You know what it’s like. You’re driving around, writing down phone numbers off “For Rent ” signs, calling landlord ads off Craigslist and other internet sites. No one is answering your phone calls (except those lovelies at The Rental Girl who return all calls within 24 hours!) and you end up leaving a ton of messages. Then you wait. And wait. Maybe you get a call back once in a while. But most of these messages go unreturned.
Why do so many Los Angeles landlords fail to return calls? What’s their deal?
We’ll break it down for you. Here’s what you can do to ensure your calls get returned:
1. Understand the landlord’s state of mind.
As rental agents, we get hundreds of calls a day and so it’s easy for us to sympathize with the landlord who doesn’t necessarily rent out properties full time. The person might have a family, a job, and sometimes two or three jobs. We understand how overwhelming it can be for them. Even property management companies do not just handle vacancies full time. They are also managing rentals, dealing with leaky faucets, backed up sinks, and many other things. Think of how hard it is to find a rental. It’s like a full time job, right? Well, it’s just as much work for a landlord to rent out their vacancy.
2. When you leave a voicemail, make sure your message is BRIEF.
The landlord or property manager have a lot going on other than this vacancy you are calling about. On top of that, they are probably getting many calls on this unit. They do not have 5 minutes to listen to your life story over a voicemail and they probably will hit delete before the end of the message anyway. Simply leave your name, phone number, the property address you’re calling about and maybe a very brief message after that.
3. Repeat your phone number twice.
Perhaps landlords are not calling you back because you forgot to leave a number or you left it too fast or you did not speak clearly. So, when leaving a voice mail, leave your number slowly and repeat it twice. I cannot stress how important this is.
4. Follow up with one text and one email, if those options are available.
In the text and email, let the landlord know you recently left a voice mail and you are very interested in the vacancy and you would like a call back to schedule a viewing.
5. Follow up with a call the next day, 24 hours later.
This is a tricky suggestion. You don’t want to get crazy. We have had people call us at 7pm and then again the next morning at 8am and then again at 9am. This is a bit of overkill. “I really need to see this place, I really need to move ASAP! Why haven’t you called back?” Well, probably because the landlord was eating dinner when you called the night before and now he is eating breakfast and checking his messages at the same time. He’s a busy guy and has to get to work and has a lot of messages to listen to and a lot of call backs to make. And now he is frustrated with you because you have left so many messages that you are taking up his time. He is probably not going to rush to call you back.
Give the landlord 24 hours to call you back. 24 hours is a reasonable amount of time. Now, for a landlord to take longer than 24 hours to return your call is unreasonable. You have to assume that if they went on vacation, or something like that, then they would have taken down their ads and for rent signs. So, if the ad is active and the for rent sign is up, they should return your call within 24 hours. If they don’t call back, it may be because you called from your cell and the reception was spotty and the message did not go through. Maybe they deleted the voice mail on accident. Assume that if they did not call you back in 24 hours it’s not because they went on vacation, but because they did not get your voice mail. So, leave another brief message and be kind. Leave your name, number twice, and which property you are calling about. Then let them know you called yesterday and you want to make sure they got your message. That’s it. That’s all you need to say.
6. Ok, so it’s been 48 hours if you have still not received a call back. Now you can start to pester… a little.
I once applied for a rental years back and I was very persistent, but I was nice about it. It turned out the landlord had a death in the family. After a week, she called me back and said that she wanted to rent to me because I was so patient. And she knew I really wanted the place based on how persistent I was.
7. After 24 to 48 hours you can leave a little more detailed voice mail.
Things to consider are: you don’t want to sound annoyed or angry, you want to sound positive (you love the apartment and you really want to live there). Let them know that you don’t want to bug them, but that you are actively looking for a property and their unit looks fantastic. You can say: “If it’s rented or unavailable at the time, if you would please just call me back and let me know so I can cross this unit off my list, I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you.”
8. Drive by the property and do your research.
Make sure you read the ad thoroughly, paying close attention to the features and details. Check out the photos and watch the video tour if there is one. Can you tell from the video and the photos if this home will meet your needs? Drive by and check out the neighborhood. Do you like the area? Is there enough parking? When you call a landlord and leave a detailed message, say that you have driven by the property and like what you see. A landlord is more likely to call you back if he knows you are serious. You can prove you’re serious if you have done your research
9. Have your application package filled out and ready to go.
Again, you want to prove to the landlord that you are serious. When you leave a message with a landlord, let him know that you have an application filled out and your materials are all gathered. Let him know you will be ready to submit an application right after you have viewed the property.
10. Understand your state of mind.
You’ve been looking for a rental forever, you’ve called a zillion places and you’ve seen a zillion places. You’re trying to move, work, and live your life at the same time and you are getting frustrated at this process. You’re annoyed, you’ve met some crazy landlords, seen some horrible vacancies, you’re getting depressed and worried that you’re not going to find a home. Shelter is a basic necessity of life and the search for a suitable roof to put over our heads can cause a lot of stress. This is your state of mind and now you are picking up the phone and leaving a message. How you are going to come across on the voicemail? You want to leave a good first impression with the person who is possibly going to be your future landlord.
To sum it up:
You want to leave a pleasant voice mail that’s going to entice the landlord to call you back. You do this by understanding the landlord’s perspective, understanding your perspective, and by leaving a brief message, speaking slowly and repeating your phone number twice.
“Top 10 Tips” is a series of helpful tips brought to you by the lovely real estate agents at The Rental Girl . The Rental Girl is a leasing agency with branches throughout Los Angeles. Each branch is operated by a unique agent who specializes in her area. All agents at The Rental Girl are California licensed Real Estate agents who specialize in helping renters and home buyers with all their real estate needs.