Finding Mr. or Ms. Right is not an easy task, both in love and in real estate. I have been lucky in love, since I still enjoy time with my partner after over two decades of marriage. However, in real estate, the search for the perfect tenant continues. Landlords worry about tenants wrecking their rental property or not paying rent. Tenants worry about landlords who don’t maintain their property, large rent increases, and finding a home that allows their pets. Those are all real concerns, but hopefully, if we do a good job of matchmaking, the risk of those problems diminishes.
Our latest adventure started when our existing tenant told us she wanted to return to the last city she lived in. Her son missed his friends, her boyfriend lived in the other city, and the cost of living there was lower. I was sorry to see her go. She was a responsible, mature career woman who always paid her rent on time. Sure, the place smelled of cats more than I liked, but the relationship was easy and professional. Now we had to start over again, seeing other people.
Once we committed to the moving date, we started to notice all the things we needed to fix. The paint on the deck was peeling, the carpet had some questionable stains, the hardwood had a long scratch and overall things needed cleaning. None of the repairs were critical; we had already taken care of any critical items. However, much like a divorcée who is re-entering the dating pool, we had some work to do to make the house look its best. We hired a cleaner and painter, we scheduled a carpet cleaner and hardwood refinisher, and we prepared for the great unveiling. (For more renovation tips, see Not Just a Pretty Face).
Once the rental ad went live on Kijiji, our real estate dating site of choice, we had to be prepared to answer texts and calls throughout the day. Some prospective tenants had sad stories of separations, bankruptcy, poor health, their rental being sold, or multi-generational families moving in together. Others wanted to negotiate: rent price, pets, and lawn care. At this point it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, both as a landlord and a tenant. As landlords, we tracked all replies in a spreadsheet and scheduled multiple viewings at a time. Combining showings is more efficient; it creates the impression of greater demand; and if some prospective tenants don’t show up, your time isn’t wasted. As a tenant, there is less pressure when multiple families are at the viewing. The whole process is a bit like speed dating. You have maybe 5 minutes to form an initial impression that decides if you want to take the next step towards a longer-term landlord-tenant relationship. As a landlord, you can look your best to prospective tenants by maintaining your property to a high standard, answering any inquiries promptly, being on time to appointments, and treating everyone respectfully. As a tenant, you can stand out to potential landlords through being on time to your appointment, being well groomed, speaking truthfully about your situation, asking meaningful questions and being respectful.
For the landlord, the goal of the rental ad is to get prospective tenants out to the property, while the goal of the showing is to get suitable tenants to complete an application. If you’re a tenant, you should have all your information ready so you can complete an application right away for the properties that you like. This includes your current landlord contact information, employment information and proof of income. You should also check your credit report and be able to explain any past credit trouble. A rule of thumb is that your rent should not be more than one third of your monthly income. Be realistic about what you can afford when viewing properties. You might fall in love with a property that is outside of your price range, but trying to sustain that added expense is more likely to lead to disappointment for everyone involved. Also, tenants should be aware that quality rental properties are in high demand. Like the prom queen or king, landlords often have more suitors than ability to house them. The more you are prepared, the better your chance of being chosen.
So where are we in finding a tenant our house? We think we have found a match! Let’s hope the relationship will endure!
What is your experience as a landlord or tenant? What advice do you have to offer?