Landlording: The Importance of a Hard Copy Application


It’s been awhile since I leased up a property myself. For the past few deals, I was a busy bee consumed with working in high-tech, so I outsourced the job to my real estate agent. At the time, it was a welcomed relief to have one less thing to worry about.

These days, I have a lot more free time to operate with, so it was a no-brainer that I do it myself and save money on the sourcing fee for Rental Property SH #3. During the process, I learned quite a few things, and I will be sharing them with readers through a series of landlording articles.

For today, I want to emphasize the importance of printing out hardcopy application forms.

Too High-Tech?

When it comes to technology, anyone who knows me knows that I’m probably the most technologically challenged and illiterate guy there is. Although I work as an engineer, I really don’t keep up to date with the latest and greatest gadgets, and I hardly even know how to use my iPhone…

With that said, I thought it would be a “great idea” to make life more simple for everyone, and during the leasing process for Rental Property SH #3, I decided to forego printing application forms. I figured, everyone is so darn tech savvy today, and with smartphones as prevalent as ever, it ought to be a seamless process for me to e-mail a prospective tenant an electronic copy ONLY and have them fill it out electronically, and finally e-mail it back to me.

Boy was I wrong…

During the first week, almost every single prospective tenant would ask me how to fill out an application form during the private showings.

I simply smiled and said, “Well, I have your contact information already (courtesy of Craigslist, Zillow, Trulia, etc.), so if you’re interested, I’ll e-mail/text you an electronic application form immediately after we are done with the showing here.

They would always reply, “That’s great, so I’ll print it out, sign it, scan it, and e-mail you back?

To that, I would reply, “No, you don’t have to print it out or sign by hand. You can simply fill it out electronically, e-sign, and text/e-mail it back to me.

OK, awesome! I’ll get it back to you ASAP…

Of course, they never did…

Going Back to the Old School

Was I making life entirely too difficult for these people? Since everyone is on their smartphones/gadgets 24/7 these days, I thought it would be a no-brainer to implement this new leasing technique… As soon as they left, they would receive an application form in their inbox from me… All they had to do was fill out the form electronically and send it right back over…

After about 10 failures to launch, I scrapped the plan of using a softycopy form. I got myself a printer and printed out hardcopies, instead!

Now, when prospective tenants showed interest in the unit, I would hand them a tangible application form.

Though of course, they would still ask me, “So, I fill this out and scan it back to you?

To which, I would say, “No, let’s keep things simple. Fill out the form (by pen), sign it, take a snapshot of the application with your smartphone (seriously doesn’t EVERYONE have a smartphone these days!?!) and text the form back to me.

Bingo! We had applications starting to trickle in… I was relieved to see that at least taking an image of the application form wasn’t too far-fetched… I’m glad I didn’t have to revise my methods yet again and ask applicants to scan/fax over their forms… 😉

So, chalk this one up as a learning experience — Hardcopy application forms are STILL vital, today, to increasing your odds of getting a prospective tenant to submit an offer on your rental property.

What’s the reason? Well, the hardcopy gives a prospective tenant something tangible. When they walk out with the form, the application is a reminder of your rental unit… When they get home and put it aside, they’ll most likely glance upon it again later and be reminded to follow up. When it comes to softcopy applications, it’s out of sight and out of mind… And with the amount of texts/emails people get these days, it’s probably only a matter of minutes/hours before you’re long forgotten and a distant memory.

I tried my best to get with the times and be more high-tech… I also felt good about saving some trees… but after 10+ showings and no applications coming in, I knew that I was doing something wrong!

For once, I was ahead of the times… But as usual (when it comes to technology), I was still doing something wrong! 😉

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No Nonsense Landlord
5 years ago

I use a fill-able PDf file. I also have hard copies with me. Most prefer to have the pdf version, so I have a copy on my phone and can email them during the showing, assuming they qualify.

Good luck on the renting of your property!

No Nonsense Landlord
5 years ago

Just another tip.

If you have shown it to 10 prospects, you are either not pre-screening well enough, or are over-priced. Do not waste your time, prescreen to show only qualified candidates.

If you have shown it to 2-3 what you think are qualified candidates, (ready to rent, want the area, have the money and credit score, etc.) all based on your conversation, you are not the best value in the area, and are over priced.

Vacancy is your number one avoidable expense as a landlord. But vacancy is cheaper than a bad tenant.

5 years ago

LOL I must be the one person over 30 who doesn’t have a smart phone! I’m too frugal to get one since the internet is readily available at work and at home but I do have unlimited text! 😀

I always do hard copy and want them to return to me as hard copy. Then I email or give them a copy of their application/rental agreement.

The Professor
5 years ago

This is really interesting. I never would’ve thought of that. I’ll keep this in mind if I ever have a rental property. Thanks for sharing!