Calendar icon July 24, 2023

How to Optimize Your Tenant Move-in Checklist

We get a lot of questions here at Second Nature about the ideal tenant move-in checklist. After all, whether you're new to the realm of property management or a seasoned expert, one common goal unites us all: creating an excellent resident experience

The move-in process marks the beginning of your resident’s journey, and it's an opportunity to make a great first impression. A well-crafted resident move-in checklist can make this process smooth, efficient, and stress-free for all parties involved. 

In this article, we're talking to a leader in the single-family rental property management space to help us delve into the essentials of a resident move-in checklist, its benefits, and how it can enhance the overall resident move-in experience. 

Let's dive in and discover how a simple checklist can streamline your move-ins.

Interested in reading more about resident experience management? Read our State of Resident Experience Report.

Meet the Expert: Janet Sprissler, Broker/Owner, Rent 805

Janet Sprissler has over 20 years of experience in property management and a philosophy of working with residents to bring them value and help communities thrive while providing investors with a positive net operating income. She started her career in Los Angeles with 24 units and grew to a multi-family fixer for over 400-unit buildings throughout Ventura, Los Angeles, and Orange Counties. Janet left multifamily to consult with single-family residential managers to bring her problem-solving philosophy to life. Starting Rent 805 has been a lifelong dream of hers to bring investments, housing, and a positive impact in the property management community.

Janet also received the 2023 Triple Win Property Management Award for Leadership in Resident Experience.

 

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What is a Tenant Move-In Checklist? 

A tenant move-in checklist is a detailed document that records the condition of a rental property at the time a resident moves in, serving as an essential tool to prevent potential disputes over property damage during the lease period. Some consider this a landlord-tenant agreement but can be between property managers and residents, as well.

This checklist is a lifeline for both property managers and new residents. From the state of the kitchen appliances to the condition of the flooring, this checklist serves as a comprehensive record of the property's state. 

Other names for the checklist could include:

  • Move-in move-out checklist
  • Inspection checklist
  • Tenant walkthrough checklist
  • Rental inspection checklist
  • Move-in inspection checklist
  • Move-out inspection checklist
  • Rental walkthrough checklist

Think of it as a snapshot in time, providing a clear reference point for both parties. It's not just a piece of paper; it's a roadmap to a smooth tenancy for everyone involved. Now, that's a win-win!

Note on Language: At Second Nature, we like to say “resident” rather than “tenant,” but will use the terms interchangeably since many property managers have official terminology around these checklists.

Benefits of Using a Move-In Checklist

Using a well-crafted checklist has far-reaching benefits for property owners, property managers, and property residents. We’re breaking down the benefits based on each of these perspectives.

Benefits for Property Owners

  • Protection of Property: A move-in checklist includes a detailed property inspection, protecting owners from damage disputes at the end of a lease. 
  • Compliance with Local Laws: Some jurisdictions require move-in checklists for legal protection.
  • Maintenance Tracking: Early identification of maintenance issues can help property owners address them proactively.

Benefits for Property Managers

  • Streamlined Process: A move-in checklist provides a clear process, helping property managers to stay organized and ensure all essential tasks are completed.
  • Improved Communication: A checklist sets clear expectations for the move-in process, promoting transparency and minimizing misunderstandings with residents for the lease agreement. 
  • Property Protection: By signing off on a detailed checklist, property managers ensure their good work is documented and any issues can be clearly identified as resident responsibility. This is critical when it comes to the security deposit if there is damage. 
  • Increased Efficiency: Using a checklist can speed up the move-in process, maintenance before move-in, etc., saving property managers valuable time.

Benefits for Residents

  • Clarity and Transparency: A checklist provides residents with clear expectations of what the move-in process involves and their responsibilities. You will have a document of pre-existing damage and know what repairs are needed, plus what’s just normal wear and tear.
  • Peace of Mind: A detailed property inspection at move-in provides a record of the property's condition, protecting residents from unjust damage claims. It also helps them ensure any open issues are repaired. 
  • Smooth Transition: A well-organized move-in process can ease the stress of moving, enhancing the resident’s initial experience and ensuring they move into a space that’s ready for safe living. 

