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Reading Body Language to Understand Tenant Psychology

By Donna Jones

When expressing our attitudes and emotions towards something, our non-verbal language can account for over 90% of our overall message. Observing someone’s physical body language and listening to the way they speak uncovers a great deal about what they really think. Used correctly, this type of insight can be valuable to landlords in finding and retaining trustworthy tenants.

Reading body language to see who you’re dealing with

The exact numbers regarding the breakdown of communication are highly contested, but generally lean in the direction that the actual words you choose make up the smallest slice of the communication pie. Coming in at over five times the size of the ‘word choice’ slice is the use of vocal elements like tone, gait and inflection. The largest portion, making up just over half of how your message is communicated, belongs to nonverbal elements like posture, facial expressions and gestures.

You can apply this logic to better understand current or prospective tenants, and what they are really thinking.

Look for a smirking face and cocky walk to identify an angry or aggressive person. They will likely turn their upper body away from you and avoid eye contact. Listen for changes in their tone to distinguish an angry tenant from an arrogant one. Let these individuals feel like they’re in control by remaining calm and letting them lead the conversation. Be sure to repeat their needs to ensure understanding before moving on. This lets them know they are being listened to, helping them feel important and in control.

Shy individuals often show their lack of confidence through a hesitance to shake hands, an inability to maintain direct eye contact and the forming of an external barrier like folded arms or an item held in front of them. You can reassure a shy person by asking them what they require in a home to feel comfortable.

Someone who feels comfortable and is ready to communicate will usually stand straight, make good eye contact and angle their body slightly toward you. They’ll be more inclined to extend their hand for a handshake and will speak genuinely. You should reflect this person’s behaviour, saying what you mean, being open and accepting of their comments.

When reading body language will help landlords

Vetting new tenants is always a nervous time and comes with a certain roll-of-the-dice feeling. This is the perfect opportunity to start scrutinizing body language. You can not only learn about the personality of potential tenants viewing your property and how they may be to deal with, but also about what they really think of your property – despite the words that may be coming out of their mouths.

If they struggle to make eye contact with you and their voice trails off when you ask about their references or reason for moving, it may be enough to prompt you to continue your tenant search!

A slight raise in eyebrows indicates interest. Look out for this and make note of what you’re talking about or showing them at the time, then make a big fuss about this feature in later viewings.

If you show someone the bathroom that obviously needs retiling, and they begin to bite their lip, this signals nervousness or hesitation. Ask them what they think about the bathroom to try and get some feedback, and perhaps show them the best room in the house next to help reassure them.

This type of valuable interaction can help inform you about what your property is lacking, and what amenities and improvements you could consider to help keep tenants in-lease, longer.

Improving tenant relationship and securing your cashflow

Careful reading body language can help you land a great tenant and get a better idea of how your property is perceived. It’s also instrumental in developing a lasting relationship (and lease) with existing tenants. The team at McPherson Property Management use these techniques to provide great customer service to both landlords and tenants.

Image: Bakerloo legs by Greg Neate under CC BY 2.0.

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