New landlords often feel overwhelmed when they get into the rental property business. Buying your first property might seem like a challenge at the time but it’s a cake walk when you start to delve in to what it takes to manage that property. From preparing your property, getting your forms together, doing market comparables to set the rent, advertising, putting your filing system together, setting up your accounting and just generally reading up on all there is to know – it’s a lot of information! Ultimately though, the most important part of property management is finding the right tenants. If you are successful in this step, the rest of your journey will fall into place.
Tenants mean the difference between a positive, profitable experience and a negative, costly experience. Having a system in place to do proper tenant screening will help you find those gems that will pay their rent on time and take great care of your property. Here are some tips to help you become a better screener in order to attract a better grade of tenant:
Write a great, detailed ad. It all starts here as this is the first thing a prospective tenant will see when looking for a property. For example, if you don’t want pets or smokers, this is a great starting place to weed them out. You can also paint a good description of the type of tenants you are looking for by the types of amenities you describe. If you want a family you can talk about buses, schools and parks. If you want older tenants with no kids you can describe a more senior living area. The more descriptive you are, the easier it is to hone in on your ideal tenants.
Have a list of screening questions. After people have read your ad and decided they fit the bill and are interested, have a list of screening questions ready when they call. For example, how long have they been at their current place? Why do they want to move? Have they given notice? How many people will be living with them? These are just a start and there are plenty more you can ask but these questions will arm you with more information and make your decisions easier as you set up viewings to see your property.
Use customized forms. During the tenant screening process, the most important form in your repertoire is the Application Form. Don’t use generic forms that you find online, use a custom form that asks about employment history, rental history, and allows you to perform criminal and credit checks. If you have a prospective tenant that you want to consider renting to, get them to fill out this form in it’s entirety.
Do your checks! Sure they’ve filled out the Application form for you but the next step is the most important. Call their old landlords, verify that they have a job, do a credit check and do a criminal record check. Do these checks EVERY TIME on EVERY PERSON that you want to rent to. Looks and first impressions can be deceiving so stick to your system and you will greatly increase your chances of finding a good, honest tenant.
Thorough tenant screening isn’t always foolproof but it greatly increases your chances of finding stellar tenants. Experience helps this process as well and the more tenants you meet and interview, the easier it becomes and the stronger your radar is. Remember – stick to your system and don’t skip any steps. To your success!