insurance adds to your liability protection.


 1) Have you thought of ways to offer what your competition isn’t offering?

2) Is there anyway that you can improve your properties inexpensively? Sometimes little things like well-lighted closets, under-the-cabinet lighting in the kitchen, a new coat of paint with modern colors, upscale showerheads, attractive bathroom cabinets, etc., can attract residents.

3) Size up the outside of the rentals. Could they use shutters, flowers, a fountain, etc. to make them more attractive?  Make the properties so inviting that the prospective resident will choose to live in your rentals instead of the competition’s.

 4) If your competition allow pets: Play up the fact that you don’t. Many people will not want to live in rentals filled with pets. Advertise your properties as “Pet free! Enjoy good living without having to put up with barking dogs, or crying cats in the night!” 
5) If you can’t compete on price: Find the place in the market where you don’t go head to head on price. Offer something they can’t or don’t offer.

6) Determine where your current or previous residents came from. How did they find out about you? 

7) What about marketing to a NICHE market? For example, seniors don’t want a pool and don’t want the noise (kids crying and loud parties) that often comes from big complexes. Figure out ways to market to them. Do some internet research about what your target resident wants.

8) Look at other businesses that market to the same niche of customers you want and team up with them in your marketing campaign. 

9) Truly figure out what the customers you seek want (again your niche market) and offer it. People will pay more to get what they want.



Recently 50+ great questions were posted by contributors nationwide to the popular Q&A forum.  These were suggested questions landlords could consider adding to their rental applications to make them more effective.  From the 50+ suggested application questions, here are 8 questions that received the most votes on our Landlord Survey as worth your consideration to add to the effectiveness of your rental application. 

1. Instead of asking if an applicant has pets, I ask what are the names of their pets. It seems to throw them off guard and they answer without really thinking about it. 

2. Is there anything negative I’m going to find out after I run your credit report that you’d like to tell me your side of?

3. I hereby give permission to the landlord/manger to check and verify all information provided on this application, including my credit history, rental history, employment/income history, and criminal history with any references listed above and by other means, both now and in the future, for rental consideration, extending the tenancy and/or for collection purposes should it be deemed necessary.

4. Which payment schedule would you prefer:
Monthly at $_______, every 2 weeks at $_______ or weekly at $_______?

5. Include a copy of your drivers license and the last 2-4 pay stubs.  (If I do have to have papers served, I have a picture of them. Also this verifies their application even more with an address, etc.)

6. Have you had any recurring problems with your current apartment, management or landlord?  If yes, please explain.

7. What is the name of your bank where your checking/savings accounts are located?  (This information may come in handy in the future. Plus, when residents have a checking or savings account, it makes it much more likely that we will be able to set up automatic debits from their account for rent payments). 

8. Do you have a previous or outstanding balance with City Water, Gas, or Electric Company?  (So I know if they are going to be able to get utilities transferred before we go further). 


If you use a smartphone and you’re not using Google Voice, you need to! Giving out your cellphone number to residents will only add stress to your life and make you hate the business. I did this when I was new to the biz and hated the fact that my residents had 24/7 access to me.  They’d call in the middle of the night when their neighbors were making too much noise.  They’d call non-stop with repair issues.  When I had a vacancy my phone would ring constantly with inquiries.  I only had 2 rentals at the time and couldn’t imagine what it would be like if I had 20.

Then a couple of years ago I got Google Voice and my life changed!!! You get a different number that forwards to your smartphone. This is the ONLY number that I give to a resident. I changed the setting so that it goes to Voicemail every time I get a call. They can text me (which suits me fine!) or they call and leave a message. The phone never rings. 

Example – Yesterday a resident’s A/C unit stopped working.  She called me on Sunday morning.  Sorry, but except for fire/flood/blood I don’t work on Sunday.  The resident called 5 times without leaving a message. I didn’t know it until I checked my call log – it never rings. She finally left me a message on Sunday afternoon.  I checked it and wrote a note to handle it in the morning.  She continued to call, but I didn’t get bothered. It wasn’t an emergency – it’s not blistering hot out here. This morning I followed up and got it taken care of (by texting someone, of course!).  The constant phone calls didn’t mess up my weekend with the family or my day of worship.

Don’t let the resident own your life by giving them your cellphone number (which grants them 24/7 access to you).  Giving residents your Google Voice number will solve this problem!


Most rental owners are on a tight budget, especially when it comes to marketing. Times are hard and many landlords feel like they don’t have a lot of money to invest on advertising and marketing.  The irony is, not marketing your business will have a detrimental effect on your business.  Online marketing is not only much cheaper but it is far more effective than traditional methods of marketing, plus you can easily track the success of each marketing campaign that you launch.  Here Are Some Big Marketing Ideas for Landlords With A Small Marketing Budget:

1. Look into Google Plus Local
Google really is on your side and it wants to help your rentals be found. They make sure that if potential customers are looking for a product or service that you provide, Google wants to make sure that its results are totally relevant and your company appears in the listings. As a result, search results are becoming much more local and personalized and companies who claim their Google Plus Local Page and optimize it properly get the best rewards.

2. Start a Blog
No matter what type of rental homes you offer, you can still have a blog. In case you don’t know what a blog is, it basically stands for “web log” and they’re effectively online diaries.  Anyone can set one up, that’s the easy part.  Use a resource such as to create a free blog. 

3. Social Networking
Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are all popular sites that you can’t ignore. Consider creating a profile on each of these sites.  You will not only create new opportunities for potential rental residents to find you but they may also be excellent sources of traffic. Local rental owners that use social media sites like these, almost always see a significant increase in monthly traffic. The part that excites them the most is the fact that it is completely free. All it costs is a little of their time but the results are well worth it.  “You can no longer afford to ignore social media marketing.  In 2012, 85% of marketers found that social media generated more exposure for their business.”

4. Case Studies and Testimonials
If you already have happy customers who love your product or service why not get a testimonial or case study from them?  Case studies and testimonials are a perfect way to get brand new residents because they build credibility and give the potential customers the confidence to try your rentals knowing that other people like it. They will be less inclined to buy if they don’t see any testimonials or reviews.  The secret is to get your customer to talk about your product or service, how they used it, and the results that they got.  Most customers will be happy to do this if you ask them.

5. Write a Free “Guide” for Customers to Download
No matter what kind of business you are in, you can get a lot more business by writing a free “Guide”. It is an excellent marketing technique. They are an excellent way to get a lot of traffic to your site and increase the interest in your product or service.
Guide to Choosing the Right Rental Home or Apartment
Guide to Leasing a Home with the Option to Buy
How to Enjoy Customized Upgrades in Your Next Rental Home
How to Find Rental Homes Which Offers Your Choice of Pay Plans!
These kinds of free reports rank highly in the search engines and do a superb job of up-selling your rentals, as well as making you an “authority” in your field. Rental applicants will see that you cater to their needs and will decide to rent from  from you instead of your competitors.

6. Ask For Referrals
It is surprising how many landlords don’t ask their customers for referrals. Why not?  If you have satisfied and happy customers, you really should be asking for referrals as it is a very effective way of getting even more happy customers.  Some people feel shy about asking and are afraid that the customer will turn them down. However, you will be surprised at how few customers actually will say no. If a large proportion of customers do refuse to introduce you to others, it might be a sign that you are doing something wrong and could be doing a much better job of making them happy, giving you something to work on.

7. Harness The Power of YouTube
Savvy landlords are latching on to the importance of YouTube in their marketing campaigns. Not only do videos now appear in the search results, but you can also use videos to show how off your rental home. A video tour of your home or apartments could be a great way to help fill your vacancy.

The above online marketing ideas are from Charles Blair, a featured instructor at this year’s National Convention.

I ask for picture ID before I process an application. Some prospective residents will drive up to see the rental and then tell me they don’t have a license. I’m not the police, but I’m not processing an application without an ID.  I’m sure they have a state-issued ID to buy their beer and cash their checks.Getting the ID recently proved very valuable yet again for me. The address on the license didn’t match any previous addresses given. The applicant insisted it must be an error on his license because he has no idea about that address.