 

download rental inspection checklist template

 

What should be on a Move-In Checklist? 

With those benefits, it’s clear that having a move-in checklist is critical for any property manager. Some states require property owners to provide new residents with a renter move-in checklist. 

So, what should you include? Is anything optional? While legally, you may have some leeway, Janet Sprissler says that if you want to truly focus on the best experience, nothing is optional. 

“Everything with us is a must,” Sprissler says. “That’s why it’s a checklist, you have to check everything off. I don’t have any nice-to-haves on my checklist because everyone is treated the same. We don’t do for one new resident what we won’t do for the other.”

Here are the primary things that property managers include in a move-in checklist. Depending on your type of property, real estate investor preferences, and location, this list may change slightly. 

​​A comprehensive resident move-in checklist should include:

  1. Details of the Resident and Landlord/Property Manager: Full names, addresses, and contact information.
  2. Property Details: Full address of the property, the date of the inspection, and the move-in date.
  3. Room-by-Room Assessment: This is the bulk of the checklist. An evaluation of each room's condition, including walls, flooring, windows, countertops, faucets, doors, light fixtures, and any furniture or appliances. This should include specifics like paint condition, carpet stains, appliance functionality, etc. Note if anything needs repair, updates, etc. Include all rooms, such as: Living Room, Dining Room, Kitchen, Bedroom(s), Bathroom(s), Laundry Room, etc.
  4. Exterior Assessment: Notes on the condition of the property exterior, including yard, light fixtures, fencing, roof, gutters, and driveway. Note if anything needs repair, updates, etc.
  5. Utilities: Information about the functionality of utilities such as electricity, water, gas, heating/cooling systems, and internet. You can also include information about a move-in concierge in a Resident Benefits Package through Second Nature.
  6. Safety Features: Status of smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, fire extinguishers, locks, and any security systems. Note if anything needs repair, updates, etc.
  7. Signatures: Both the resident and property manager should sign and date the document to confirm their agreement on the property’s initial condition.
  8. Photographs: Include clear photos of each room and any existing damages to provide a visual record and clarify any potential disputes.

Remember, this is a basic checklist, and depending on the property type and local landlord-tenant laws, there may be additional items to include.

 

Happier residents

 

How to Optimize Resident Move-in Experience

A checklist is the foundation of a wonderful move-in experience. But it’s just the starting point. How does a property management company set itself apart from others in the move-in experience?

Here’s where we went to Janet Sprissler and others in our Triple Win Property Managers community for input. 

Use the Right Tools

It’s easy to forget a step if you don’t have tools that help automate your process and keep your whole team on the same page. 

The most important thing? “You don’t forget a step!” Sprissler says. 

“Without a checklist, you’re pretty much setting yourself up to fail,” she continues. “You will drop things, things will be missed, they’ll move in, and there’s going to be a problem. When you set the tone that ‘this is going to be a hot mess,’ you’re setting yourself up to have disgruntled residents, and disgruntled residents never take care of the property well.”

Sprissler especially recommends Monday.com for tracking the checklist and process with your internal team and tools like Tenant Turner to help on the resident side. They use zInspector to ensure they are on top of property inspections. 

“I’m not big on a bunch of papers around,” she says. “I want to see it all automated, I want any of my team members to be able to dive into Monday.com and see what’s missing or needed right away. That system runs so much, I’m a huge fan of it.”

Treat all Residents with Equal Care

Sprissler says focusing on making residents feel that “WOW!” is critical to their longevity and care for the property. 

At her company, they focus on seamless processes, transparent communication, and even gifts! The key is that every resident gets that same treatment. 

“New residents MUST have a move-in gift,” Sprissler says. “They must all get the procedures we’ve set ahead of time. They must receive their birthday gift, they must receive access to our First of the Month Club. We do a move-in concierge through Second Nature – they must have that touch point. We don’t ever say, ‘Hey, this is going to happen,’ and then it doesn’t happen.”

Design the Ideal Move-in Process

We asked Sprissler how they create an ideal resident experience throughout the move-in process, and this was her top recommendation. 

