Tip #50

List Your Rentals 4-6 Weeks Before an Expected Vacancy

Written on April 21, 2015 by , updated on April 28, 2015

Finding Quality RentersIn my opinion, the best time to look for new tenants is 4-6 weeks prior to the expected vacancy.

Not only will you likely avoid having an empty unit, but I also believe that renters who are searching for housing 4-6 weeks prior to their desired move date make the best tenants.

The Goldilocks Principle

Hot, Cold, or Just Right?

I’ve noticed a correlation between finding tenants, and the “Goldilocks principle.” While there will always be renters at the extremes, the best ones are somewhere in the middle.

Those renters who are too extreme in their housing search are usually the worst tenants.

For example, renters who are attending showings three months prior to their move date won’t be willing to sign a lease that early, and like Goldilocks’ porridge, are “too cold.”

Inversely, renters who needed to have a place yesterday are “too hot,” and are probably running from evictions or some other crisis that I’d rather not be a part of.

Those renters that I find 4-6 weeks from my target move-in date are usually “just right.”

The Magical 4-6 Week Timeframe

Renters come in waves that usually follow the calendar. Most renters move around the 1st of the month, and are obligated to give 30 or 60 days notice to their current landlord.

I require my tenants to give me 60 days notice of non-renewal.

Thirty days notice to terminate a lease is the most common amount of notice required, and as such, I get the most responses from my ads and see the highest quality applicants 4-6 weeks from my vacancy.

If you start to list your unit 30 days from when you need to fill a vacancy, you’ve already missed the biggest wave of renters, and will likely have to wait an additional 30 days to fill your unit.

Not only do you cast the widest net by listing your rental 4-6 weeks prior, in my opinion, the most responsible and trustworthy renters are typically looking for their next home during that time.

That’s not to say that you won’t find high-quality tenants at other times, but it’s a generalization that has worked well for me, year after year.

Don’t miss the biggest wave of renters by advertising too late.

Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute

In my experience, there are different types of tenants at each two-week period prior to the start of your vacancy.

I’ve found that proactive renters who start their search early, usually around 4-6 weeks prior to the end of their lease, make better tenants. They usually have control over their finances, have stable jobs, and are low stress.

Comparison Chart: Time vs. Quality

The following chart compares the quality of renters with the amount of time they allot to find a new rental home. My observations are based on showing and screening hundreds of applicants over the last 10 years.

Keep in mind that this chart is a generalization based on my experience, and not a scientific study.

With the right marketing and screening techniques, you can find an amazing tenant at any time. After all, I’ve certainly found amazing tenants within one week from my upcoming vacancy.

Time vs. Quality

Vacancy ListingRenter AllocationQuality/ GradeGeneral Observations
8+ weeks prior5%D
  • Pay rent on time

  • Unnecessarily anxious about moving

  • Moderately Type-A

  • Noncommittal

  • Often "Just scouting"

  • Unresponsive to follow-up emails

6-8 weeks prior15%C
  • Pay rent on time

  • Analytical and like to plan

  • Demands everything in writing

  • Often have "princess syndrome"

  • Noncommittal

  • Unresponsive to follow-up emails

  • Generally care about where they live

4-6 weeks prior30%A
  • Seem responsible & respect authority

  • Proactive rather than Reactive

  • They have the time to choose wisely, and therefore choose a place they really love

  • Tend to "play by the rules"

  • Willing to sign a 1-2+ year lease

2-4 weeks prior25%B
  • Rollover from the 4-6 week group

  • They've lost 1-2 units already

  • Had to give landlord 30 days notice

  • Highly motivated to sign a lease

  • Will pay rent on time

  • Monthly or 1-year lease at most

1-2 weeks prior20%C
  • Transcient

  • Tendency to Procrastinate

  • Reactive rather than proactive

  • Rebounding from an eviction or crisis

Same Day5%F
  • Evictions are common

  • Rarely pay rent on-time

  • It's always someone else's fault

  • The rules don't apply to them

  • Typically ask to pay in cash

As you can see from the table above, you’ll be able to reach the majority of the tenant population by starting your search eight weeks prior to the start of your vacancy. However, I never start eight weeks prior!

Why do I wait? 

It’s simple really. Finding a tenant can take a lot of effort, and if it doesn’t happen quickly, I’ll get burned out by tire kickers and perpetual shoppers.

I list my rentals six weeks before I want new tenants to move in to intentionally target the “A” class of tenant. That way, I only have to deal with those who are mostly serious and it gives me a full 45 days to screen and sign a new tenant. Besides, I don’t really want to think about a single turnover for more than 45 days.

I don’t really want to think about a single turn-over for more than 45 days.

As I said earlier, this is just a generalization that has worked well for me. If your ad’s not getting a lot of responses, regardless of the timeframe, then your price is probably too high, or your ad is not enticing enough.

Related: The Landlord’s Guide to Marketing with Craigslist

Start Now!

If you’re like me, and have multiple leases ending soon because you think June 1st is the magic move-in date, then you should be looking for a new tenant right now.

Give this theory a try, and let me know what you think in the comments below.

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3 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Stacey Drake

    Lucas,
    I realize I can ask the current tenant to show the property, but how do I guarantee the property will show well? Most properties need TLC between tenants.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Stacey,

      That’s a great question. Unfortunately, you can’t “guarantee” anything.

      I try to keep good relations with my tenants, so when I ask “can you clean up the place for my Saturday showing?”, they usually comply. However, their version of clean is usually less than satisfactory.

      If I need too, I entice them with money. I tell them that if they keep the place clean (to my satisfaction) for the next few weeks while I show the property, then I’ll give them $100. That only works part of the time.

      If I have having a large amount of showings on a single day, I’ll sometimes offer to pay for a maid service the day before, and remind them that these potential renters will be going into their bedrooms too look around, so they should clean up. The embarrassment factor of potentially seeing underwear on the floor usually helps.

      Last but not least, I usually visit a property between 60-90 days before it will be vacant. I make a note of all minor repairs needed, and try to get them fixed before a start showing the place.

      I hope that helps!

  • Yao Rockwood

    hi- very helpful article! We have a condo unit that will be available for rent end of July. I will follow your advise and post it 6 weeks prior :) could you please recommend a few sites for me to post? I fear the audience on craiglist- have you had good luck there? thanks!

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