A fantastic way to diversify your rental portfolio is to have rent coming from a variety of different sources.
We are actively trying to maintain a portfolio comprising 33% job/retirement income, 33% Section 8 income, and 33% military income. This helps us rest easy knowing if there is ever a government shutdown, a military base move, or a recession in the local job economy, we are only ever risking 1/3rd of our portfolio income.
The problem is that you can’t deliberately say in your listing that you are only accepting applications for a Section 8 tenant (or a military tenant or a college student). Having this verbiage in your rental listing could be considered discriminatory, so we leave it out and go about the situation differently.
So, how do we find these different types of tenants without being discriminatory?
To find Section 8 tenants for a rental property, find your local housing authority’s website and list your property for rent on their recommended website/listing location. The same can be done when looking for military tenants by contacting your local military housing and for college students by contacting your local campus housing.
With those main points in mind, I’ll cover everything you need to find Section 8/Military/College tenants that will help you diversify your rental portfolio below.
Let’s dive in!
- Find Your Local Housing Authority’s Website (Or Local Military Housing Website Or Local College Housing Website)
- List Your Rental Property On AffordableHousing.com To Attract Section 8 Tenants
- List Your Rental Property On HOMES.mil To Attract Military Tenants
- List Your Rental Property On RentCollegePads.com To Attract College Students
- List Your Rental Property On Zillow.com or Apartments.com To Attract Any Tenant On The Open Market
- What To Expect When Becoming A Section 8 Landlord
- Why We Want Different Types Of Tenants
- Final Thoughts
- Related Content
1. Find Your Local Housing Authority’s Website (Or Local Military Housing Website Or Local College Housing Website)
The best place to start when trying to determine where to list your rental to attract a Section 8 tenant is to google “[the county the property resides in] housing authority”. Google will provide a:
- Website you can visit that should have more information or a
- Phone number you can call
Some housing authority agencies are ancient and haven’t come into the 21st century yet, so you might only be able to find a phone number. If this is the case, then call the number and ask them where they recommend listing your rental unit to attract a Section 8 tenant.
Sometimes these agencies have their own listing that Section 8 tenants will check or they will be able to direct you to the listing website that they recommend the tenants go to whenever they are looking for housing.
Most agencies nowadays use a 3rd party website (such as affordablehousing.com) where they direct both landlords and tenants to find each other.
The same process can be done when looking for a military tenant. Google “[your local military base” housing authority”. And when looking for a college student tenant, google “[your local university/college] housing authority”.
For military housing, most military bases use HOMES.mil to help landlords and military tenants match with each other.
For off-campus university housing, many universities use rentcollegepads.com to help landlords and college student tenants match with each other.
What To Ask When Talking To Your Local Section 8 Housing Authority
There are a few questions you’ll want to ask your location Section 8 Housing Authority (or find on their website) to help you get started:
- What is the bedroom payment standard for 2 bedrooms? (or however many bedrooms you offer – this is the maximum voucher amount a tenant can receive)
- Where do you recommend I list my rental property so Section 8 tenants can find it?
- How long does it typically take to get an initial inspection scheduled?
- Can you tell me what the area’s rent range is for [city of property] with 2 bedrooms? (They can help you determine what rent price to ask)
- What are the most common items in the home that fail an inspection?
Any other questions you can think of that help you understand the Section 8 housing process in your county would be extremely helpful.
2. List Your Rental Property On AffordableHousing.com To Attract Section 8 Tenants
For many counties, the best place to list your rental property to attract Section 8 tenants is affordablehousing.com.
This website is made specifically for Section 8 voucher holders to find housing. You can reach out to applicants with a certain voucher amount and invite them to apply to your property. They also can reach out to you asking for more information on the property.
You can always list on this website, reach out to potential applicants, and accept applications for free, though there is a premium version that offers a few more benefits (such as larger listings, auto-responder messages, advanced pre-screening questions, and more detailed applications.
We don’t use the premium version because it doesn’t give us the background and credit report we need to screen the potential tenants fully. Instead, we direct any potential applicant who wants to submit an application to Apartments.com, so we can get their full background information.
The free information on their voucher amount and number of bedrooms they are looking for is super helpful though, so this is a must website to add your listing if your housing authority recommends it for your area!