“We make it seamless. SEAM. LESS,” she said for emphasis! “On the move-in side, our new residents go through Tenant Turner to get onto the property with an access code. Move in and move out is on Tenant Turner. We make it very simple for them to get access to the property. We don’t play around with it.” 

“At every stage of the process, prospective and new residents have had conversations with us so that they’re set up, and they know what’s going to happen next.”

For Sprissler, it’s about thoughtful touches that give residents a sense of a VIP experience. “For example, people get hungry!” Sprissler says. “We have pizzas delivered on a moving day. One of our move-in questions is ‘What’s your favorite pizza?’” 

Be Willing to Go Above and Beyond

Added touches – like the pizza on move-in day – go a long way to establishing the best resident experience and behavior.

“When tenants have those touches, it makes life better. It just does,” Sprissler says. 

They provide birthday gifts and move-in gifts and will add items for pets or children customized to those residents. 

“People often say, ‘How are you recouping that?’” Sprissler says. “I’m recouping that by having great units when I walk through the door. You cannot pay someone to take care of a unit. But if they feel the worth of themselves and how you feel about them, they take great care of the unit.”

Provide a Move-In Concierge

Second Nature includes a move-in concierge as part of the Resident Benefit Program

Sprissler says this is one of the best parts of a seamless move-in. 

“We use a move-in concierge through Second Nature,” Sprissler says. “People really like it when they’re being reached out to, and all of that is handled. Moving is one of the top five stressors people experience in life. You have to realize as a property manager that you have to take some of that pressure off them. Take it off their plate! Are you making a better experience by piling stuff up on them?”

“When people come into my office and say this is the best experience I’ve ever had, I know we’ve done our job,” Sprissler says.

Provide a Renter’s Insurance Program

Making sure that residents have insurance coverage from day one is key. You never know when something could happen, and protecting residents is the foundation of a good experience. 

Second Nature’s RBP includes a renter’s insurance program that has 100% compliance across its use. Sprissler is one of the people who use this program, and she says it’s critical to have for her residents. 

Set Clear Expectations and Incorporate Incentive Fees

Sprissler recommends requesting a tenant ledger so you have the clearest information about the resident before move-in. 

“You can see if they’ve been charged for maintenance requests, you can see what day they pay – it really is a black and white of how they treated that previous unit,” she says. 

And then, of course, that clarity should be reciprocated. Sprissler emphasizes transparency upfront and excellent follow-through. Be clear, but also show that you are willing to listen. 

“Say what you mean and mean what you say,” Sprissler says. “I have Rent 805 rules and regulations, and any delinquency is heavily fined. Those are behavioral fees. For example, my late fee is very high, but then it’s also part of my resident benefit package to forgo that one time during the life of the tenant being in the unit. It just sets expectations.”

Ultimately? 

“If you use good software that does a good job of screening, these questions are all resolved for you.” 

Final Thoughts

Remember, a move-in checklist is not just a document; it's a tool to enhance communication, establish expectations, and create a positive resident experience.

Our top recommendation for ensuring a world-class resident experience is to build a resident benefits program. Second Nature has pioneered the only fully managed Resident Benefits Package for single-family property managers. 

Learn more about resident experience management in our State of Resident Experience Report, or explore the benefits of a Resident Benefits Package.

Keep learning

Chambers Theory Endorses Second Nature’s Resident Benefits Package

Chambers Theory is a world-renowned property management team with clients in more than 30 countries worldwide. They specialize in serving the U.S. military, State Department, and Foreign Services families. Their motto “Real Estate With Intelligence” is more than just a saying. It’s on full display through the introductory videos for landlords and residents on their website in seven languages (Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Vietnamese, French, Croatian, and English) - all spoken fluently by their own property management (PM) team. Since its founding in 2018, Chambers Theory has been achieving extraordinary performance benchmarks. They’ve led the marketplace in delivering the “Golden Triangle of Success” to their clients, which means the lowest vacancy, the highest average rents, and the highest quality of tenants of any property management firm in its same service area. They’ve also donated over $100,000 to local charities and community organizations, while also leading the way in promoting sustainability practices in real estate and property management services. Their outstanding team attributes their success to their ability to develop and utilize their emotional intelligence skills to capacity to care with all their interactions with both landlords and residents. That’s why they fully endorse the Resident Benefits Package at Second Nature! Find out more about what a Resident Benefits Package is, its benefits, and how it can help create a Triple Win for you, as well as your residents and investors. Related: The State of Resident Experience Report

