LAURENE H. YOUNG, (B) MPM, RMP, REALTOR
Young Hawaii Homes, Inc.
2011 President, Oahu Chapter
National Association of Residential Property Managers
Q. My children are scared every time I show my rental property to strangers. Do you have any suggestions on how I should show my unit?
A. Your children have good reason to be concerned about your safety. You may never have had a problem in the past and the likelihood is that you never will, but it only takes a minute to ruin everything. There have been real estate agents who have been robbed, raped and even murdered when they went to show a property to a stranger. You need to take ever precaution when you are showing your property.
There are some agencies that will show properties only if there are 2 agents present. It is more difficult to arrange showings if you have to arrange it with more people, but there is extra safety in numbers. There are some agencies that use only a lockbox.
Some people are concerned about allowing a stranger access to a vacant home on their own.
There are companies that charge a monthly fee to rent lockboxes. When a prospective tenant wants to view your unit, they contact these companies and are given a temporary code to use after passing security criteria and giving a valid credit card and ID. If you don’t want to pay for this service, you could still use your own lockbox if you are comfortable doing so, but be sure to change the code after each showing and use it only with vacant units.
If you show your unit on your own, always pre-screen any prospective tenant. It may take a little longer, but it may cut down on the number of no-shows you have and help to ensure that your unit is what the prospective tenant is really looking to rent. Someone who isn’t really interested in the unit but just looking for a “victim” may not sit through all the questions. Describe your unit first, then ask about the tenant’s credit history, employment, and monthly income. If they are still interested in your unit and you think they would qualify to rent, ask for information such as their name, cell phone number and email address, and set up an appointment to view the unit.
Calling the tenant before the appointment helps to verify that the number they gave you is accurate and also saves you time in case they forgot or found another unit since you last spoke with them. Let someone know that you are showing the unit, like a spouse or co-worker. You can also arrange for them to call you during the showing, just to make sure you are okay. You might even have a code word to use if you are uncomfortable and need help. Avoid showing your property at night. If you know the neighbor next to your rental property, let them know that you are there showing the property and maybe ask them to pop in to help answer any questions the tenant may have about the surrounding area.
When you arrive at the property, park so that you are not going to be boxed in and can leave in a hurry if you need to. Parking at the curb is preferable to parking in a garage where someone can park behind you. Take a picture of the tenant’s license plate and check his ID.
Be aware of that “sixth sense” that is usually pretty good at letting you know that something is not quite right. If in doubt, don’t enter the house with the tenant, but let them browse through the vacant house at their leisure and you wait outside. Call someone and stay on the phone with them until the tenant leaves. If you go into the house, always walk behind the tenants. Make sure you have a quick exit plan in your head. Put a large wedge under at least one exit door to hold it open during the showing. Letting tenants know that you have another prospective tenant scheduled to show up soon may help to prevent any malicious intentions.
Prospective tenants likewise should also be aware of their safety when going to view a unit. If you cannot verify that this is a legitimate rental agency or that this owner actually owns the unit, go with a friend to view the unit and let someone else know where you are. Stay safe everyone!