Interesting. The Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) in my state doesn’t issue actual license when you go to the RMV – they mail it to your address listed on the license.  So how did you get the license if you never heard of the address?

He couldn’t come up with an answer for that, but I imagine that the same address (and several others not listed on the application) came up on the credit report.  Once again you have to dig a little deeper when applicants put down Mom’s address as their only previous rental.



Did you know that you can reduce the chances of having a discrimination claim against you by removing the words “AGE” or “SEX” so that they do not appear anywhere on your rental application?
As evidenced by a recent discussion with other landlords on this topic, there are still landlords who think you can ask for AGE or SEX on the rental application. If either of those two words currently appear on your rental applications, I would suggest that you remove them.

FAIR HOUSING NO-NO’S (Words NOT to include in your advertisements)!

Here are a few Fair Housing No-No’s: “Scenic View”: Preference for the sighted. “Walk to park”: Preference for the ambulatory.

“Near playground”: Preference for families with children.

“Mother-in-Law suite”: The name says it all.

“Near cathedral”: Preference for Catholics.

“Near mosque”: Preference for Muslims.

The list goes on…and on…and on.  It’s important that rental owners stay up to date on fair housing issues and attend monthly association meetings, which from time to time may include a guest speaker addressing fair housing topics.


The following is a sample checklist used by Steven VanCauwenbergh, “The Savvy Landlord”, to make sure that he is consistent in his procedures with every new resident.  Whether or not you decide to use a checklist similar to Steven’s or create your own, it is important that you have a systematic checklist for working with all new residents so YOU won’t miss any important step in the lease-signing process.

  1. ______  Resident application(s)
  2. ______  Resident paid application fee
  3. ______  Resident copy of driver’s license or state ID card
  4. ______  Resident background results
  5. ______  2 copies of lease
  6. ______  1 copy of move-in checklist (Resident will initial and receive a copy)
  7. ______  1 copy of FAQ Sheet (Resident will initial and receive a copy)
  8. ______  1 copy of Utilities phone numbers
  9. ______  1 copy of important numbers
  10. ______  1 copy of Pest Control letter
  11. ______  1 copy of Welcome letter
  12. ______  1 copy of Renters Insurance letter
  13. ______  Property Photos/Video
  14. ______  Collect Lock Box
  15. ______  Air Filter (Show Resident how to install new filter)
  16. ______  Eviction Process (Explain the process, then have Resident sign and date)
  17. ______  Appliance Agreement
  18. ______  Monies Owed (Pro-Rated, use as Receipt)
  19. ______  Work Order (What needs to be addressed immediately)
  20. ______  Collect “For Rent” sign

— By Steven VanCauwenbergh, author of the brand-new book The Savvy Landlord


To me, phone pre-screening is a valuable tool that allows me to spend 180 seconds or less getting a feel for a prospect and finding out, “Do I really want to spend 5 minutes to an hour of my time only to find out this person is not going to cut it?”

I have 4-5 questions that come into play within the first minute to minute and a half of conversing on the phone. I’ll let the caller ask 1 or 2 questions, but then I take control of the conversation with: “We’re offering a no-obligation pre-screening over the phone right now. Let’s get started.”  If they refuse, I refer them to our ad online for any detailed questions and let them go. No sense wasting a ton of time answering questions that are already answered.

Some questions for the prospective caller include:

1) How soon are you moving?

2) Who will be living at the address?

3) We verify income and employment, run a background check, pull credit checks, and contact past landlords for reference. What questions do you have about that, or is there anything you’d like me to clarify? (This one takes the most time, but shouldn’t take more than 60 seconds).

4) Tell me about your pets.

5) A follow up to anything they mention that raises questions or flags. This one isn’t always necessary.

That’s usually it. I can tell pretty quickly at this point if I want to continue talking to this person. If they are “cagey” (i.e. won’t answer, don’t answer, etc) or if they have a “story to tell / situation to explain” I give it about 10 seconds, and unless it’s absolutely golden I cut it off pretty quickly with, “Based on what you’re telling me today it would be difficult to approve an application. I’m still happy to show you the property and give you an application form if you would like.”Then I thank them for the call, hang up, and save their phone number under a contact list titled “Don’t Answer”.

If/when I see that contact name pop up on a call, I follow the advice on my phone. Well, today I didn’t look closely at the phone an accidentally answered a “Don’t Answer” contact.  A gal calling for her friend who’d been evicted a few months ago. Oh well, I actually was a pretty nice guy and laid out what the problem was as I saw it.  The prospect had a recent eviction and no attempt made to make it right with previous landlord.  The gal just kept giving me excuse after excuse. The landlord sent her friend a notice that her lease wasn’t going to be renewed, she thought it was an eviction so she just moved out, she never forwarded her mail so didn’t get the court papers, she got evicted and a judgment against her, she supposedly tried to work it out with the landlord but he won’t answer the phone and is never in the office, blah blah blah.  I let it go on for about 3 minutes just because it was amusing.

Then I cut it off.  I was polite and said I wasn’t saying she was lying, but that there was no way for me to know if what she was telling me was true.  I asked, “Is there something you can show me in writing that backs all this up?” Silence.  Then the gal launched back into blaming the past landlord for not responding to them.

Gee, if they treated him like they do me, I can see WHY he didn’t respond!

I cut it off again and told her the owners like to see folks take responsibility for the rough patches in life, that this is how they know who will pay rent on time, all the time, through rain or shine.

Oh look–A “Don’t Answer” contact is calling me again right now! This time, I’m taking my phone’s advice.


I just rented a house I rehabbed to a decent couple with kids a week or so ago. They have been moving stuff in all week (4BR 1BA; Large). While we were completing the finishing touches, I showed the house a LOT. To well over 100 people. A lot of them just stopped by and I got a ton of calls.  The house is not in the hood, it is in a lower middle/ upper low working class area. BUT, the hood starts about 10 blocks away and it’s creeping closer.

Long story short, one of the outstanding individuals that viewed the house broke in while the renters were sleeping. They cut a screen out and crawled through a window. He actually stepped on a child sleeping near the window.  The thief went to the back door, took off the 2×4 brace, unlocked it, and opened it. Hence why it was probably someone I showed the place to.  The thief came in to unplug the TV with the couple sleeping on the couch 6 feet or so away.

The wife woke up and woke the husband up. The husband proceeded to chase the thug through the house. The door was already open in back of course.  He ran to a waiting truck. The cops were there in 3 minutes, but it didn’t matter. They didn’t find the thieves.  The TV’s broken since robber dropped it when running.

Lesson learned, I will never show a place to anyone I don’t pre-screen, even if I am there. I always pre-screen over the phone, but, to just let people in since we were there finishing…No.  There will be no foot through the front door without pre-screening.