Calendar icon July 18, 2024

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Investor Experience Platform™️ IXP™️

An Investor Experience Platform™️ (IXP) in property management is a suite of products, services, and benefits offered by property management companies to property investors. Just like a resident benefits package is a way to drive value for residents, investors, and property managers, the IBP™️ is an innovative approach to property management that focuses on driving value for an investor's assets and turning that value into profit for the property management company. In this article, we’ll dig into the different features that an Investor Experience Platform™️ can include, and how those benefit not just investors, but property managers and residents, too. What Is an Investor Experience Platform™️ (IXP)? As stated above, an Investor Experience Platform™️ (IXP™️) is a comprehensive suite of services that offer property investors higher quality property management, stability, and profit. An IBP™️ typically includes concierge-level services beyond basic property management – such as property insurance policies, eviction guarantees, rent guarantees, maintenance plans, asset performance reports, etc. These services are aimed at maximizing the investor’s assets, stability and convenience, profitability, and peace of mind in managing their properties. They're commonly managed through an investor experience platform to securely manage and monitor the performance of these assets online, which we'll discuss later. The first step to outlining an IBP™️ is to define what your basic management fee means and covers. If the answer is, it’s collecting rent, handling maintenance, and general communication – does that include maintenance coordination or is that a separate fee? Does it include asset reporting or is that an additional service? In your management agreement, define what the management fee is, what it covers, and how much it is. An IBP™️ can be an effective tool for articulating the new and differentiated things that an investor wouldn’t be able to do on their own and that you are offering beyond basic property management. Articulate your unique and differentiated services (IBP™️) and use that as a tool for positioning and charging for what it’s worth. What’s Included in An Investor Experience Platform™️? An Investor Experience Platform™️ should include a range of solutions to help deliver consistency, insight, and asset protection to a property owner’s portfolio. After all, professional property managers don’t have to be functional managers of a home – they can be strategic partners in the management of financial assets. You might hear services similar to the IBP™️ called an “owner benefit package,” but at Second Nature, we believe that the “investor” term is useful in encouraging a longer-term mindset, and emphasizes the economic value professional property management can bring. According to Eric Wetherington, VP of Strategic Initiatives at PURE Property Management: “As property managers, we need to think more like asset managers. This client made an investment, and we should be guiding that client through managing that investment, not just collecting rent.” To build and manage a winning IBP™️, property managers need an Investor Experience Platform that unlocks scalable product and service customization, digitized onboarding, accounting policy automation, and more. In addition, Investor Experience Platforms provide transparency and convenience for your investors. Here are some of the most valuable services that property managers can offer through an innovative Investor Experience Platform™️. Property insurance program Similar to offering a renters insurance program through an RBP in the lease agreement, property management companies can offer an insurance plan to investors to cut costs and ensure the safety of their assets. Most management agreements will include the requirement that the investor carries insurance on the property and that the property manager is additionally insured. But what if you as the property manager could help manage that for the investor – at scale? Property Insurance for investors should have dynamic pricing based on individual investors’s property portfolio and needs. The benefit beyond flexibility is the savings they’ll see on their premiums while also getting insurance that’s tailored to the needs of their specific property class. At Second Nature, we work primarily with single-family rental properties and small multi-family residences. Property Insurance Programs can bring scale that will drive economic value for the investor over what they could get retail on their own. They’d still have the option to go get their own insurance that meets requirements, but they can pay you a small fee to manage it for them. Rent guarantee An IBP™️ can include a number of financial guarantees to protect property investors and drive ancillary revenue for PMCs. A rent guarantee, or rent protection, ensures a consistent rental income to investors by protecting them against resident defaults or non-payment of rent. If a resident fails to pay rent, the property management company covers the unpaid amount and takes necessary steps for eviction or collection, providing financial security and minimizing the risk for property owners. Rent guarantees work for professional property management companies that have enough properties to balance the loss of rent if a resident doesn’t pay. The risk is low and the