On average, 95 percent of my tenants are new to the neighborhood when they move in.
Even if they are moving from a nearby zip code, they still act as if they know nothing about the area.
Why Should I Care?
I believe that part of being an excellent landlord is helping my tenants get comfortable in their new home and its surroundings.
Plain and simple, it’s the right thing to do.
Doing so not only provides a great service to my tenants, but also positions me as an authority and helps to build a strong landlord-tenant relationship.
It’s an Emotional Experience
Moving to a new home is stressful and can bring a sense of vulnerability, so it’s understandable that incoming tenants may be apprehensive. After all, they’re sending up to a third of their income to a new landlord they just met, in order to rent a home in a neighborhood they know little about.
It is often the knowledge and understanding of our surroundings that make us feel most safe.
What Do Tenants Want to Know?
During the application process, I usually receive the same questions about a neighborhood:
- Is the neighborhood safe and how do you know?
- Can I walk to the metro/bus stop from the property?
- How close is the nearest _______________?
- Grocery Store/Pharmacy
- Trendy Shops
- Neighbor’s house (if a rural area)
- Redbox (seriously!)
- Fire Station
- Police Station
- My House
Yes, they can find this information on their own with Yelp, but they want to hear it from the landlord.
Sometimes they want to be coddled, and sometimes they are testing me. Some renters want to know if I take pride in my rental location, or if I’m an absentee slumlord.
If I can calm the fears of my tenants early on, they will settle in more quickly and will generally be happier over the life of the lease. It’s all part of making them feel cared for.
If they need more information, I direct them to the plethora of online guides designed to help a renter learn about an area:
- Lifehacker: How Can I Quickly Find the Best Neighborhood(s) in Any City—and the Best Hangouts Therein?
- MSN: How to find a safe neighborhood
- StreetAdvisor: Discover and Explore the best places to live
5 Ways to Help Your Tenants Transition
1. Provide a Map of Local Amenities
Like me, so many people are visually oriented. Providing a map with areas of interest circled, will give them an insider’s look at the neighborhood, which helps them adjust more quickly.
Creating a map can be quick, easy and inexpensive. Plus, after you’ve done this once for your each of your properties, you can use it again without re-creating it.
Ways to Create a Local Map:
- Tourism Maps:
Check with your local county/town tourism office. They may already have a bunch of cute little maps, free and chock full of things to do.
- Simple Road Maps:
Pick up a cheap road map from your local convenience store and grab a red Sharpie marker. However, since maps can cost between $3-$20 each, this method could get pricy if you have multiple rentals.
- Printed Google Map:
Go to Google Maps, type in your address, and print. Voilà! You have a localized map that you can scribble on.
- Google Map Engine/My Places:
Create a custom Google Map with your address, add the points of interest, and then share it electronically with your tenant. It’s pretty amazing and quite addictive once you get the hang of it.
- Walk Score:
Walk Score is a great little tool that rates your property based on how “walkable” it is to points of interest. The higher the walk score, the more attractive your property will be to tenants. It will automatically populate a map with local businesses and then allow you to share it with your tenants.
2. Provide Bus and Subway Maps
Your local transportation authority will have free transportation route maps. If your tenant doesn’t have access to a car, they will depend on public transportation to get everywhere.
3. Introduce the Neighbors
In the beginning of the lease, the landlord is the only connection a tenant will have with the neighbors. If your tenants live within view of a neighbor’s house, I recommend proactively introducing them.
The benefits are:
- Your neighbors will feel safe and respect you as a landlord.
- Your tenants and neighbors might build friendships and (hopefully) be able to handle conflict without involving you or the police.
- The tenants will feel more connected to the area and will take comfort in a friendly first impression.
- Your tenants might think twice before doing anything illegal since they know the neighbors might be watching.
4. Provide Emergency & Utility Contacts
A simple one-page document does wonders to calm the fears of a new tenant. On this document, you should include:
- Your contact information
- Your emergency/backup contact info (usually my wife)
- Instructions for calling the local police station (non-911)
- The phone number and website for all utilities
Landlord’s Guide to Tenant Onboarding
5. Be a Tour Guide for the Hour (or Day)
If my new tenant is from out-of-state, I’ll invite him or her to breakfast.
I will intentionally select a restaurant centrally located to the rental and all that the neighborhood has to offer.
For me, it’s a nice way to say:
Welcome to the neighborhood…thanks for paying my mortgage! (tweetable?)
It will also give me a chance to walk or drive the tenant around the area and personally point out the essentials.
I don’t have to do any of this, so why jump through the hoops?
It’s just great customer service.
If I were a tenant, I would appreciate this level of effort, and it would deepen my respect for my landlord.
I’m counting on this respect to pay off when the tenant has a choice to pay his rent or to buy a new flat screen tv.