Do you know the street address to the city JAIL in your area? Knowing that address has alerted me on a couple of previous occasions and again today. When that address appears, as one of the previous addresses when running a credit report, that definitely raises a red flag that I may not have known about otherwise. Especially since the applicant did not include that previous address on the rental application. (By the way, another big reason for always running credit reports are to discover previous addresses the applicant fails to include).
I do pre-screening by email first, then if they pass that, I do a follow-up phone call.  In the follow-up phone call, I ask a few more questions and let them talk. Funny the things you find out when ya let ’em talk, like if they have a pet, are a smoker (but only outside, of course!) even if the ad said No pets and NO smoking, etc.!
If they “pass” that follow-up phone call, I will set up an appointment to see the place. If they don’t pass the follow-up phone call, I tell them someone in the office will process the info and will get back to them if all looks good.Here are my pre-screening questions:1. Your full name, including middle name:
2. Your phone number and your personal email address:
3. What is your net income every month, and how long have you had your job? (If possible, how long did you have your job before this current job)?
4. Will you please share your Facebook page link (but we know not everyone has FB)?
5. What is your target date to move in?  How long have you been in your current place? Have you given notice yet?
6. Do you have any questions for us?
It’s during the “meet in person and see the place” phase that I give interested parties an application, collect the application fee, collect their written consent for me to contact references, do a credit check, and conduct a background check.
Lots of landlords have a “My way or the highway” attitude, and THAT attitude limits their income. We MUST be in tune with our residents’ thinking and life-needs so we can serve them.  Find out what they want or what they need and let them pay you for it. We are not forcing them.  Landlords who refuse such techniques are being selfish, and they’re not looking for ways to serve.  I hear complaints about extra bookkeeping and cringe!  My wife says 70% of our new leases choose weekly or bi-weekly rent payment plans.  That’s a lot of people who needed a different system.
If your resident can pay rent monthly, God Bless and keep going. You are in an unusual market. But I challenge you that MOST residents are hurting and struggling to meet that monthly obligation. The landlord is selfishly FORCING them to act on HIS schedule. Try it. Write bi-weekly or weekly prices out for each home and offer it to your folks. You might be surprised.One landlord recently took my challenge and 25% of his residents grabbed the Pay Day Plan. His income went UP and the number of stressed-out residents struggling to pay their monthly obligation went DOWN.
Payment Plans and Marketing: People are COMING TO US for this program while other landlords scratch their heads and say, “Where is everybody?”  The banks and realtors have not adapted to the new economy……I signed 2 leases today.  Both ASKED for a Pay Day Plan!!  We post 3 payment options on a landlord advertising so they were prepared.  One chose a weekly plan because, “The months always confuse me with my paycheck”.  He was THRILLED to tell me that, “This way I’ll never be late on the rent!”The other chose a bi-weekly payment plan – A couple in their 40’s and married kids in their 20’s.  That’s 4 adults/ 2 couples. According to these residents, it’s “Easy to split the rent – We pay one they pay the other.  We want to know how much comes out of each paycheck toward rent.  And it seems EVERYBODY wants their money on the FIRST!! The insurance, the car payment, etc.  This is sooo much easier.”
My script for Prospective Residents on Pay Day Payment Plans:
The traditional calendar which breaks the days into monthly moon cycles was made by Romulus, King of Rome in 753 BC, nearly 3,000 years ago.  Are you paid by King Romulus’ moons, I mean MONTHS? 🙂 (SSI and disability customers can say yes).
How are you paid? (Example: They put my pay in my account every other Friday).

Doesn’t it make sense to pay your rent with the same timing as your paycheck?  Most people find this plan very helpful to keep their cash flowing evenly and avoid late fees.  It does cost a little more for the extra handling at our office but our residents tell us it’s worth it.I now use a full landlord year calendar on one page and X out the month names.  The best kind of calendar is one where the days are all in a row without breaks between the months.  We’re going to stop thinking about rent in terms of MONTHS and start thinking in terms of your family’s needs.  With this ultra simple system we are letting you choose to match YOUR family’s cash flow, NOT King Romulus’ chart of the moon cycles.When were you last paid? (I circle that day).  So the next payday will be HERE. I then circle all the paydays for the resident of the year.  Now, let’s look at August for example, so we have a good understanding:When you pay the rent on Aug 2 your rent is paid up until 8-15. Does that make sense?  When you pay on 8-16, your rent is paid until 8-29.  Does THAT make sense?  Now, please notice this so you don’t panic when it happens! YOU will get 3 paychecks in Aug, right? So the rent drafted on 8-30 is not really for “August”, it’s really for almost HALF of SEPTEMBER, all the way until 9-12 (The next time I do this I’ll try to use colored highlighters to color over each week).

With the old system, you’d have to pay the entire month 2 days later. This is waaaaay easier isn’t it?  The NEXT payday is 9-27 which covers rent for part of OCTOBER, so it’s almost like Sept only had ONE payment.  The form I passed out at the recent Convention shows the prices and a START date.  I still use that exact form in my lease strategy.

Let’s say you have a $500 monthly rent. Divided that by 4 weeks = $125.
Add $10 per payment “for handling” making the rent $135 per week. BUT it’s REALLY about what the market will bear.  No one is offended by the $10.

A $500 monthly x 12 months = $6000/year. Your resident will have to come up with $500 each time and if they lose their job on Jan 2, YOU won’t know they are in trouble until about Feb 12, 6 weeks later, when they NOW owe $500 + $55 in possible late fees. Where do you think they are going to magically get $550 and satisfy the LANDLORD? THIS is exactly why they don’t answer your calls. They are stuck.

In 2013, savings accounts are a thing of the past for MOST renters, even the high-end folks. They’ve gone the way of buggy whips and 45 RPM records.  BUT, a resident CAN hit up Grandma for $135 and pay her back over the next few weeks.

$135 weekly rent x 52 weeks = $7020/yr

$500 monthly rent divided by 2 = $250.
Add $10 = $260 every other Friday.
$260 x 26 pay periods = $6760/yr. A $760 increase in income.

Benefits for resident:
Cheaper than late fees.
Matches his cash flow.
Small order in AFFORDABLE bites.

Benefits for the LANDLORD:
Money in hand – Always better than late fees.
Small order bites to collect if the resident defaults.
More income! $1020 per home!!

If you have 10 homes/apartments that adopt this Pay Day Payment Plan, that’s an extra $10,200 income without investing a single penny in upgrades or new appliances. And this easily pays for the increased bookkeeping.


I get a call on the 5th from one of my newest residents who tells me rent won’t be paid until he gets more money on the 18th! Say what?!  So I told him sorry, the mortgage company doesn’t take excuses, so that is not acceptable– That it’s a violation of the lease terms and I will have to start the eviction process.

He didn’t seem very concerned, so I took my lunch break from work to tape a bright red neon 5-day notice to pay or quit letter to the door, the kind of color you can see a mile away….and had it sent via certified mail.

When he got home that night to discover it, he called me in a complete panic to tell me his parents were wiring him rent money and that I will have it all by Sunday. Here it is, Sunday the 9th and I have the full rent and $75 late fee in the bank.

He even sent me an apology text saying he was so sorry he did that and it will never happen again, and that he will be more prepared (I can hope). 🙂

It felt empowering to take something the resident was trying to make my problem– and have the knowledge of how to throw it right back to them but in a cool, calm, and collected way.  Also it felt good that I wasn’t being held hostage or having to play a victim to see what would happen on the 18th, or to figure out what to do to start the process! I think a lot of private owners would have just waited it out, hoping for the best, while feeling like a bit of a doormat.


  • Install Motion lights, fake security signs, and a hundred dollar camera system from Amazon.
  • One of the handyman who does work for me (been with me for 10+ years) is willing to stay in my empty units during rehab. I just provide him with a bed, a TV, and a few other things. Perhaps you can find a similar person.
  • Talk to several of the neighbors, adults who have lived there awhile, know the area and have a good idea of what’s going on.
  • Keep it well locked, and rotate the lighting.
  • Put an (extra) car in the driveway.
  • Get yourself 2 radios.  Dial them into the same talk radio channel and put one at the front door and one at the back.
  • Go to Goodwill and find 2 pairs of size 14″ or bigger work boots. Put a pair outside on each porch with a couple of spent shotgun shells.
  • We use a portable monitored alarm system from Lasershield that uses an integrated cell phone. They run a few hundred and $25 a month.
  • One of the speakers on the CDs from the recent Convention suggested installing an alarm system, even if it isn’t monitored, and then pretend to adjust it and set the alarm off several times when neighbors are around. His reasoning was that most break-ins are perpetrated by locals and “announcing” the presence of the alarm system reduces the likelihood they’ll target that property.
  • Put curtains and blinds then install a couple of lights on timers so the house looks as someone lives in. Be sure all newspapers are picked up as the house would be like someone is living there.
  • I have lights on timers. A radio playing. Blinds so no one can look in. In bad areas with vacant properties I have a under carpet switch or on a door a motion sensor wired to a 150 db alarm inside the house that cause a normal person to go deaf — they run away and neighbors call the police and me.
  • I place large dog food bowls, dog house in back, few PBR empties for decoration, maybe a bottle for cigarette butts at the vacant rental.
  • I purchased a game cam which is a camera and motion detector. I set it to take pictures of the AC unit and / or driveway. So far I have not been hit when it was installed. It lets me see the people who have been in the yard. It moves house to house without a monthly charge.
  • Mostly keep the place from looking abandoned. Cut the grass, keep it clean and nice, porch lights on, blinds and lights inside, etc.


