Finding Quality Tenants; Learning to Pre-screen Our Applicants, Part 2

for rent (9_12)By the time Kid Saggy Pants left, we’d learned our lesson: it was time to pre-screen our applicants.  Up to this point, we’d simply agreed to meet everyone who showed interest in our Craigslist ad … And our apartment, being only 850 sq ft and with a rent of $565 per month, was attracting the interest, thus far, of a group of people that we, in turn, had no interest in.

A quick google search of “how to find quality tenants” confirmed that we were skipping the essential — and simple — step of pre-screening interested parties.  After reading a few articles, we sat down and made these changes:

  • We raised the damage deposit from $250 to $400: initially, we were going for affordability; we decided, however, that a stronger “skin in the game” factor would sweep some “fluff” away.
  • We asked for an application fee of $10: not much, but it covered our costs and required a small investment on the part of the prospective tenant.
  • We asked emailed inquiries to provide the following info:
    Number of People & Relationship to You:
    Intended Rental Term:
    Your Occupation(s):
  • And finally, once we had a prospect on the phone, we asked 1) why they were moving; 2) what was they’re credit like; and 3) could they proved a positive rental history?

Along the way, with our quick phone pre-screening, we were able to wish good luck to a few people who didn’t match our desired tenant profiles. Simple changes, really — common sense stuff — and suddenly, within days, we landed three wonderful prospects.

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Bust a Sag; or, Learning to Pre-screen Our Applicants


Whipping his silver Dodge Charger into the lot, the kid parked at an angle, occupying two spots.  New York Yankees hat on sideways — a wide flat bill overhanging his left ear like an awning — and busting a lowdown sag in his skinny jeans, he jumped from the driver’s seat and darted up the stairs.

“Nice!” he said when I opened the door.  “Nice!”

We introduced ourselves and shook hands; his clammy grip felt boneless.

“C’mon in,” I said.  “Look around.”


With jerky movements and a caffeinated energy, he fluttered through the 850 square feet.  Everything was “Nice!” — including the new fridge, which he yanked open and slammed shut like a hungry teenager.

“So,” he said, “what do I do if someone parks in my spot?”

I looked out the window: he was parked in two spots, neither of them his, nor would they ever be.

“And the price?” he asked.  “Any way we could get that lowered?”

Once we were rid of the kid, we locked up, and, having shown the place three times at this point — and to the first three interested parties — we realized we needed a refinery, a filter, a way to pre-screen before we unlocked the doors.  My wife and I both have day jobs; the trips to show the apartment consumed off-time hours: we wanted them to be quality, not quantity.

So what did we do?  How did we learn to weed out the no-brainers?  Google, of course.  A quick search of “how to find quality tenants” came back with several hits, and a few easy tweaks to our process floated to the top.

Stay tuned for How We Learned to Pre-screen Our Applicants, Part 2, in which we discuss our refining techniques that worked overnight to leave us with qualified, interested applicants.

Purchasing Our First Rental Property, Part 1

The housing market sagged like a hammock, property values hit the ground, and we here at The Fishcreek Outfit had our hands on a small amount of liquid cash: We’d always talked about investing in a rental or two … Say hello to the FannieMae Homepath program.

Let me clairfy: a “small amount of liquid cash” for The Outfit — a married couple, no kids, both school teahcers — equals a few thousand dollars; and, of course, eyes bigger than our stomachs, we bit off more than we’d originally planned to (more on this later) … Alas, we scavenged a couple thousand more from other designated pots, and now we’re the proud, trepidatious, curious, excited owners of an 850 square-foot condo in a working class downtown neighborhood — great schools, walking distance to the park, pets under 35 lbs accepted … Need a place?

How did we begin? The FannieMae Homepath website is a catalogue of foreclosed properties across the US.  We searched through the listings in our area, visited a few, and waited patiently for a property that 1) needed minimal repairs 2) fit our projected budget 3) was in an attractive part of town and 4) inspected well.  Over the course of a year or so, we kept our eyes on the revolving properties until we found one that matched our criteria.

(Had we a bigger budget, I should say, we could have snatched up several different properties along the way; the website is full of great deals on homes that need updating and repairs.)

Once we found the property that worked for us, our realtor* put in our bid and the waiting began …

Stay tuned for Purchasing Our First Rental Property, Part 2, in which we’ll discuss the bidding process and securing a mortgage for a condo investment in the Age of Stingy Banks.

[*We highly recommend using your own realtor as opposed to the listing agent: in our area, at least, the listing agent appears to have her hands full; we wanted someone who could walk us through every step.]