3. List Your Rental Property On HOMES.mil To Attract Military Tenants
When searching for a military tenant, the best place to list your rental property is HOMES.mil.
This website is made specifically for military members to find housing. The listings on this website can be a room for rent, one unit of a rental property, or an entire house, giving the service members and their families choices outside of housing only on the base.
The key part behind listing your rental on this website is that you should provide a Military Clause in your lease. This clause allows the military member to break their lease in the case that their military duties or status change in any way.
An example of a Military Clause can be found here: Military Clause Addendum
If you don’t have that clause in your lease, then you might have a harder time attracting a military tenant because they are not in control of how long they can stay in an area.
HOMES.mil is free to use, but it does not have an application submission feature. So you will still need to direct any applicants to apply through Apartments.com, so you can receive their credit and background check. You will screen them exactly the same as any other tenant.
4. List Your Rental Property On RentCollegePads.com To Attract College Student Tenants
When searching for a college student tenant, you might have some luck listing on rentcollegepads.com. Most large campuses across the United States seem to use this website to connect landlords with college student tenants.
Only some college campuses use rentcollegepads.com, so this might not be the best place to list your rental to attract college students. You’ll likely have to call the campus housing department if the students from the closest college campus to your apartment regularly this website, or if another website such as Zillow.com is more popular.
This website is really cool because it lets potential tenants toggle between the cost of the full rental per month or the cost of 1 bed per month (which makes it a perfect candidate for any rent-by-the-room properties).
As with the other websites mentioned, rentcollegepads.com does not have an application collection feature. So you will need to redirect any potential applicants to apply through Apartments.com to be able to screen them properly.
With these tenants, you’ll likely get a lot of young, first-time renters with no credit score and no income. So the screening requirements might have to change a little bit to take those details into consideration. Most college student tenants will likely be using student loans to pay for their rent.
5. List Your Rental Property On Zillow.com or Apartments.com To Attract Any Tenant On The Open Market
If all else fails, the best two places to list a rental property are Zillow.com and Apartments.com. Both of these websites will mostly attract any tenant on the open market, but you can still get Section 8 tenants, military tenants, and/or college student tenants. The odds of that are pretty location-dependent though.
We personally use Zillow the most because in our area (Southern Ohio) most tenants look on Zillow to find a place to rent on that website. However, I like Apartments.com’s Rental Manager tools better than Zillow’s Rental Manager tools, so I always get them to sign up on Apartments.com and make their rent payments there by the end of the process.
If none of the other specialty websites are working for you, then I recommend trying one of these two websites to list your rental property.
6. What To Expect When Becoming A Section 8 Landlord
When we first started looking into Section 8 for one of our rental properties, I quickly realized that there is hardly ANY information out there that’s helpful (especially if the county you are trying to work with has an ancient website and nobody can answer any of your questions).
This problem is likely occurring because each county’s housing authority does things differently. But in general, they do similar things, so you can have a basis of what to expect.
- Prepare your property up to Section 8 standards [COMING SOON] – there is no point in finding a potential tenant with a voucher if the property won’t be able to pass the inspection. We like to use Section 8 on rental units that we have recently fully updated. This limits the number of nitpicky things an inspector can fail us on.
- Choose your rent asking price – your local housing authority’s website should list the maximum voucher amount based on the number of bedrooms. We use Apartments.com‘s Rent Pricing Report to find the area average and choose a price that falls within the area average and is less than the maximum voucher amount a Section 8 tenant can receive.
- List your available rental on the website that your local housing authority recommends – for our area in Southern Ohio, we use affordablehousing.com to list our properties for Section 8
- Screen Section 8 applicants like any other applicant – check their credit history, background history, past rental history, and verify their income/employment. If a Section 8 applicant has a voucher that covers the full rent amount (i.e. they don’t pay for any portion of their rent), then we ignore the income/employment requirement and credit score requirement because their voucher covers their full rent amount and utilities. Most Section 8 tenants have no or very low income and bad or nonexistent credit scores. To screen these applicants, we require them to submit an application through Apartments.com which gives us their background and credit report for a small application fee
- Once you find a tenant that passes your screening requirements, you fill out the potential tenant’s RTA packet – a Section 8 RTA packet is an agreement that you are planning to sign a lease with this tenant. It spells out their voucher amount, property address, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, who is responsible for each appliance and utility bill, and other basic questions about the lease that will be signed in the future. We like to fill this out after the showing if we are approving the application.
