Don’t waste my time — I’ve none to spare

The accidental landlord reveals her marketing strategy: give would-be tenants the third degree and make them beg for viewings.
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For a few days after I started advertising my soon-to-be-available four-bedroom maisonette, I refused to let anyone see it. I had several calls from interested parties, but I wouldn’t show any of them round.
I know it sounds counter-intuitive — some would say utterly bonkers — to turn viewers away, but I have only a limited amount of time to spend marketing a property so I don’t want to waste any of it showing someone around unless I am 99 per cent sure they will like it, and that I’ll like them.
In the early days I used to rush to show the property to anyone who showed even the slightest interest, but not anymore. These days I’m too busy juggling work, Year 8 revision with my son, Year 10 revision with my daughter and getting food on the table to waste my evenings with viewers who “might possibly want to move sometime soon but they are not really sure what they are looking for”.
Also, impatient person that I am, I know that I will quickly run out of energy and enthusiasm. By the 10th viewing I will be standing on the doorstep saying: “Look, do you want it or not?” That’s not the best marketing strategy.
So now when anyone enquires about the property, I put them through the third degree on the phone so I can weed out the time wasters. I want to find out when they are looking to move, what type of property they are looking for, what’s their budget, if they have got a job and if they can afford the deposit.
To make absolutely sure they know exactly what I am offering, I also pack my ad with lots of detail about the property and check they have read it all the way through to the end. Most of them haven’t.
On this occasion the first person to respond to my ad was looking to move in immediately, but my place wasn’t going to be vacant for a couple of weeks. The second caller sounded really keen initially but while we chatted on the phone it became apparent that she was merely window shopping. She wasn’t looking to move until early August “or maybe September”, so I didn’t bother to show her round either.
Another guy was claiming benefits and hadn’t spotted that the ad stated in bold that I couldn’t accept DSS or housing benefit payments.
One chap wanted an unfurnished property and even though I had stated the flat came fully furnished, and included photos of said furniture, he somehow had overlooked this information. I turned them all away.
A disabled lady was miffed that I wouldn’t show her the property, but I was worried her wheelchair would get stuck in the hallway. Plus, the bathroom is upstairs. While she was on the phone I looked on Zoopla and suggested she checked out three single-storey flats that looked more suitable, but she was still irritated I wouldn’t show her mine.
A letting agent, who was also marketing my property, had done half a dozen viewings before I had done any at all, but dragging lots of people round properties they aren’t in the least bit interested in is part of an agent’s job description. Mine is to achieve the most for minimal effort.
One caller complained to me that he had never had to work so hard to persuade a landlord to show him a property, but that seemed to make him want it even more. He was the first I agreed to take round, and bingo, he offered me the full asking price before he had even seen the bedrooms.
I stuck fast to my tried and trusted game plan — and I proved it works.
  • Victoria Whitlock lets three properties in south London. To contact Victoria with your ideas and views, tweet @vicwhitlock

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