Just had an unexpected changeover, and it went flawlessly! The departing residents helped me get it rented in record time, and they left the place spotless. They left a few days before the end of the month, so my husband is able to get in and do a few minor things before the new residents move in on the 1st (upgrades, not fixes). The only ding to their security deposit is $25 to get the grass cut – they were supposed to do it and didn’t have time, and were fine with me paying to get it done.

I have another changeover coming up. They will be out by noon so we can inspect, etc. but since the place was spotless the entire time they lived there, I don’t expect move-out issues. That new resident will also move in on the 1st.  My goal this year is 100% occupancy in every rental. So far, we are on track. However the year is only half-over–fingers crossed.

Here are a couple of things that we do to encourage a perfect turnover and very little if any loss of income:

We are accessible.  So when one of our residents has a change in circumstance, they CALL us and discuss. And we tell them, “If you help me get it rented, and if you leave it READY TO OCCUPY and we don’t lose rent, you will get back 100% of your deposit. Period.” I used to panic and say, “Oh nay, nay, you owe your full lease…” but honestly how stupid is that?  Get them to help you.

Follow-up. The second turnover occurred today. Place was SPOTLESS. We pulled in as resident was backing out their U-haul. Here is how little I have to complain about that I even mention this: there were 2 broken slats in our $6 blinds. And they had changed the shower curtain (but did leave one).

So that is 8 turnovers in six months, and on only one did I have ANY issues with cleanliness, and it was minor. Zero vacant days so far–knock wood!!  It’s worked for us for the past two or three years. Only had to hold back tiny tidbits overall.


A landlord shared how it was fun to be a landlord and she shared the following recent experience of what she is doing to help make her relationship with residents a  positive one from the start. Thanks Gina (VA) for sharing!

“Had a new tenant move in during April and surprised him with a ‘Welcome Home’ cake in the fridge and some cold sodas for his moving helpers. It was a hit. 😉

After conducting the business side of our little walk-through inspection, It was a fun way to start off a positive relationship and say, ‘I’m glad you’re here!’

Stole the welcome present idea from a Mr. Landlord seminar. Considering the reaction from my new resident for less than $20, I think I will be doing that every time.”

Another landlord gave a response to such a gesture that is typical, discounting the value of doing little “extra” things to foster a positive relationship. Below are his comments:

Other Landlord’s response: “Gifts are nice if you want to do them. On the topic of retirement accounts: I’ve put well over 6 figures into my IRA, but never received anything from my broker/adviser. A 6-pack of beer would be nice, although I’d just prefer that he keeps on doing a good job making me 15% each year. I see landlording kind of the same.  A case of soda and a cake is fine.  Some residents will appreciate it, some may not. As long as I keep things functioning properly, that’s what really matters.”

My follow-up response to the other landlord is this:

“I personally think there is a VAST difference between how your relationship with your broker works and the ‘potential’ relationship between landlords and their residents. However most landlords don’t really leverage the BIG value of having a great win-win relationship with their residents.  There are so many intangible ways that a resident can make your life far more profitable and worry-free if they chose to do so (above and beyond just functioning normally).  Doing little things to foster a positive relationship can greatly increase the odds that they will do such intangible things like:

* Take better than average care of the property and even be much more likely to do things that adds to the value of the property.
* Refer ‘multiple’ other residents to you.
* They are far less likely to sue you or contact housing/heath departments.
* They are more likely to be courteous when calling, to call at your preferred office hours, and they are less likely to call in anger.
* They are much more likely to stay with you longer.
* Quick to alert you about something you need really to know about regarding another resident (in multi-units).
* Give you plenty of advance notice before they have to move.
* Cooperative and even be positive when you wish to show the property to others.
* When they move-out, they’re much more likely to leave property in move-in condition.
* Etc, etc.

Again there are so many intangible ways landlording can be made so much more enjoyable by the actions of your residents and I credit many of my own such experiences to the positive working relationships I aim to foster as mentioned at the beginning of this post.  Does this work with every resident? No, but it works FAR more than many landlords think.

And if you screen the right way, (which is a whole seminar in itself) you can identify the kinds of residents who are more prone to respond to your acts of kindness with many intangible benefits to you. And YES, this is indeed when it gets FUN being a landlord!  On a side note, I think your broker (like many business people) could also leverage the value of their customers much more than they do, and would greatly benefit you if they did so.


Let me ask you a question: are you properly managing your prospects? Are you taking the time to actually follow up with the sellers who didn’t initially accept your offers? Did you know that you are leaving thousands of dollars in potential income behind if you aren’t following up with sellers? One of the easiest ways to make a fortune in the real estate business and gain the advantage over your competition is to take the time to follow up with motivated and semi-motivated sellers. You’ve already got the seller in your pipeline, you’ve already done the marketing, and spent the money to find this person, now all you need to do is to follow up with them until they either sell you their property or tell you to go away. How much simpler could it be?

There is one type of seller we are going to follow up with (today): those we’ve already made offers to who haven’t accepted our offer. Quite often, you will need to make multiple contacts with sellers before their situation changes and dictates that they sell their property to you. If you stay in touch with these sellers, you build credibility with them and when it comes time to sell they will contact you first, even if they have been contacted by someone else in the meantime.

There are a lot of investors in the market these days, and most of them have a very limited knowledge of how the whole follow-up process works, not to mention the inability to create successful deals. What they don’t realize is that many of the sellers you will be dealing with have a variety of problems they aren’t sure how to solve until they are contacted by you.

Some of those may include divorce situations, estates or health issues where there may be emotions tied to the property. With these sellers it may take a little longer before they make that final decision to sell. Most of your competitors will simply throw these potential deals in the trash when they don’t get the property under contract after the initial contact or offer is made. I have made deals many months after the initial contact with the seller was made simply because I took the time to follow up. Not only did I build credibility with the seller, but now they like me better and trust me more than the next investor who may come along.

These are the types of sellers I will place in my follow-up system and follow up with at least every thirty to sixty days if not more often. I have made thousands of dollars on deals other investors would simply have thrown in the trash because I took the time to follow up with a semi-motivated seller. Probably half of the deals I do in a typical year come from following up with these sellers.

Here is a recent example from my files– I contacted a seller who had inherited a property in Florida where I live and he lived in Michigan. The home belonged to his aunt who had pretty much raised him his whole life. When she passed away the home was left to him and he just couldn’t bring himself to sell it right away. I actually met with the seller and made an offer on the property. He had initially accepted my offer, and then he decided to hold onto the property for awhile and use it as a vacation home. After a year and a half, he got tired of having to deal with all the maintenance issues on the property and ended up selling the property to me for the initial offer I made because I took the time to follow up with him every thirty days or so.

I actually ended up making even more money on this deal than I would have in the first place because the house had appreciated in value during the period of time that he kept it and he had made improvements to the home. Most investors would have thrown this deal in the trash as soon as the seller said no to their initial offer, but because I took the time to follow up, I purchased the property and made a significant amount of money on this deal. I still get holiday cards from that seller.

If you take the time to follow up with motivated and semi-motivated sellers, you will make more deals and buy more properties with no follow-up competition for these properties whatsoever. It’s a win-win situation for you and the sellers.


 What websites do you use to advertise your rentals? Here are a few recommendations from a couple of successful rental owners that include:




ONE OF THE BEST-KEPT SECRETS FOR FILLING VACANCIES   Rent to Insurance companies for guaranteed rent and higher Cash Flow!

