Racing for Rentals

Key 2: Racing for rentals and closing the deal

Author Vera Beech is the Executive Director of Community Rebuilders. Founded in 1993, the non-profit agency, is dedicated to ending homelessness and creating safe, affordable housing opportunities in Kent County, Michigan.

We use the phrase “Racing for Rentals” to describe the friendly competition between our HRSs to see who can lease the most households in the shortest amount of time. This is an open display to our consumers that housing is being achieved every day. They may open our door feeling hopeless, but they leave inspired by those who came before them and believe that they, too, can achieve housing in the next 20 days.


There are several ways our consumers access the rental market. First, landlords call us and tell us when they have a unit open. Landlords know we have people searching, and they often avoid advertising so that we can send 3-5 people to look at the unit while it’s being prepped. If one of our consumers chooses the unit, the landlord packet is completed, a lease review is conducted and —as soon as the unit passes inspection – the keys are handed over. Many of our consumers use the statewide housing locator, but we also encourage them to visit the area where they want to live, look for for-rent signs or to stop by to a property management office and introduce themselves.

Our consumers take the lead in finding their unit. The level of support provided from the HRS is based on need. Community Rebuilders provides a landlord packet to consumers so they can convey important program information to the landlord. When it comes to closing the deal, the HRS is important. When we ask landlords what is most valuable to them in this arrangement, it is often the close connection to a Community Rebuilders Housing Resource Specialist. The HRS promotes a level of personal communication between the landlord and tenant which may not develop otherwise. Our HRSs promise to intervene if any problems arise.

Landlords like clear communication and lots of information about what to expect. We inform them of the timeframe for their first rental payment and the exact amount of their first check. They know they will always receive 30 days notice from Community Rebuilders before our assistance ends. Often it takes hard work and negotiations to make sure the unit meets program guidelines.

Closing the deal happens when all parties understand the transaction, benefit from it, and feel valued through the process. Lastly, we give landlords credit! Our programs depend on their partnership, and we value them and make sure they know it. Our landlords are helping to solve the problem of homelessness in our community, and we regularly celebrate their contributions.