How to Spot a Fake Renter—And How to Use Them to Your Advantage

Tips to deal with "potential renters" who actually have no intention of renting.

By Jessica Fiur

jfiur thumbnailWe all know that there are often fake apartment ads on sites such as Craig’s List that are either scams to get money directly or are used by shady leasing agents (never you or anyone on your team, of course) to get the info of potential renters in your Rolodex (address book? smart phone? brain chip?) so they can pull the bait and switch and try to unload whatever they have left in their inventory.

But what about “fake” renters? And, no, I’m not talking about a “potential renter” coming in who’s actually one toddler on another toddler’s shoulders wearing a long trench coat. Although that would be adorable. I’m talking about people who come in and ask to be shown an apartment, but, for whatever reason, actually have no intention of renting. Here are some tips on how to spot them—and how to actually use them to your advantage.

Comparison shoppers. These potential renters probably have an apartment they love somewhere, but just want to see what other similar communities offer—better price, cooler amenities, whatever. These types of people might be hard to suss out, but you can gather some clues—for example if you hear them talking together about other apartments they’ve seen or know exactly what questions to ask you already (because they’ve been there, done that with multiple places). Maybe you’ll wow them and convince them to rent with you instead. But, if they’re just looking for bargaining chips to bring back to the other apartment (“Apartment XYZ is offering us a one-bedroom for $200 less. Can you match that?), they can still be useful to you. How? Intel on the competition, baby! When they ask you questions, ask back. “Is that something you’ve seen at other places?” or “Is this comparable to other places you’ve seen?” or “You’re seeing another apartment behind my back, aren’t you. AREN’T YOU? Don’t deny it, I recognized that guilty look in your eyes when I showed you my gym.” If it looks like you’re not going to get rent out of them, you might as well get useful information.

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“Oh, I’m definitely in the market for a new place. And those pants are really flattering on you, too.”

Parents looking for apartments for their kids. These people are probably looking to get as much information as they can about a few places. (This doesn’t just apply to helicopter parents, by the way. It can also be friends or family members helping out someone who is moving to a new area but isn’t there physically yet to check out places themselves.) These people are probably gun shy about laying down a deposit, especially since they’re not the ones who are going to be living there. (Unless they’re a special kind of smothering. Mom, is that you?) But here is where you can pump up your community, so that maybe you’ll get the lease later. Be armed with lots of information about the community, in particular, security features, how quiet the place is, the fact that that nice boy who rents in apartment 3B is single—and a doctor. You want to impress them enough so they bring back the actual renter. Also, be prepared with lots of branded swag, because after awhile apartments start to look similar, so you want them to remember the community name and number. Plus who doesn’t like swag?

People who are just looking for fun. Maybe it’s a couple test driving the idea of moving in together, or maybe it’s someone who is thinking about moving down the road, or maybe it’s just how some people get their jollies (#nojudgments). These people have no intention of leasing with you today. But still, maybe they will some day, so it never hurts to impress them with your community. But these people could also provide a no-pressure way for you to perfect your tour and your sales pitch. If you screw up, it’s not like you lost a renter, and you’ll be better prepared for when actual potential renters come. Plus, sitting all day is really bad for you, so now you have a chance to get up from behind your desk and do some walking, which is good for your heart. So these people are basically saving your life. Or at least helping you reach your daily 10,000 steps on your Fitbit. Whatever.

How do you deal with “fake” renters, or people you know right off the bat aren’t going to rent from you? We’d love to hear your thoughts. Post your comments on our Facebook page or send a tweet to @MHNOnline or @jfiur.