I’ve known about this strategy for many years, although I initially found out about it by accident. An Insurance company called me up. Said they’d like to rent one of my homes temporarily (approximately 6 to 9 months). Initially I was reluctant, I was not interested in renting for a short-term period. However, when he mentioned that they would pay 50% more than my regular rent (which was still cheaper than what the local hotel would charge), and pay rent and deposit in advance, AND guarantee against any damages, it sounded like a good win-win situation to me. 🙂

This “best kept secret” leaks out from time to time to other landlords as a way to fill vacancies. I know of one landlord where that is his ONLY strategy for keeping his many rentals filled. He has a database of over 100 insurance adjusters he works with in his local area.

A resident of a landlord moved out during the middle of the lease–and put a stop payment on his last rental check. When the landlord asked him to make good on the check, he refused, so Landlord took him to court and got a default judgment. Unfortunately he could not file a garnishment, because the man had recently graduated from school and was unemployed.

The resident then appealed the court judgment through his attorney but didn’t bother to show up for the hearing. The landlord insisted on getting the money, and the resident said he could only afford to pay three cents on the dollar or he’d have to file bankruptcy. The landlord replied, “Okay, file bankruptcy.” The resident told him that a bankruptcy would wipe out the judgment, but Landlord said that he’d prefer to have the resident have a bankruptcy on his record than accept three cents on the dollar for his debt. He also knew that bankruptcy would cost the resident significantly more in the long run.

What else had the resident overlooked? He had written a check for more than $1,000 and then placed a stop payment order on it–after having lived in the rental home. In Tennessee, for example, it’s a criminal offense to put a stop payment on a check for services after the services have been rendered. According to the law, the resident could get a year in jail for the offense.

The resident then told the landlord that he had moved to North Carolina, which actually made his bad check a federal issue. The resident could get five years in prison for that. The landlord told him that he would process the bankruptcy notice but that, unless the resident picked up the check balance and paid the attendant fees, he would have to notify the federal prosecutor of this situation. The resident told him that he couldn’t do that, because the debt would be wiped out by the bankruptcy. The landlord told him that he was not trying to collect the debt; he was following the legal process required when someone writes a bad check.

So the resident filed bankruptcy, and the landlord filed notice with the federal prosecutor. This legal problem has gone on for almost three years. Yet for $2,500 and two stopped checks, the resident is now running from the law and facing ten years in prison (five years for each bad check).

Most people think that they can threaten others and slink out of their debts. This landlord believes that word gets around whether you are “soft” or “hard” on residents, and he doesn’t want to be known as a softie in his community.

Note: The above story was shared by Robert Hill, a Nashville attorney, to illustrate one landlord’s experience in trying to collect on a bad rent check. However, since state laws vary, it’s important as a rental owner, that you know what rights and options you have in your state when attempting to collect on bad rent checks.


A long-distance landlord recently asked a question on regarding the expectations and performance of his property. Here was the question:

“I have hired a new Property Manager (PM) for some of my rentals that are far from me and he has placed two residents in two rentals I have recently. He kept the deposit in the company and I paid him one month’s rent to find the residents as usual. Problem is, both residents are deadbeats, they have not paid rents for the last two months they have been there, and they have not even transferred utilities in their name like they were supposed to.

Now I have to evict them both and find new residents and re-do the houses again. My question is, should the PM be charging me again to find new residents? I think the PM failed in his job to find good and paying residents. What would you do?”

Some landlords responded to the inquiry, but one response in particular is one I wanted to share that offered several excellent points when working with Property Managers (locally or long-distance). The following response was provided from one of our regular contributors to, and this contributor was also a prior workshop instructor at one of the National Conventions. Thanks, Katherine (TX)!

I ran my properties in Missouri for about 5 years from Texas. Now I am in MO (local to the properties) but I still use a PM because I travel so much for business so I really still need one.

When I first started out with a PM I was very clear about requirements for my rentals. I specified credit scores, income requirements, pet terms, criminal and credit checks, etc., etc., etc. I insisted on these things in our contract although I only had 2 rentals at the time.

The first PM I had got fed up with me because I required too much time of hers (because she was not concerned about the quality of the person she was placing, she just wanted the fees and to be able to keep her crews busy cleaning and repairing other people’s property to her advantage.) Needless to say we parted ways quickly.

Now I have a PM who I’ve had for years. This brokerage gets all my business, on the transaction side and the management side, and they managed my apartment building for 2 years for FREE while I did major rehab work. And when I had totally negative cashflow, they put up with me for being very “hands-on” as far as resident selection.
As a result my portfolio has grown nicely and the apartment now mostly carries itself. I now have 23 rentals instead of 2. So their percentage each month I’m rented up has increased nicely as I have grown my business.

There are some good PMs on this board. But the best PM out there will never manage as tightly as an owner. Some do come close in fairness, but that is part of the business.

Some PMs, like other service people, are great on the sales side, but less great on the service side, so they may make promises they don’t keep. Only you know what sort you are dealing with, but to be very honest with you – I am not surprised about your outcome because you did not set any boundaries about what was acceptable insofar as your standards.

So what happens in a case like that is this: The PM places better renters in houses where the landlord requires better renters. You did not insist on certain standards but you are surprised when no standards were applied. Added to that might be that if you only have 1 or 2 rentals, you are not a top priority with the PM as someone who has 10 or 20 rentals. Basic economics there. Your 1-2 rentals requires as much management as 10-20, but the income your few rentals generate is much less than the guy with 20 rentals, and a vacancy at your rentals likewise affects his bottom line less than the vacancies with a bigger client. Ask me how I know 🙂

I’ve been the little guy and I’ve become a bigger guy and so now I enjoy higher priority at my PM. That’s going to be true anywhere, but in your case you have further placed yourself at a disadvantage by not requiring standards. If I were you, here’s what I’d do: Go to your rentals and see them and talk in person to your PM. You may need a new PM, you may not. If I were you I’d find someone else though because this is going to be tough for your professional relationship to recover from. You think he did a bad job, but really you didn’t require any standards, so there is plenty of blame to go around.

If you do decide to stick with this guy, get your standards in a written agreement and have some sort of repercussion if an eviction occurs or if a resident gets behind, etc. in your updated agreement. If the PM balks at this, you must find a new PM. Be matter of fact but diplomatic.

If I were you I’d say, “Well it looks like this didn’t work out as well as we had hoped, I’m going to require some standards moving forward to avoid this happening in the future, and here is the list of requirements and the fail-safe mechanisms to help us work together and to keep the properties rented to responsible people”, and then give him your list of policies and requirements.

You’ll need to pay for him to place additional residents if your contract doesn’t say otherwise, but going forward you can have a remedy if this happens again after your standards are contractually in place via a signed agreement.

If all this sounds too tough, then you might want to consider selling. You have to be willing to draw these kinds of lines when you have long-distance property. You have to be able to trust the PM, and never forget that the PM is in a position to steal from you in several different ways, including charging too much for repairs with their in-house people or preferred vendors. You need a PM who respects your bottom line. Not all of them do.

