Pre-screening prospects

Pre-Screening Prospects – How Do I Decide Who To Show My Rental To?

Landlords ask me all the time what is the best way to figure out who is actually a good risk and how they can stop wasting their time showing a property to people who don’t qualify.

My answer is to pre-screen all prospects.  A prospect is anyone who wants to see your property.


What Is Pre-Screening?   

Pre-screening is an easy way to “vet” everyone who calls and wants to see your  rental property.

I am very selective about who gets access to my rental properties. For my vacant rentals, I want to control who is in and out of them.  Why should I let anyone who wants to just look at the house into to see it?  This increases the wear and tear and increases the chances that someone will return later and strip the property.

Sometimes I have a tenant who gives notice to vacate and they have kept the property in immaculate condition.  This gives me the opportunity to list the property, show it and get it rented before the current tenant moves out.   I want to inconvenience my current tenant as little as possible so pre-screening is very important in these cases.

Pre-Screening Guidelines

I have very strict guidelines that I use to pre-screen prospects who inquire about my properties.  Each one of these prospects is screened either on the phone or via email.  Only prospects who have met my minimum screening guidelines are allowed to tour my properties. I use a property management software and I get a lot of requests to see my properties.   I recently had one property listed for rent and I had over 300 people submit online requests to see it.  Most of these people didn’t even bother to fill out the pre-screening form and I can only assume they were tire kickers or they didn’t meet the guidelines.


Why do I Pre-Screen?

I am assuming that you have a life and other things that you enjoy doing.  I am betting that driving around town showing your property to people who don’t meet your guidelines isn’t something you enjoy because it is a waste of your time.

In my experience, 7out of 10 of these prospects won’t even bother to show up and meet you after you set an appointment.  This will happen even after you call and confirm 30 minutes prior to meeting them.  Many of these prospects aren’t serious about the property and will change their minds about meeting you at the very last minute.  That leaves you standing there at the property waiting on someone who isn’t going to show.   I need to know who is seriously interested and who will actually have a chance of meeting my rental guidelines. 

I have screening criteria and rental criteria that everyone must meet.  The pre-screening process helps me identify people who won’t meet my rental criteria and I don’t show the property to them.  This allows me to stop wasting my time showing anyone a property who won’t qualify.


What About Giving Out Applications?

Some landlords like to give out applications to everyone before allowing them to tour their properties.  I don’t do that for two main reasons. 

  1. Prospects are not usually willing to submit an application before seeing a property.
  2. Once you accept an application, you have to formally notify them if you reject them.

It is quicker and easier to have a policy of pre-screening everyone.  Before you agree to meet anyone in person, go through a quick list of pre-screening questions. You can ask as few or many as you want.  Basically, we are all looking for someone who will pay the rent, on time, every month and who will take care of the property.   

The top 4 questions are:

  1. Is this person employed?
  2. Is the income 3x the rent?
  3. How is their credit?
  4. Do they have pets?


You basically want to know if this person has the income to afford this property, if this person has a job, if they have credit issues and how many pets.  My pre-screening process is very detailed and I have a lot more questions. 


Benefits of Pre-Screening

The benefits to pre-screening are great.   

  • You stop wasting your time.
  • You don’t end up in front of someone with a sad story.
    • People with issues live to get in front of you.
  • You only show to more qualified people.


It is in everyone’s best interests to pre-screening.  



If you are holding an open house, it is almost impossible to pre-screen prospects before anyone shows up.   Assuming you are listing your property online, you can list your guidelines in the ad. 

Don’t allow pets?  Put that in your online listing.  Do you have an income, job or rental history requirement?  Put that in your listing as well.  It will allow anyone who sees the listing to self screen.

Before the open house starts, set up your check in station.  Have a sign in form where every puts their name and contact information.   Have a flier about the property and list your guidelines there as well.  Go ahead and have your pre-screening questions there as well.  You can spell out how this process works in case you don’t get to talk to everyone.

Then, before you either give out and application or accept an application, review the pre-screening questions with each prospect. Don’t accept the application if the prospect doesn’t meet your guidelines.  Some landlords get upset when I tell them that but the bottom line is that I won’t run an applicant’s credit if I know that this person doesn’t qualify.   


Final Thoughts

Remember, our goal is stop wasting time on prospects who will not qualify to rent the property. We also do  not need to run credit on someone who has an easily identifiable issue that will disqualify them.  Take the time to insist that every prospect goes through a pre-screening process.  It is much faster to do this in the beginning instead of investing time in someone only to find out they don’t meet your guidelines.


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