Remember the good ol’ days of listing apartments and houses?
- Taking out a classified ad in the local newspaper to inform readers as they sip on their morning coffees.
- Posting a sign on the front lawn for cars driving by.
- Hand delivering applications to prospective renters for them to fill out either on the spot or snail mail back.
In today’s world, the above tasks are mostly handled online. Listing sites such as Craigslist, Zillow, Trulia, and Realtor have replaced newspaper ads and lawn signs. Marketing on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have also become increasingly popular. It makes sense. Listing and advertising a property online allows the landlord to reach a much wider audience than just counting on cars driving by or people subscribing to a certain newspaper.
Once the landlord attracts a pool of applicants, the next task is to have them submit applications. Curiously, many landlords still handle this task manually with paper applications. Online rental applications have been increasing in usage over the past few years but have not caught on nearly as fast as digital listing and marketing.
Landlords and property managers, if you are still using paper applications, here are reasons to make the switch NOW!
Renters Highly Prefer It
The National Multihousing Council (NMHC) reported that 88% of apartment residents say that, if they were given the option, they would use the internet to look for an apartment and fill out an online application – all before visiting the community.1
Online rental applications save renters a great deal of time and hassle because they eliminate the painful task of repetitive data entry. Renters often apply to multiple listings and are forced to fill out the same information over and over on paper applications. With online applications, renters can simply fill out their information once and submit it to as many landlords as necessary. It can take 30 minutes to fill out an application by hand but it only takes a few seconds to share it.
Ok so you, the landlord, can save renters from banging their heads against the wall, but how does this benefit you? The answer is you’ll attract more applicants. Simply include the application link as part of your listing. A renter can click the link and instantly share his/her completed application. Removing the time and hassle barrier will help you increase your applicant pool.
Saves You Time and Hassle
Paper applications are difficult to organize and keep track of. You’ll probably need a combination of paper clips, staples, folders, sticky notes, and cabinets.
Online rental applications, on the other hand, make it simple to organize. Here is where using the appropriate rental/property management service is key. The good ones automatically organize all the applications for you on a single dashboard. They also present the applicants’ information in a manner that makes it simple to digest and compare.
By handling the application process online, you also remove the need for printers and fax machines. Not all renters own printers and even fewer own fax machines. Make it easy for renters to send you their information!
Online rental applications allow for seamless integration with other rental processes. Again, a good rental management service provider is important here. The right platform should allow renters to submit online applications along with their credit, background, and evictions reports. When you decide which applicant to accept, the platform should allow you to approve him or her and have the applicant’s data automatically transferred to the property and lease. Paper applications would require more data entry (ugh). It also forces both the landlord and renter to use multiple services to complete the application process.
It’s Safer and Securer
An application contains a renter’s most private information. There are a lot of confusing and varying laws around the protection of personal identifiable information (PII). This means that you can’t just throw out a rejected application into the trash bin. Applications need to be retained to protect yourself against discrimination lawsuits. There are changing requirements in state laws on how long records need to be kept so make sure to read up on those!
Online rental applications make archiving significantly easier and eliminates the need to worry about proper disposal of paper documents. However, it is still best practice to download and save the applications on your own computer or USB drive for backup purposes. This is a lot safer than only storing paper records in your house (think fires, floods).
Have we convinced you to make the switch to online rental applications? If you are using paper, what’s stopping you from changing?
For those who use online rental applications, how has your experience been?
Photos courtesy of Flickr creative commons – saintseminole