10 rental property owners share what they believe is the single best piece of landlording advice that they have ever received. Here are their school of hard knocks words of wisdom:
1) Like Reagan said, “Trust but verify”.
2) Treat residents well!
3) Hang out with like-minded people. Ask to shadow a successful landlord in your area.
4) Don’t underestimate the actual cost of owning real estate! Many studies indicate total expenses including vacancy, etc. will average around 50% of gross income.
5) Compared to a bad resident, a vacancy is a delight.
6) Put your rental criteria in writing.
7) Figure out who you want to rent to and only buy/fix properties they will rent.
8) The landlord is in charge. The resident is not!
9) Make sure you have a fantastic lease that covers everything – Everything!
10) Five years from now YOU WILL BE the books you read, the CDs you listen to, and the people you associate with. Wealth creation is between the ears.
I own two houses that I rent by the bedroom. One is a 3/2 and one is a 6/5.
I just finished working on my taxes for the day. My 6/5 generated $36K in income last year. The expenses are high because I pay all utilities and have a mortgage that I am too lazy to refinance, but I still net (before taxes to Uncle Sam) approximately $1000/month.The rooms in this house rent really well because they (almost all of them) have their own bathroom.  Students are wary of sharing a bathroom with strangers, even if they are other students.I have all colors, shapes, sizes, girls/boys, orientations, ages, nationalities in this house. I emphasize during the showing that they must be willing to live with anyone.
I have a huge cable package and super insanely fast internet – there could be a tree through the roof which they would not likely call about, but if the internet goes out for more than two minutes, my phone lights up like a Christmas tree.I have a cleaning lady that cleans the common areas once a month. She also cleans the shared bathroom. The roommates, if they want, can opt to pay her an additional $15 to clean their bed/bath (they never do).  Allure flooring is a lifesaver here. Before Allure, I had to explain away three rooms with highlighter stains that commercial carpet cleaning companies could not get out.There needs to be a place where they can lock up their bikes. (I have had two stolen before I told them to lock the bikes to the porch railing). I also have two washers/dryers. Students love it.There are shared pots/pans in the kitchen. They are not great, but they are there.
I own the furniture (I purchased from Craigslist and a loveseat that a former resident dragged in off the street from a neighbor’s curbside) and a large flat screen TV in the living room (from a resident who ran out of financial aid before his lease ended). There is a plastic dining table that came from who knows where. I also paved the back yard for off-street parking.Each roommate is threatened with immediate eviction if they disturb the neighbors. Each neighbor has my phone number and are told to call the cops first and then me in that order if my roommates disturb ANYTHING.I keep the A/C or heater set at 72 degrees year around, though residents are allowed to adjust that up/down by a little in my favor if they want.Each roommate is on their own 1 year lease. They are allowed to sublet with my permission. They have an early lease buyout provision as suggested by Brad 20k (another contributor) and I never co-sign their parents (ugh).
I require proof of income like with any other resident.  Sometimes that comes in the form of a financial aid letter with a disbursement date.Each room rents for about $600/month (a little more for the room with the second story balcony, a little less for the rooms with a shared bath). The deposit is $250.
The hallways are often banged up, which I do not have to repair but I also do not mind repairing them. I try to stop by the house and go inside once per month, though it is usually every other month. Each room has its own locking door.I have lost multiple roommates when they became friends and buy houses together (this has happened twice). I have not found any regulation about a boarding house in my city ordinance that makes my place illegal. Everyone is on long term leases, share a kitchen, etc.  I’ve had very little resident drama, but I had one situation of a resident who flipped out because the dog belonging to a neighbor across the street would not stop barking (a huge, awful german shepherd). After I called the cops on the dog three times, I finally gave the roommate the happy clause and she moved out. The new roommate doesn’t mind the dog (I warned her about it, but she had a dog growing up and “understood”).

I have had two other incidents – both involving a student too poor to buy his own food/alcohol, so he was eating other people’s. I warned him, he stopped, his student aid ran out, he started again, I gave him 30 days to move out.It is important to emphasize that they have to “be nice” to their roommates. The reality is that these roommates go to school all of the time and work all of the time – they are not being supported by Mom and Dad (otherwise they would have their own fancy apartment). They are rarely home and when they are home, they are playing videogames and watching 50 pre-DVRed episodes of whatever 20-somethings watch while eating fast food.  I often see that they will share any excesses with their roommates, but their “excesses” are often just a couple of extra pieces of a frozen pizza or two extra old bananas.Also, my rooms will rent in 24-48 hours once I advertise them on Craigslist.  It is just a matter of picking who I want to rent to. And the referrals are crazy – if you take care of these folks, they will refer friends and, when they get their first “real” job, will move into your apartments, homes, etc.Plus, they don’t have too much stuff, so if they move out in the middle of the night, cleanup is not too bad (and the other roommates will pillage their stuff, if the departing roommate doesn’t give it away first).Editor’s Note:  If you are considering renting bedrooms to students, be sure to check local zoning and landlord-tenant laws in your area. 


Many of you veterans out there may already know all of this, but just in case I wanted to share “the system” that has me 3 for 3 of my last vacancies at a one day turn over.

Step 1: Communication with current residents. Make sure you get that 30 day notice of intent to renew or move. I contact them 45 days out from expiration of current lease. If I hear nothing by 30 days out, then we’re on for another month. Repeat this step at middle of next month. Get their desire in writing, signed, and dated!

Step 2: Start advertising. I get my Craigslist & Postlets ad up around the first of the month. Renew the post every 2 days or as often as allowed.

Step 3: Communicate my bonus program to the current residents. $100 if they bring me a qualified prospect who signs a lease (and pays!). $50 if I get someone on my own prior to their move out to pre-lease, and as a thank you for them keeping the place nice enough to show and being accommodating to repeat showings. Yeah, my lease says they have to do it anyway for free BUT this encourages compliance and they say nice things about me to the prospect too!

Step 4: Get a “anytime is fine” showing agreement with residents. Basically, anytime between X and Y times it’s okay for me to show the rental with 30 minutes notice ahead of time. Or get them to agree to show it for you when they’re home. Saves gas, saves time, and it’s less stress.

Step 5: While doing showings, make the handyman provide a fix-it list for repairs as soon as the old residents are done moving out.

Step 6: One week out, line up your cleaning / maintenance / carpet-scrubbing crew(s). Coordinate so they aren’t stepping on each other to get it done the day resident moves out, if possible. If all else fails and its a fairly clean turnover, you can probably leave the maintenance for last unless there’s a major issue that affects habitability. The cleaning gal shows up in the morning, carpet scrubbers finish up in the evening.  The next day everything is dry and ready for new resident.

Step 7: Fax copy of lease (or email the lease as an attachment) to resident 3 days prior to signing to ensure they have ample time to review and ask questions. Remind them that you need the rent and deposit in certified funds (no personal checks, thank you) when you meet to sign the lease. No money, no keys, no signing anything.

Step 8: Day prior to lease begins. Make sure utilities are switched over effective the first day of the lease. Call the power company or ask the resident to show you a receipt as proof of service.

Step 9: Day lease begins. Do walk through with residents. Note deficiencies and write down everything you agree to fix / repair / upgrade on a list that says: “Only these items will be fixed / repaired / upgraded. RESIDENT agrees landlord has not promised, verbally or in writing, to any other repairs, fixes or upgrades that are not listed. Premises are accepted in “as is” condition, unless otherwise noted on this sheet.”Step 10a: Get money, sign lease. Give resident a run down of rules and procedures for maintenance requests and emergency contact information. Show them where the circuit breaker box is, water shut off, etc. Give each resident a copy of your business card with phone number and email address. Step 10b: Hand over keys. (this is last for a reason, folks!) Step 11: Deposit money in your bank. Step 12: Go enjoy a cold beverage of your choice in celebration. Ah, another turn over complete! Of course there will be some turn-overs that are more complex: eviction, slobs, damages, etc. This is meant as a basic blue print for an otherwise successful tenancy that is coming to a close. Add or subtract steps that you feel make the process smoother.

 Keep prospering!


One of the most popular questions of the week on our popular Q&A forum regarded PITA tenants: “What tip off’s do you all use to spot those PITA types before they get into your unit’s? Your experiences must have given you quite a few tell tale tip off’s that there is going to be trouble. It’s always easier to avoid PITAs than deal with them after they are in your places.” (Note – my definition of PITA may not be the same definition as the one the landlord is using to ask the question 🙂

Several landlords nationwide revealed MANY tip offs. For example, the first to respond quickly offered 10 of their biggest tip offs for avoiding a PITA:

1) If they show up in suits,

2) If they offer you free stuff,

3) Cash on the spot,

4) Flicking cigarettes in my yard,

5) Kids running through my house like circus freaks,

6) Nit-picking from the start,

7) Screaming in the background during phone interview,

8) CURSING during showing,

9) Wanting to trade repairs for rent,

10) Insulting my place or their current landlord.

11) If you hear the phrase, “I just need a chance”, run away.

