Phone skills for landlords

I recently had the opportunity to go apartment hunting for a good friend of mine who is moving in from out of town. The tables had turned, and I got to experience what its like to be on the tenant side of things.

I scoured the newspaper classifieds, printed out some pages from Craig’s list, and wrote down numbers from for-rent signs in the neighborhood. Monday morning, I started making calls.

And realized why the vacancy rate is so high — hardly anyone answered their phones!

I also reached a lot of unintelligible voicemail greetings, leaving me unsure of whether I had reached the right person. I left messages anyway.

Some people actually answered their phones, and some called back a few hours later, but there were also those who never called back (perhaps they had rented their apartments already?). Others called back a few days later, (when I had already found a place), and one didn’t call me back until the following Saturday (!)

From this experience, as well as my own landlording experience, here are some tips I can offer when trying to rent out your duplex or apartment:

Now, I realize that we all get a lot of annoying phone calls when our number is published in the newspaper, or on a big red lawn sign. But people, if you want to find renters, you’ve got to make yourselves accessible! Publish your cell phone number, and answer it as often as you can. If you’re in a meeting at work and can’t take the call, return the call as soon as possible. In order to find tenants, you have to allow them to find you.


Be sure that your voicemail message is friendly and coherent. When I’m looking for renters, I temporarily change the message so that it mentions the apartment, states what month it is available for, how many bedrooms, and what the asking rent is. Often, this is all the information that the caller needed and no message will be necessary. And, the people who leave messages have already partially pre-screened themselves, making my work easier.


If you have a maximum number of tenants for the unit, make sure they fit in under it. Ask if they have dogs or cats if you have a pet policy. Make sure that they’re looking for the month your apartment is available for, and go over any possible dealbreakers on the phone (there is no offstreet parking, for example). Sure, you’ll have fewer showings this way, but you’ll also waste less of everyone’s time–most importantly, yours.

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