by Scot Aubrey

With summer finally here, I look forward to slipping in my waders, stepping into a river, and casting my fly rod in search of that trophy fish. But before I do, I always go through a list of things to prepare me for success. I check the local regulations and consult the local guides and experts to see where the fish are and what they are biting. Armed with knowledge, it is left up to me to identify the specific fish (usually German brown or rainbow trout) I want to cast and catch.

Landlords across the country are going to be facing a similar situation this fall as the eviction moratorium looks to be ending soon. You will be casting into an ever-expanding pool of potential tenants and, as a landlord, you want a tenant that wants YOUR house, not just any house. A tenant who just wants any house, in a year when the lease is up, will be ready for any other house. A tenant who wants YOUR house will become a valuable business partner and stay there for years.

One of the best methods for helping you find the perfect tenant for your property sounds mysterious but is quite simple and straight-forward; a key word, which might be a specific word or phrase you place in your listings that you request they use when they respond to your listing. With the increased number of online rental platforms available to you, using a key word in your listings will help you in the following ways:

What is a ‘Key Word’?

Your key word should be something that you use to emphasize specific features or requirements of your property. They may include things like the property characteristics, availability date, smoking policy, length of lease, or anything else you want to highlight as important to you. A word of caution to avoid any words or phrasing that would indicate discrimination or violation of protected class. A phrase like “Please acknowledge in your showing request that you understand this property does not allow pets” is a perfect example of a key word.

Where Do I Place a Key Word?

David Pickron, President of Rent Perfect, discussed this at length on a recent podcast (which can be found on He advises that landlords place their key word in one of the last two sentences of the listing to find candidates that are responsible enough to read the entire listing, and not just hit “apply” to every possible property that comes across their view. When fishing it is critical to present your fly to the fish you are trying to catch, otherwise you are just fishing water. By having the right fly presented in the right way to attract the attention of the fish, you exponentially increase the odds of attracting the fish you want to catch. The same reasoning applies as you are trying to identify a responsible, attentive tenant for your property. If you have a potential tenant that reads an entire listing and sees your key word that says, “I will not respond to your request to view the property unless you acknowledge that this property is not available until July 1.” When 20 potential tenants request a showing of the property and only two of them respond with the required key word/phrase, I am only going to show the property to those two people. This attention to detail from a tenant signals that they will also read the entire lease and understand the relationship we are creating, which saves me a lot of time in showing the property to the 18 other people who would be happy with any property.

A Key Word Saves You Time!

Whether you are a full-time landlord or have a single property, time equals money, and showing the property and reviewing applications can be extremely time-consuming. Using a key word is just one way to prescreen applicants and free your time up for those individuals that are truly interested specifically in your property. With several of the rental property platforms in the market today, an applicant can pay a monthly fee and submit their application as many times as they want. If you’ve ever found yourself responding to an applicant inquiry only to have the applicant, ask, “now which property is yours,” chances are they have applied all over town and will take any property that comes along. This person doesn’t want your house, they want a house, and they are not the business partner you are looking to have for the next five years.

Imagine how frustrated you would be if you planned a trip to catch cutthroat trout and showed up only to find that in addition to trout, the game warden had also stocked catfish, carp and bluegill. In the next few months, the places we go to find potential tenants will be flooded with all sorts of applicants, and likely many of them will have been recently evicted. By tools we train on, you can make sure that the tenant you put into your property is the business partner worth $120,000 that you are fishing for.