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I admit, I was doing it all wrong. I am fortunate because if luck was not on my side, my first rental property could have turned into a nightmare. It almost did.
Here is the story of my first rental property and the screening process (or lack of) I used:
We bought a side by side duplex, the tenant in one side left, however, the tenant in the other side had to be evicted before closing on the property.
We closed on the property and renovated the vacant unit. It was now time to place an ad, and select a new tenant. I took some pictures, wrote what I thought was good ad copy and placed an ad on Kijiji.
The first response was from the woman that we had evicted before closing. It was not a nice email, and basically said I should be ashamed for kicking out a poor single mom, just so I could renovate and rent the unit for more cash (I will admit, that jilted me a bit, and made me wonder what I was getting myself into).
Then I was getting several emails and calls, I did not have specific pre-screening questions, I also did not know about everything in the area, so I stumbled through those calls.
Many people just emailed or called and asked when they could see the place. I figured I would start setting up viewings. My first two appointments did not show up. Then I had a few other scary looking people show up.
I finally narrowed it down to, two applications. I basically flipped a coin and went with my gut (how risky was that).
I chose a woman that had a great job, fantastic references and was honest with me right up front. She said, if I check her out, I will be impressed, however, she comes with two downsides. She likes to smoke indoors and she has two cats.
I made my decision based on the lack of quality of the other applicants, and voila, I did up a hand written lease, collected a security deposit and moved her in.
When I think back, I feel lucky that it did not turn out bad. Think about it, no pre-screening questions, no credit check, half assed reference checks (due to having a poor application), and going with my gut on a decision that if I was wrong could have cost thousands of dollars, and sleepless nights.
Since those days, I have managed to educate myself on filling vacancies, and screening tenants. I wrote this book to help everyone in the landlord / property management business learn how to attract, screen and place great tenants.