additional profit from fees for this guarantee can have a very high ROI, while driving satisfaction and stability for the investor. Plus, if you’re using services in an RBP to help incentivize on-time rent payments, you’ll rarely find yourself out in the cold. Eviction protection guarantee An eviction protection guarantee also goes beyond the normal scope of property management services and can be used as a secondary source of revenue. Eviction Protection is a service provided by property management companies to property investors that offers additional security and financial protection in the event of an eviction. Under this guarantee, the property management company assumes the costs associated with the eviction process, including legal fees and court expenses. It helps alleviate the financial burden on property investors and provides peace of mind by ensuring that they are safeguarded against potential losses resulting from resident evictions. The eviction guarantee helps protect property owners from the complexities and potential costs associated with evictions, ensuring a smooth and efficient resolution to tenant-related issues. Pet guarantees & other guarantees A pet guarantee is a service offered by property management companies to property investors that aims to address any potential issues related to allowing pets in rental properties. It typically involves implementing policies and procedures to ensure responsible pet ownership, such as thorough pet screening, pet agreements, and collecting additional pet deposits or fees. The pet guarantee may also include services like pet damage insurance or assistance with pet-related issues during the lease term. It provides property investors with a framework to accommodate residents with pets while minimizing risks and maintaining the condition of the property. For many residents, finding a pet-friendly apartment increases retention and profitability. They’re willing to stay longer and pay more for a pet-friendly place. And–get this–pet damage is less likely to happen than damage from kids! It’s not a huge risk to the asset, but can provide a big benefit in terms of satisfied, longer-term residents. Maintenance plan Home warranties are a four-letter word for property managers. They’re a massive headache to deal with, and yet there’s high demand for them among property investors. Because of that, most property managers charge a fee for home warranties, for each they have to file. Imagine if there was a world where home warranties weren’t needed. Here’s the thing: Professional property managers already have the vendor network and the know-how to coordinate maintenance jobs. What they don’t usually have is a product that’s priced to give the investor the experience they want. Let’s say right now an investor is paying $50 a month for a cheap home warranty. The warranty only covers 40% of issues and it creates all these extra people and friction in the middle. For anything moderately significant that goes wrong with a property, PMCs generally must contact the investor for permission to get work done. It’s all a massive hassle and loses time in maintenance requests that leave residents frustrated. What if there was a product that costs, say, $150 to $200 a month but it actually covered everything? Instead of having sudden expenses and emergencies, this maintenance plan smooths out the experience and makes it more predictable for the investor. For PMs, it means taking the initiative on fixes without waiting for approval. Imagine a world where you didn’t have to get owner approvals for 95% of maintenance issues – because they’re already budgeted for and already paid for. For residents, it means better maintenance, and faster. Another Triple Win! Asset performance reports Another piece focuses on property managers as asset managers. Think about any investment app, like Robinhood, Acorns, etc. You can log in to these apps any time, 24/7, and see how your stock and investments are performing. In most investment classes, you can see in real time how your assets are performing. Why shouldn’t property investors have that as well? An IBP™️ can include exactly that: a dashboard or online portal that shows investors regular reports on how their property is doing. They could get updates on the value of their home over time, the home price appreciation, rent price over time, and project rent growth, typically maintenance costs and how they’re doing against that, and more. Resident Benefits Package Another piece to include in your IBP™️ is to highlight the benefits of your resident benefits package to your investors. Explain how features like a filter delivery program protect their assets and reduce HVAC repair costs. Show how a renters insurance program can ensure coverage and protection. Give numbers on how credit reporting incentivizes on-time rental payments and helps ensure financially stable renters. Explain how a movie-in concierge saves both time, headache, and money. Each of the pillars of an RBP is critical to encouraging better resident behavior, increasing renter retention and lease renewal rates, reducing vacancies, and more – all primary goals for a property investor. A note about Rent Advance Programs There’s been due buzz about “Rent Advance” offerings, though many advise caution when approaching this financial product. It works in some ways like cash advance programs, which can satisfy urgent needs, but not be more valuable for anyone long term. The way it works is PMs offer