What can an in-home tell you?
I’m sure you have all heard the horror stories of some poor landlord who took the first person with money who came along and rented to them their nice, newly renovated rental home only to have it destroyed in a matter of months, right?
While that does happen, there’s something you can do as a landlord to limit and pretty much prevent that scenario. It’s called an in-home interview. Let me explain what an in-home is, how an applicant gets to that point and what you can learn from it that will help you decide on the right tenant.
Our application process begins like those of most other landlords. We have tenants fill out paper applications. In them, we’re looking for information about how long the applicant has been on their job, how much they make and we even ask what their current monthly expenses are. With this information we can determine if an applicant can afford the home they’re applying for.
But we don’t stop there. You see, paying is only one job for a tenant. They must also be able to take care of the house, be good to work with and be a good neighbor. And even though we ask questions about what kind of home maintenance skills they have, you really can’t ascertain enough information from a paper application to know if the applicant can do all of the jobs of a tenant. To know that, you need to go see where the applicant lives and interview them there.
So, after the applicant fulfills the basic requirements of job stability and income on their paper application, we schedule the in-home interview.
At the in-home, you get to observe how the applicant behaves in their current environment and how they keep their home. This is important to note because whatever their house looks like the day of the in-home is what your newly renovated rental home will look like in about three months if you rent to them.
At the in-home, you are watching to see if the house is taken care of. You look for signs of neglect like trash not in trash cans, grass that is not cut regularly and air returns that have beards growing on them from all the dust bunnies. (This is a sure sign the tenants aren’t changing the air filter regularly.)
But that’s not all — you’re also looking to see how the family interacts. You want to see how the kids and even the animals behave. This is big because an unruly animal, or unruly child, can do major damage to your house.
I normally sit down with the applicants at the kitchen table. Here, we start the training process of what the four jobs of the tenant are. We go over these points multiple times and I let them know that this is part of why we are doing the in-home. But I also let them know we are trying to turn them from paper (the application) into people. I then ask them questions to get to know them as people.
This part is huge. Doing this allows me to get a good feel for the candidate to know if they will be comfortable to work with.
And just a tip — I fold in questions from the application into this part of the interview. This allows us to double check their info and make sure there was no falsifying of information. A common thing that happens is that people will say they have been on the job for a year. When asked directly when they started, they will often give a date. Sometimes that date isn’t quit a year yet. That disqualifies them since our minimum requirements say you must be on the job for a year. They just rounded up on the application to make it easier.
Be observant the whole time you are there. Pay attention not just to what they say, but also to what they do. Did they show up on time? Did they communicate if they were going to be late? Did everyone make good eye contact? Things like that.
Pay attention to your intuition, and never go against your gut. Use the in-home as a tool, and I promise you’ll get a better-quality tenant.
Joe and Ashley English buy houses and mobile homes in Northwest Georgia. For more information or to ask a question, go to www.cashflowwithjoe.com or call Joe at 678-986-6813.