October 6, 2015

Case Study - The Application Experience UPDATED

My son is headed to The Ohio State University this Fall for his freshman year of college.

His friend, and future roommate, drove 90 minutes to the campus area and found an apartment last week.  The roommate brought back application forms and co-signer forms for the parents.

My wife will make the 180-mile roundtrip to submit the forms and the application fees.  Here are some of the requested items:
  • Four personal references - for the renter and co-signer!  
  • Multiple questions about criminal past (or present) - for the renter and co-signer!  
  • Current or past drug convictions or rental evictions - for the renter and co-signer!  
  • Any outstanding debts to landlords - for the renter and co-signer!
  • Three signatures for credit report release - one for each source of background report!
These questions are outrageous and over the top, but with no state or national standard, this is a common hassle for America's renters.  Every rental property has its own form and its own application process.

This paperwork also highlights today's improper relationship between the potential customer and the business.

What other business demands 3-page forms and application fees so the customer can commit to writing their largest monthly check each month for a 12-month minimum?

Answer: None.

The only other business we are aware of that requires potential customers to go through a lengthy application process is a country club!  Even mortgage applications are automated.

This isn't to blame the business side of this transaction.  Before RentValet, America's landlord had no other option.  The landlord is the investor and therefore the risk-taker in this relationship  He has every right to evaluate his risk before offering a lease.  He just hasn't had an option until RentValet.

RentValet applicants will never see these questions in the RentValet system.  Nor will RentValet landlords be forced to inconvenience their prospective customers with excessive forms, fees and personal questions.

Why?

RentValet landlords get the relevant screening information from top national reporting sources - the same sources that leading property management companies turn to.  They get these reports for FREE with every RentValet applicant.

The RentValet system will always ask for the minimum necessary information to pull the necessary credit, criminal and other background reports, plus other relevant information such as employment, residence and vehicle information.  And the beauty of RentValet: we'll only ask once.  Applicant data is saved and only a brief update is required in a future rental application.

This experience touches on some of our future marketing messages:
  • RentValet applicants should be wary of landlords who refuse to use RentValet:
    • the applicant is forced to make the trip to complete the application form,
    • the applicant, and any co-applicants, are forced to pay high application fees (the national average is $35),
    • the applicant risks Landlord Fraud (where a landlord collects the application fee with no intention of filling a vacancy), and
    • the applicant must answer excessive and personal questions.
    • Likewise, RentValet landlords should be wary of applicants who refuse to use RentValet:
      • The applicant who asks to be inconvenienced with a drive across town, paper forms and high fees is hoping the landlord will choose to save a few dollars and skip a full background screening - something they get for free at RentValet.
    This is not an easy process to tackle, but we've done it at RentValet.  If RentValet were fully adopted, it would save America's renters over $450 million in rental application fees and over 30 million hours each year.  And property managers would save over 330 million hours.

    Update Aug 25:

    Good news.  Not only did my son pass the criminal background screening, so did his co-signing parents!  He has made his move and has joined the ranks of the third of Americans who rent.  Hopefully he'll use Rentvalet for next year's apartment...

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