12) If they start out by telling me how religious they are that is enough for me.  The true religious people don’t bring it up immediately. It seems to be the con men who do that.
13) If they say, “I have a Debit Card and I used to have bad credit.”
14) If they show up late for the appointment and offer no apology for doing so (indicating that it’s normal for them) they are very likely going to be late on paying the rent.
15) If they say, “Will you work with me?”  My reply is, “I work for myself, I don’t have time to work with other people.”
16) If they want to start redecorating the home.
17) If they say that their credit score is a mistake.
18) If they say, “Money is not an issue.”
19) If they say, “I get a monthly check and its guaranteed”
20) If they state that they’re working on paying off previous judgment, (IE. They’ve made one $50 payment).
21) Always ask why they’re moving. If they say because their landlord doesn’t fix anything…next!
22) If they treat viewing the property like a family reunion: Mom, Dad, Grandma, and Aunt Bessie all came along to decide if the place is good enough, and they’re all talking as though they will be living there.
23) If they say, “I need a place right now, and can move in tomorrow.”
24) If They are arguing with each other during the showing.
25) If they seem flustered or jumpy and are nervous.
26) If they brag about what they had or who they are.
27) If they are overdressed for the showing.
28) Had one last night did not want to disclose where he worked in the pre screen telephone interview. His comment: “We can discuss that after I see if I like the place”. He will never know because he will never see it.
29) If they appear and sound desperate in general.
30) If they won’t stop calling.
31) If they won’t take NO for an answer, and have no respect for you, the landlord.
32) If they have a job but no valid driver’s license due to too many tickets.
33) If they’re vague about residence history.  I mean, how hard is this?  I can name every address I’ve ever lived at, yet some can’t remember where they lived last year?
34) I hate it when they are calling for someone else. This is especially bad when a mother is calling for a child she wants out. I had one mother laughing and saying, “I’m ready for her and her brats to move on.” If their own mother does not want them, why should I?
35) If they don’t look you in the eye.
36) If they tell stories that are meant to touch your heart.
37) If they claim that their landlord appreciates all the little repair jobs that they do to the rental.
38)  If they have beat up cars. Not old, beat up. There is a difference.
39) Here’s a tip off we learned from Mr. Landlord years ago:  Have a space on your rental application for “Lawyer’s Name”. If the potential tenant completes this question … it means they’re no stranger to litigation.  They’ve been though the courts before for criminal defense, civil defense (likely from a previous landlord) or civil offense (also likely against a previous landlord).  Any potential renter that knows their lawyer’s name has obviously been a PITA for someone else already…Don’t make them your PITA tenant.
40) We use direct debit with to collect rent. One of our screening questions is whether they have a bank account and are OK with direct debit.
41) If they call about your unit from a hotel room, or say that they are looking for a “fresh start”. RUN.
42) If they do not have their own phone.
43) If a prospective resident calls you unprofessional because you refuse to answer any more time consuming, non-sensical, questions when you don’t have time to spend on the phone with a person who clearly isn’t interested in the property.
44) If they say they are next up to get a section 8 voucher. It never seems to happen.
45) “Have you had any trouble with the law?” I asked a seedy looking prospect.  “Armed Robbery – Nothing Violent!” they said.  I just told him he should straighten things out before considering anything contractual.  Needless to say, I never saw him again.
46) One tip: From their application we already know where they live now. If not too far away, drive by their present living quarters. How do they keep the yard? Are there ruts in the grass where they, or their guests, have parked?
47) Some landlords I know ask outright to view the interior of where they now live. It’s a bit bold move, but I have never been denied the opportunity. What they think is great may not be what I think is great. How much have their children painted the walls with adhesive stickers and crayolas? And if you don’t want to ask them to see their present quarters, you can at least drive by. You’ll be surprised often, and get a feeling as to whether to take them on to use/abuse your property. Some will treat it like a home; some will act as if they are living in a barn.
48) While there are obvious tip-offs that a tenant is trouble, you really never know. Never. Exercise caution and due diligence, but then have an air-tight lease. If they earn enough, have good credit, no court history, and their situation makes logical sense, an application with enough info to track them down or garnish wages is like an insurance policy. And a lease that specifies what breaks a month-to-month lease and is grounds for eviction is helpful. You are protected and they have reason to fear messing up. A real PITA can put on a good show.  Even if their application falls somewhat short, a good lease still holds.
49) Nit picking, balking on application fee, asking about how much is the late fee, and not having all funds upfront.
50) If they show up not prepared to move-in and meet qualifications, they are not serious.
Bonus Tip 51) It is a good list of yellow warning flags – be ever vigilant and protect your business. BUT learn to separate positives from negatives:  – Parents or friends calling/ coming to showing COULD be a very good sign.
– “Can I paint” is normal. Today’s fashion trends are about COLOR. LISTEN to your prospects. Maybe they are telling you your place is BORING.
– Every night, our prospects and residents are hit with multiple commercials from paint companies and HGTV shows. Lowes recently ran an Internet commercial showing a happy couple putting purple paint on their ceiling. Thanks at lot!
– From a good applicant these questions can indicate a feeling of ownership.
– Be professional. Give EVERYONE an application to avoid being sued for discrimination.
– Screen professionally and thoroughly. Current in-home visit is the best. Base acceptance on FACTS, not comments.
– Pro deadbeats know this same list and will slide right past you.
– They are clients, not friends. They are not marrying my daughter nor do I invite them over for Sunday dinner.
– Many PITA residents are that way due to poor management. Weak landlords, weak lease, weak procedures. Set the ground rules and stick to them.
– Yes, know they can sue you for discrimination based on religion for the “God Bless” remarks posted here or on Facebook. That might not win but it will cost thousands of $$$ and years to defend yourself.
It seems that many landlords are divided on this issue. Some say yes, and those who have done so added success with building in an automatic increase of, say 5%, because that way the resident knows what to expect. There are no surprises.

Other landlords say no. Some of the reasons include, the automatic increase may not be a true measure of market conditions. The 5% may cause the rent, after a couple of years, to be higher than market rent and therefore good residents will be inclined to move. Also the 5% may not be enough with market rents rising a lot faster, which means that you are actually falling behind in terms of the maximum rent you could be receiving.

How about a compromise? How about including a clause in your lease that states rent is automatically adjusted each year? If payments are made on time and the properties are well maintained, the increase will be the bare minimum. You could even throw in that if management ever raises it more than the resident can handle, just let the management know. That way, residents will not be surprised when the rent increase letter arrives. And they will not be scared off initially, because it appears that you will be fair with them in keeping the increase as fair as you can. Of course, it is important that you do remember to actually send out the rent increase letters, which is part of the STUFF landlords forget to do, or never get around to doing which ends up costing them hundreds of dollars (if not thousands) each year.

I know some landlords do not raise the rent at all on their good residents out of fear that they may move. However, in using the strategy suggested above, you do not have to be fearful that good residents will move. Instead of moving they will simply call you. And then you take it from there.


One thing that landlords usually all end up saying at some point is that they will never again pick up rents from their residents. For some it takes a little longer than others before they realize who is training who… If you are looking for alternative methods to picking up rent, check out how various landlords collect their rent, some of the reasons why many landlords nationwide are now using the BANK as their rent collector or alternative methods to getting rent payments other than picking it up.

1. I have a Deposit Only bank account. Bank teller does our work. I can check instantly online when rent was deposited. Love it.

2. I send an invoice each month. And ask the residents to deposit the requested amounts directly into an account. I tell residents that right up front.

3. I like direct bank deposits because residents can all deposit money in my bank account, no matter how they get paid. Make it THEIR problem to get the rent in the account on time. No more lies about the money getting lost in the mail, the bank time stamps every deposit.

4. My tenants drop off a check to a locked mailbox attached to the front door of one of my apartment units.  I stop by and pick up the checks at my convenience.

5. I like the fact that my bank scans the deposit slips in nightly. Tenants know that to receive credit for their bank deposits, they must write their name and address on the deposit slip or they must have the teller do it. I can see it online. The date, time of deposit, tenant’s name, address, and amount are written on it. I have a note on my account that I only accept money orders, cashier’s checks, or cash.