- The potential tenant returns the packet to the housing authority’s office – the housing authority will then verify the property taxes are current, ownership of the property, and the tenant can afford the property with their voucher based on the information you provide in the RTA packet
- The housing authority will contact you with an inspection date – this typically takes weeks to get on their schedule
- The tenant will contact you when their RTA packet has been processed and they’ve been cleared to sign a lease
- Sign the lease, collect the security deposit, and hand over the keys after the home passes the initial inspection – you get 4 total attempts to pass the inspection otherwise the tenant is reissued new paperwork and must start the process over. Typically 2-3 weeks pass between each scheduled inspection, and the inspection gets harder after the 2nd fail, so it is important to get the property as prepared as you possibly can for the first inspection. Section 8 also won’t pay their portion of the rent until the home passes an inspection, so many weeks of rent can be lost if you aren’t properly prepared
- Set up direct deposit with the housing authority to receive rent payments – they will give you a form to fill out (or will direct you to a website to set it up). They don’t reach out that often, so you might have to call the housing authority to get this set up.
- Set up online payments with the tenant to receive their portion of the rent payments – again, we use Apartment.com’s Rental Manager tools to collect rent from our tenants (it’s free to use!)
7. Why We Want Different Types Of Tenants
As I mentioned in the intro, we love to attract different types of tenants to help diversify our rental portfolio.
Regular working or retired tenants are great until there is a worldwide pandemic or recession and many of them lose their jobs.
Section 8 tenants are great until there is a prolonged government shutdown and the government stops paying their portion of the rent.
Military tenants are great until there is a war where many of them are called overseas and they have to break their lease agreements.
College student tenants are great until college becomes so expensive that many people stop going to college and instead revert back to the trade industries.
You can’t control any of these situations from happening, but you can control the proportion of your rental portfolio that it affects at any one time. The odds of all 4 situations happening at the same time are pretty low, so even if one section of tenants isn’t able to pay for an extended period of time, the other section should be able to pay still.
We currently have 16 working/retired tenants and 2 Section 8 tenants. As we experience future turnovers, we are slowly converting more of them to Section 8 tenants to help diversify the tenant pool. One day, we will be more 50/50 on working/retired and Section 8 tenants or 33/33/33 on working/retired, military, and Section 8 tenants.
I strongly recommend you consider diversifying your rental portfolio as you grow as well because you never know what the future holds.
That’s it! By now, you have a list of websites besides Zillow.com and Apartments.com that you can list your property on to attract your desired tenant. Now, what’s next on the list is writing an irresistible listing description and taking professional-looking photos that you can use on your rental listing.
We’ve found that by listing on these different websites, we get a variety of applicants that help us diversify where the money is coming from in our rental portfolio. This ultimately helps us protect our investments in case any unforeseen world catastrophes occur throughout our time owning the properties.
I hope you find this article helpful and that it helps attract tenants who would love to live in your rental home!
Catch you in my next post!
Check out my recommended tools, templates, and resources to free up your time from constantly working on and worrying about your rental properties. My husband and I use these tools to self-manage 18 rental units (and counting) for only 5-10 hours a month.
Keep in mind that most of these items are either free or reasonably priced for the amount of value that they provide. My goal on this page is to recommend tools, templates, and resources that we use daily and wish we had known about at the beginning of our landlord journey. Since implementing them, they’ve saved us countless hours and tons of headaches.
Collecting rent on time (and charging late fees if it’s not on time) is an important part of the puzzle when self-managing your rentals. The last thing you want to do is listen to the 17th sob story on why a tenant just can’t pay the rent amount on the first of the month (even though they know it’s coming every month).
Since we put our rent collection on auto-pilot, we’ve consistently collected all of our rent (plus thousands of dollars extra) each year with minimal effort (and very few sob stories). To learn the system that lets us make rent collection easy, check out this article.
Christine is a blogger and real estate investor/property manager who self-manages 18 rental units (and counting) alongside her husband, Adam. Although she successfully automates the management of her rentals and pockets the property management fee now, her path to success was not easy.
Go here to read her story, “From An Overwhelmed First-Time Landlord To A Pro Investor Self-Managing 18 Rentals On Less Than 10 Hours Per Month“.
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