Screening Techniques

How to Qualify Prospects by Phone

As soon as you pick up the phone for an ad call, you can begin qualifying a prospective tenant. Even before you make an appointment to show the property, you can pretty well have determined if this person is someone whom you would want to rent your property or who would want to rent it.

You qualify by asking questions. There is no particular order to ask them in, the course of your conversation will determine that. The questions begin with the words “who,” “what,” “when,” “where,” and “why.” Just like a good newspaper reporter, you need an answer to each of these questions before you show the property.

“Who is calling?”

You need their name and phone number. If they will not give you their name, you have reason to be suspicious about a couple of things. First, are they seriously looking for a new place to live, are they just testing the market, or are they Fair Housing testers? It is a good idea to get their phone number so if you are disconnected for some reason, you can call them back. It is also the first step in verifying the information they might give you on a rental application. If the phone number they give you is not listed to them, yet they give you an address which they say is their current one, you have reason for concern.

“What property are you calling about?”

Studies have shown that people call on ads to eliminate the property. But your caller also may not be looking for what you have advertised. For example, yours may be a three-bedroom unit, while they are looking for a two-bedroom. They might be calling because they want help locating what they are looking for. Don’t brush them off! This could be a great opportunity for you to feed a lead to another landlord who has such a unit available. It could result in a referral fee. You also might have a unit coming up soon that would fit the caller’s needs.

“When do you need to move?”

At the end of the month? In three months? Tonight? The answer tells you if their needs match yours, as to availability and timing. Some answers might also beg another question, such as “why are you moving?”

“Where do you want to live?”

It may be that your unit does not meet their location needs. If that is the case, you could have another referral opportunity.

“Why are you moving?”

When you asked when they needed to move and they told you “right away,” you have good reason to ask further. The word “eviction” springs to mind with an answer like that. They could be moving in from out of town, a perfectly legitimate answer, assuming it is the truth. If they are evasive or inconclusive when they answer, ask them point blank, “are you being evicted?” Yes, it is harsh; but yes, it is also your money and your property, both of which you will sacrifice on the altar of “too-much-in-a-hurry,” or “too-little-gumption” if you fail to follow up and you rent to them after they were evicted because they didn’t pay the rent or wouldn’t follow the rules.


Write out these questions. Do not ad lib anything when you answer an ad call. Check them off as you ask them. The information you get on the initial phone call could decide whether you let a bad tenant get to first base with you, or whether you miss out on an outstanding tenant.

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