Capturing The Basement Tenant

This week we heard that there are nearly 150,000 basement and other types of units in the rental housing industry that are not condos or multi-unit residential.  Now there’s an untapped market if I ever saw one!  The majority of these units have to be basement apartments.  There just aren’t a lot of single family dwellings being rented and there are a limited number of rooming or boarding houses.  Therefore, it’s the basement tenant that we need to get.  Surely, living in a space where the sun doesn’t shine is reason enough for some of these people to move.  In studying the situation, we need to take a look at two things: what got them there in the first place and what’s going to get them out.

Bad credit or no credit is one consideration.  The perception that the accommodation is cheaper might be another.  Afraid of heights might be the case for a handful.  Not aware of all the options is the most likely reason.

There are some notable preconceptions with people who rent basement apartments.  Affordable is their number one motivation to rent.  These are the people who will never look at a glossy ad in a rental magazine.  They’ll look at newsprint copy only.  They’ll look on Craigslist or Kijiji.  They’re not interested in lifestyle ads.  Many are just looking for a place to hang their hat.

The second consideration is that many of these prospects can’t deliver what the big landlords want to process an application.  They don’t have time to go get a landlord reference letter because they can’t get home before the office closes or they can’t get a single unit landlord to take the time to write the letter or fill out the form.  They can’t come up with first and last month’s rent in one shot.  Maybe they can come up with one or the other or a part thereof, but not all at once.  Does it make them a bad tenant?  Not necessarily.  It just means that they don’t conform to our typical norms.

The final consideration is rental history.  Many people living in basement apartments are often renting for the first time.  They’ve been scared off by the fact that we told them up front that we do credit checks, require landlord references, and that we have minimum income requirements.  Instead of dealing with each person as a unique individual, we took a cookie cutter approach that just doesn’t work for everyone.

Keep in mind that a lot of the vacancy in this city right now is the one-bedroom category.  When we talk to clients we recognize that the number one vacancy for most properties is these smaller units.  Most basement apartments are bachelors or one bedroom units.  If you’ve got vacancy in this category you may want to reconsider how you advertise, how your staff present themselves and your building, and how to work with people on the basis of their needs and not necessarily undesirable tenants.  We have a whole new market sector to pursue.  If you want them, you can get them.

On a final note, when’s the last time you looked at a basement apartment?  What you have to offer is almost always better than where they currently live.  Happy renting!