6. My tenants pay online. The money is pulled from their bank account and goes straight into mine. If they do not have a bank account, they can mail a money order, which must be received by the due date. Or, as one of my tenants does, gives a friend the rent money and the friend pays online because the tenant does not have a bank account. I am also working on getting set up to accept credit/debit card payments with the processing fees passed on to the tenants.

7. I have one free bank account for each property. I can check any deposits online. Easy to close accounts if I need to evict. No excuses not to pay rent.

8. I have two banks. One is right across the street from my apt complex. Hence there is no excuse. The other is used for my SFH and 4plex. That helps me track who’s paid and not. Also – my bank scans the deposit slips and I write the person’s name and unit on the deposit slip that I send with the monthly invoice. Rent is due by the end of business on the 1st – whatever day that falls on. If the first is on a day the bank is closed the rent is due BEFORE the bank closes.

9. As part of my screening process I request that the tenant either have or be able to open an account at my bank. (If you can’t open an account, then you have bad credit or bounced checks and I don’t want your tenancy.) This makes it EASY for the tenant to deposit their paycheck and transfer it into my account. At 6pm on Friday, or 2 pm on Sat if the deposit is not made it is LATE. Period. End of story.

10. I use the bank deposit opportunity as a positive thing. Tell them at move in how EASY it will be to make their rent payment. They don’t have to mess with checks or money orders, or tracking me down to pay in cash. The bank is close enough so that all residents have to do is walk to the bank! Everyone likes it. And then the few who get into trouble and don’t pay on time find they walked themselves into a “trap,” and there is no way to make excuses.

11. I use an online payment service for my student tenants in another side of the town. Some of them love it, no bounced check fee to me either. It’s only $1 per checking/saving rent payment plus a small monthly fee (can accept credit card too).

12. We use Autodraft from the resident’s checking account into ours on the agreed upon date with this service ( the resident does not have to get anything or go anywhere. The money is drafted out of their account every two weeks around their PayDay – before they have a chance to spend it.

MY OLD SCHOOL STRATEGY FOR BUYING MULTI-UNITS    A landlord recently asked the following question on the website:

“Anybody else having trouble finding stuff to buy? I’m looking for multi-unit buildings in my area and it has been months without anything new being listed. The only ones on the market are very overpriced. Any good ideas for finding these types of buildings to purchase when the MLS and local Realtor’s pocket listings are coming up empty?”

MY RESPONSE: The last 2 multi-units I bought is because I actually contacted the owner of properties and told the owner I was interested in buying. Neither of them had been listed for sale. A third property (closing next month) is a 4-plex, and the owner is willing to carry back nearly 90% of the financing. I dare say that if the property had gone through the normal listing process with an agent involved the owner probably would have had an entirely different mindset regarding negotiating, and not been willing to take back as much–if any–financing.

I hope you get the true essence of my suggestion, which is: “There’s far more out there than what’s LISTED. Look BEYOND those!” The properties I’ve purchased lately were not even in the process of being listed.

I simply looked in areas where I was interested in buying and identified the properties I was interested in buying. Then I contact the owners to let them know I would be interested in buying their property.

I do this on a regular basis. The properties I am interested in buying are NOT hard to find. They are all over the place. Now, whether or not the owner is interested in selling is another story. 🙂 But that’s why I’m willing to make many offers and come back to some owners months or years later. I know this strategy is “old school”, but hey, it keeps putting more food on the table.

The question to you or anyone else who is frustrated with the limited listings in the MLS is this: “If you’re really serious about buying more, how many offers are you making each month on properties you want (not just the ones you find, the ones you want)?”
ANOTHER STRATEGY FOR BUYING PROPERTIES SHARED BY A REAL ESTATE INVESTORIn 2006 when I first started buying fixer-uppers, I use to drive around town looking for “For Sale By Owner” signs. I also called some of signs posted by realty agents but I quickly learned I would never get a true bargain-priced house as long as their was an agent between me and the seller of the house. It’s in the agents best interest to get the highest price for a house instead of the lowest.

I spent several years using my car to prospect a given neighborhood. I would make a list of 20 (FSBO) houses knowing that I would only buy one of them. This drive around town system of getting leads on fixer-uppers “did work” but it was time consuming. In 2009 I figured out a better way of doing this more efficiently. Instead of me wasting gas money on trying to find the right house and the right type of seller, I took my gas money and ran an AD in my local newspaper that would tell anyone who had a junky/fixer-upper type house for sale to call me.

The Ad says this:

“Retired handyman looking to buy a fixer-upper. I prefer small houses. Can pay cash or will discuss terms with my down payment. No agents please.  Call Roy at  555-5555.”

I run this ad twice a year and I get approximately 10 calls each time I run the ad. From the 10 calls, I usually buy one. There have been times when I did not buy any. The house was perfect but it was located in the wrong neighborhood or the seller was not motivated enough.

What else can I say? Since 2009, I have bought 7 fixer-uppers using this ad. Most of the sellers tend to be very motivated too. Bargain houses come from motivated sellers who have a real need to sell NOW. Feel free to run this type of ad in your local newspaper. Forget Craigslist; this ad does not work in Craigslist.


Once a landlord has been in business a while and learned a few things “the hard way” there often comes a point where he or she stops and makes the declaration, “NEVER AGAIN!” Well the following is a list of NEVER AGAINs shared by landlords nationwide to help them avoid very costly problems in 2013.    

1. Never again think of this landlord thing as anything but a business and treat it like that.

2. Never again think that existing rents are low because the current owner is renting to scumbag lowlifes. In case you wonder. Renting to scumbag lowlifes actually commands higher rents since there are fewer options for them. Think about it, anyone will rent to someone with good credit and no criminal past. Won’t make that mistake again in thinking that after buying a place can clean up and rent for more without having a complete understanding of market rents.3. Never again buy a place that rents just cover the payments.

4. Never again buy a place without measuring the square footage to compare against the listed square footage.

5. Never again plan to contribute my own labor for free when estimating fix-up costs because I don’t have enough cash to pay someone else to do the fix-up.

6. Never again bet on appreciation or buy a property that does not make me money from the get go.

7. Never again buy in an area I don’t know because the price looks good compared to what I do know.

8. Never again rent to someone who makes derogatory comments about the rental when they see it for the first time.

9. Never again believe anything that comes out of the mouth of a City Employee about a property I own or am about to purchase without checking it out for myself.
10. Never again hold the baby of a prospective resident while they look at a property or fill out an application.  How can you throw a baby out after holding it?

11. “Never again…” (breathed quietly and resolutely with my teeth firmly clenched – for no one to hear but me) “…will I allow someone else (a boss) to determine my income, thus my lifestyle, and control my time with my children. Never…again.”

12. Never again believe I can’t be successful at something just because EVERYONE says it won’t work. Like being a landlord for example.

13. Never again believe because I made a mistake today I can’t do better tomorrow. Keep believing in your dream. If we did not fall down, we would never learn to walk.

14. Never again believe I have to go at it alone – because there are so many willing to freely give of their knowledge just because I asked for help.  Help I received at my local association and       

15. Never again go against my gut feeling.

16. Never again pay workers by the hour.

17. Never again pick up rent in person or allow it to be mailed…Autodrafts or direct deposit only!

18. Never again give up the keys before having the cash and contract signed.

19. Never again rent to someone who sees the house for the first time, pulls out a wad of cash, and says, “I’ll take it!” without screening them first.

20. Never again rent to someone who has nothing but negative things to say about their current landlord.

21. Never again accept a deposit paid for anything but collected funds.

22. Never again “hold” an empty unit for anything longer than 2 weeks.

23. Never again ask a resident casually, “How’s everything going at the apartment?” Haha, nothing good will ever come from asking a resident THAT question!!!

24. Never again rent to family/ friends.

25. Never again install carpet in a rental. NEVER!!

26. Never again NOT do a background check on a sweet old lady that turned out to have a felony for selling prescription drugs!!!? Sort of a happy ending though–She’s been with me for 5 years. Quiet and always paid on time.

27. Never again think that simply because we have a signed lease, the place is rented for a year.  I must also utilize smart resident retention strategies.

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