Steve Davis is the CEO of Total Wealth AcademyLLC, where he guides in using real estate to build wealth and create passive income.
I once had a potential client come to me and complain that it took him 40 hours per week to manage its 40 rental properties. In response, I told him that managing my 20 properties only took me six hours a month. Of course he wanted to know how I was doing, and I told him to be a bear first and then a rabbit. What does that mean? Let me explain.
People naturally think that the way to be successful in sales is to be super nice with the customer. In fact, they push it to the point that it’s almost saccharin. They want to appear like a rabbit: to show the customer that they care and that they will be there for them, whatever the need. However, if there is a problem later on, they tend to make it right.
My client did. He was a bunny at getting tenants to sign the lease, but would be a bear if a repair was needed. When a customer called to say that the AC stopped working, he wondered how they were using it. He would blame the tenant for the outage. What he didn’t know was that he was creating problems for himself.
I explained to him that the opposite approach works when it comes to rentals. Any landlord looking to create the ideal landlord-tenant relationship has to come across as a bear from the start. There’s a time to be a bunny, but that’s not until the lease is signed.
Be the bear to protect the property.
As a landlord, you don’t just want to attract a tenant. You want to attract a tenant who respects you, your property and the agreements they made when signing the lease. Unfortunately, not every tenant does.
Some tenants are constantly late with their rent. Others may damage your property and take no responsibility for it. Those kinds of tenants are looking for a rental property because their last landlord evicted them. Now they are looking for a rabbit owner who will not cause them any problems. But when they encounter a landlord who is straightforward, level-headed and professional – a landlord bear – they turn and run away.
Be the bunny to keep good tenants.
When it comes to being a landlord, keep in mind that maximizing your profits requires maximizing your tenant retention. Every time a tenant moves out, it costs you. Anything you can do to retain a tenant will work in your favor. You might think that being a bear works against you when it comes to tenant retention, but in reality, the opposite is true.
Landlords who started out as bunnies will eventually have to play the part of the bear. There will come a time when they have to stand their ground and hold the renter accountable for his side of the lease terms. At that point, the tenant will say, “He came across as a nice guy, but turned out to be the exact opposite.” Once that happens, they begin to keep their eyes peeled for another rental property.
Doing it the other way around is much more likely to work in your favor. Start by branding yourself as a bear so that the tenant knows they can always expect the bear. But if you can be the bunny when it’s appropriate, the tenant will say, “He came across as a real jerk at first, but turned out to be a nice guy.” That is a tenant who stays.
I once got a call from a tenant who told me that the air conditioning in their rental stopped working. I remembered that the tenants were a married couple and the woman was pregnant. So I told the husband that he would hear from the air con repairer in ten minutes, and that if the problem couldn’t be fixed, we would put a window in the bedroom to keep his wife cool. Do you think that tenant will ever leave me? Not in a million years.
In general, you should remember that a landlord-tenant relationship is a business relationship. It won’t work if you don’t set boundaries and expectations. A tenant may expect you to keep your contract at the end of the contract as long as he loves them, but they should always expect you to do it like a bear.