Converting Renters into Buyers by Ian Palast

Most people who rent have dreams of home ownership. Learn how to become the agent they turn to when it's time.

A lot of agents feel it’s a waste of time to work with renters. The fee for helping someone find a rental is so much less than what you earn by helping buyers find homes. And, that’s true. However, most renters have dreams of eventual home ownership. When you help them with their rental needs, provide them with resources for building credit and stay in touch, when they’re ready to own, they call you. Working with renters is a great source of buyer leads.

To establish yourself as an agent who is great with helping renters, you must first have developed a relationship with a marketing representative from your preferred title company. Title companies don’t just handle the details of escrows–getting your transactions completed. Their marketing team has the responsibility of getting more agents to work with them. There are several ways they can help you way before you have transaction needs.

  1. Provide a net sheet calculator. With this tool, they can pull tax information and loan balances from public records. This saves you time and provides better information for your clients.
  2. Compile contact information for residents within a specific geographic area–your selected farm, such as an entire subdivision or two.
  3. Gather information about a certain demographic such as people with over a certain income level. If you only want to work with people with incomes over $200K, your title marketing rep is a great source of information.
  4. Research properties where the owner address and mailing address don’t match. When this happens, it’s likely the home is a rental. When you find multiple mailing addresses that match, those are likely to be investors. You can reach out to them to assist in keeping their properties rented, thus growing your list of potential future home buyers, earning a fee from the investors for finding the renters and earning their trust as an agent should they ever decide to sell the rental properties. Having this information and working with it can create some great win-win-win situations.

The information from the title marketing representative can be provided in a CSV file which you can then upload into your CRM software. You would then assign appropriate contact campaigns to each individual.


There are many types of campaigns for working with these people. One that is recommended and used by many agents is an 8-touch program. With this, you reach out in some form or another to each new contact once a day for eight days. Vary each contact between phone, print or video email, text, even mail. The purpose of this program is to make them familiar with your name and the services you provide. 

Another great campaign is to reach out by the method of your choosing once each month for a full year. Again, this is to build relationships and trust in you as an agent. Do not just send information about how great you are. Send information that is beneficial to them. If they’re renters, send tips of building credit or the benefits of home ownership. As the end of their rental year approaches, offer to help them find another rental, renew their lease or, if they’re ready, buy a home. The personal touch makes you the person they think of when the topic of real estate comes up or when they’re ready to move from a rental to purchasing a home.

If they already own, send information about neighborhood market values, home repair or maintenance services and so on.

Another source of renter-related business involves introducing yourself to property managers. Offer to send clients who aren’t ready to buy to consider renting their properties. Ask for their overflow leads of people wanting to rent. It happens all the time that properties receive more calls about available rentals than they can handle. If that property doesn’t have room for them, help those renters locate elsewhere, preferably within your real estate farm. Put those property managers into a campaign as well to stay top of mind when they have a need.

Scripts & Tools

Some agents want and need exact scripts to memorize for the most common situations they’ll encounter. Others prefer to wing it based on their knowledge and experience. Due to my experience, I have determined that there are some questions that work best when phrased a very specific way.

When first talking with anyone who has expressed a real estate need, I always incorporate these four questions into my conversations to establish their needs and urgency so I can determine how I need to work with them.

  1. How soon do you need to be moved? The answer to this question tells me whether or not they have an urgent need and allows me to consider, with everything I have going on, how and when serving them fits into my workflow.
  2. Are you interested in buying or selling? Renting or investing? The answers here help me to narrow my focus on what they need from me.
  3. How long have you been looking to buy/sell/rent? If they’ve been looking for over a month, I ask additional questions to determine what their experience has been and what has kept them from moving ahead. Perhaps they have very specific needs, unrealistic expectations or are underqualified. Each of those answers tells me a lot about if I want to work with them or how I can help.
  4. What agent are you currently working with? Don’t ask “Are you working with an agent?” The first question here is an open-ended question. It requires them to provide a name of who they are working with. The second question allows them to give a more vague answer which doesn’t help me at all. They may say they’re not working with another agent, but they may have contacted several in the area and be in multiple agents’ campaigns–playing one agent against another–which wastes everyone’s time because we all draw information from the same database of properties.

Once you’re satisfied that you can reasonably help these people, close by asking for an appointment to meet with them, get more details about their needs and establish a solid working relationship. With renters, be prepared to provide a rental guide and questionnaire that lets them know you only work with qualified renters (having no eviction or late payments), what you will do for them (step-by-step), and what to expect when you find properties that fit their needs and budget.

An example of what I tell my potential rental clients my team and I will do for them is this:

  • Confirm the availability of your selected properties prior to showing.
  • Cork by appointment only and expect rental showings to last anywhere from 2 to 4 hours, providing you a selection to choose from.
  • Assist with preparing your application and supporting documents.
  • Hand deliver your application and application fee to the property manager or listing agent for you.
  • Assure you success in that we will show you the top 5-9 properties. You’ll lease the best home for the lowest rent with the least amount of hassle.

For those who are relocating to the area, we tell them the following:

  • You must have a job in the local area, an offer letter or job transfer or be retired.
  • We will preview houses for you and provide additional photos or short videos of them. The maximum number of houses we will do this for is three. 
  • Owners must be paying at least $500 in commission. 
  • No retainers are required. 
  • Clients are responsible for any amount up to $500 that the property manager doesn’t pay.

These stipulations make working with renters so much easier.

During interviews and follow-up conversations with renters. We ask a lot of open-ended questions, getting them to talk about their needs, dreams and aspirations around home ownership. We encourage them to set goals and work toward a plan for home ownership. We get them thinking about ways to save money such as renting a smaller home at a lower monthly rent and saving the difference toward a down payment on a property.

If clients are renting because they don’t have good enough credit to own, we refer them to qualified credit repair specialists. Sadly, in the US education system we are not taught how credit works and how to work it to your advantage. Become the source of resources of knowledge and understanding for your clients to improve their credit rating so they can convert from being renters to being buyers.

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