to send a year of rent upfront to the investor in a big chunk, and collect monthly from the resident. The investor typically pays a 5-10% premium on the advance, which can be their entire expected return. So the question becomes, where do they put that cash to get a better return instead? Another thing to think about is who would actually use this product. Investors who don’t have enough cash on hand? How does that benefit anyone in the long run? What happens when there’s a big maintenance bill later? Does this encourage better decisions and practices by the investor? To date, there’s been pretty low adoption of this program, which is another sign it may not be hugely beneficial to everyone involved. But plenty of innovations start that way, evolve, and find traction. One case where it might be a value generator is if an investor is looking to take a cash advance and put it toward a down payment for another house. That would benefit the property manager as well, promising more business, and the PM could offer a lower rate for getting more properties to make the financing more attractive than hard money loans or other alternatives. The jury is still out here, it’s an interesting one to track. How Can Investors and Property Managers Benefit From an Investor Experience Platform™️? Investors and property managers can benefit from an Investor Experience Platform™️ in several ways. They’re also great for residents in the sense they build more stability and quality into the renting process. Here are just some of the benefits of an IBP™️. Enhanced investor attraction An Investor Experience Platform™️ provides incentives and advantages that can attract more investors. Financial guarantees and protections against the risks associated with evictions or late payments can increase stability, while services like a maintenance plan can ensure premium care of their property assets without increasing their workload. By offering attractive perks, property managers can differentiate their offerings and generate greater investor interest. Increased investor retention Both IBP™️s and RBPs help build loyalty with residents and investors. By fostering a strong relationship and demonstrating ongoing value, property managers can build trust and loyalty among investors, and retain them over the long term. IBP™️s help establish the stability, transparency, and asset growth for a real estate investment that an investor hopes to achieve. Improved property performance An Investor Experience Platform™️ can also contribute to improved property performance. For example, by offering discounted property management fees or access to professional services at reduced rates, property managers can help investors optimize their returns and reduce costs. Additionally, incentives such as rent guarantees or eviction protection can mitigate risk for investors and attract more capital to the property. Streamlined communication and transparency A well-designed Investor Experience Platform™️ facilitates effective communication and promotes transparency between property managers and investors. This can involve regular reporting on financial performance, property updates, and the sharing of relevant market insights. Transparent and consistent communication builds trust and confidence among investors, fostering a positive and long-lasting relationship. Competitive advantage A comprehensive Investor Experience Platform™️ can give property managers a competitive edge in the market. When investors have access to exclusive benefits and advantages, they are more likely to choose a property managed by a company that offers a compelling package – and to recommend it to others. Say hello to increased investment inflow and a stronger market position for your PMC. Should You Make an Investor Experience Platform™️ Mandatory? The first thing most property managers ask us when we’re talking about an RBP or an IBP™️ is: Should I make this mandatory for all investors or do I make it a flexible opt-in/opt-out program? Unlike RBPs, where best practices are more proven and established, different PMs are taking different approaches with their IBP™️s. Some have a mandatory level of service set at a flat price. Others may say they’re fine offering a base level of service without these differentiated products, giving investors the choice to simply pay a baseline management fee and opt out of the IBP™️ premium service. Some may offer a baseline to all investors and then give them the chance to opt in for premium IBP™️ services. There are a lot of ways to do it. With the RBP, we’ve found that making it mandatory does not generate nearly as much pushback as people expect – and can be a strong value add overall. Final Thoughts About an Investor Experience Platform™️ The Investor Experience Platform™️ is an innovative way to generate ancillary income and create more value for investors and residents. Similar to Second Nature’s premier Resident Benefits Package, the IBP™️ can deliver high-quality service for investor experience – and help create a triple win for investors, residents, and property management companies. The IBP™️ reinforces the value of a professional property management company for investors and helps differentiate you from the crowd. Stay tuned to learn more about the latest in the IBP™️ space, or learn more about how a resident benefits package can launch a whole new level of value for your PMC.

Calendar icon July 17, 2024

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