5 tips for those who want to be taken seriously while searching for an apartment online.

There it is!!!  That perfect apartment for rent on Zillow.com.  Is it really as great as the pictures?  You click some buttons to request a viewing.

Wait!!!  Will the landlord take you seriously, and contact you to schedule a viewing?

Consider things from one landlord’s point of view.

My last five days have been spent screening tenants to rent my townhouse in Myrtle Beach.  I listed online using Zillow.com.  Zillow is free, and lists on several other sites including Trulia and Hotpads.

My only rental property is my biggest investment, and I need great tenants who pay their bills, take care of the place, and get along with the neighbors. Other landlords might have multiple properties, but we are the same, and we want insight into prospective tenants.  We aren’t going to sign a lease with a random somebody who we know nothing about.

Over the last 5 days, 56 leads were generated, and placed in my Zillow inbox.  My voicemail had another 12 messages with leads.  I may have done some idiotic foolish, crazy things before, but I am not scheduling 68 strangers to view my townhouse.

As a landlord, I am going to filter through the leads, and generate a short list of my best candidates.  I’ll make excuses, ignore, or let almost all of the leads cool off.

The tips below will help you get on my short list, and invited for a viewing.

  1. Give your whole name.
  2. Answer questions in the online profile.
  3. Don’t ask stupid questions.
  4. Social media must represent you well.
  5. Use the Zillow comment line wisely.

I’m not that creative, so I only changed the names and details slightly for the following examples from my last days of screening possible future tenants.


John wants to schedule a viewing.  Out of 68 inquiries, does John believe he will be at the top of my list?  I don’t know anything about John.  Myrtle Beach is probably filled with 5,000 guys named John, and I have no way to find out anything about this John.  I want a solid tenant, and I have no way of assessing this random John guy.  Maybe John was the perfect candidate, but other names caught my interest, and I forgot about John.


Lorrenzo Von Matterhorn also wants information.  I type Lorrenzo Von Matterhorn into google and facebook search scanning for info.  It is an unusual name, and only one match pops up. Lorenzo’s Facebook picture features a filthy apartment littered with beer cans, and Lorenzo’s 8 buddies flipping the bird to the camera. I remember Lorrenzo, but he doesn’t get a response.

Julie Smith

Julie Smith requests information.  Her profile is filled out and stating a job with State Farm, earnings of $60k per year, and a credit score between 700 and 750.  Julie doesn’t smoke and has one cat.  Julie wasn’t lucky enough to have a distinctive name, and there are 12 Julie Smiths associated with Myrtle Beach. However, only one of them works for State Farm. Facebook portrays a woman who appears stable, with no red flags. After the Facebook and google search, Julie gets a return call to schedule a viewing.


Billy wants to schedule a viewing and also asks “How many bedrooms?”  The ad described a 3 bed, 2 bath townhouse.  Billy asked a stupid question, and he’s out.


Sallie submits the following question.  “I won’t have the 1st mouth’s rent until the end of the month.  Is there any way, I could move in fist, and pay you after I get my pay check?”  Sallie thinks I am stupid, and Sallie is out.

Jennie Whitaker

Jennie Whitaker requests a viewing, and leaves the comment “My family which includes my husband and 2 daughters are relocating to Myrtle Beach from Iowa next week.  My Job with Hilton transferred me.  Please give me a call.  I have some questions.”  Her profile is filled in with an annual salary of $120,000 and a credit score between 650 and 700.  Google search shows a great family under the name Jennie Whitaker living in Iowa.  The account leads to husband Lucas Whitaker’s account that includes more matching family pics, and an IT job.  I want to sign a lease immediately, but this family looks solid.

Angela Williams

Angela Williams requests a viewing, and fills out enough of the profile that I identify her Facebook profile.  However, I also find Angela’s mug shot for her shoplifting charge, in North Myrtle Beach, from February.  Angela is out.  Angela’s Facebook profile didn’t have any red flags.  Even if she had made it onto my short list, I pay for a service that does background checks, on my finalists.  Hopefully, that service would have alerted my of Angela’s criminal past.


Jeremiah asks “I see the townhouse is furnished, but I have my own furniture.  Can your stuff be put into storage?”  Intelligent question from Jeremiah who might have been a great tenant, but our needs just aren’t a match, and he is out.

In the End.

When all was said and done, only 4 sets of people were invited to view the townhouse. Only 2 showed up for the tour.  

Jennie and her family drove from Iowa, arrived in Myrtle after 10 PM, toured the townhouse, signed a lease, and slept there that night.

Posted in Rental.

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