Having an efficient process for new tenants is one of the most valuable lessons I have learned over the past several years. When you have a vacant property it is easy to get wrapped up in the sense of urgency you may feel to get it rented quickly. However, I would like to encourage you to take the time to establish at least a basic step by step process for how prospective tenants will be handled. Do you already have a rental application? Will you be charging an application fee? How do you plan to review their credit report? Is there a minimum credit score you will accept? Will you be pulling criminal background info as well? Do you have income requirements? Will you request references? How do you intend to advertise? Will there be an open house?
These are questions you need answers to before you rush into posting that ad on Craig's List.
Our new tenant process looks something like this:
Prepare the Property
Ensure the property is ready for a new tenant, this means it should be clean and any needed repairs should be taken care of. If it is a property where you are responsible for exterior maintenance and landscaping then those items should be handled as well, after all the exterior of the home is its first impression to potential tenants.
Advertise the Property
There are several ways you can advertise your property for rent but in this age of technology, online sources are most effective. In the past we have used Craig's List, Rentals.com, Zillow.com, Trulia.com and Postlets.com. I still use all of these sites except Rentals.com because it is the only one that charges a fee and we seem to do just as well with free sites. It is also never a bad idea to have a "For Rent" sign in the front yard.
Show the Property
I typically select specific days that I will offer showings. We also almost always start with an open house (which would be listed in our advertising). For an open house I always come equipped with business cards, rental applications, pens, refreshments, and a professional appearance.
We use Transunion Smart Move to perform credit and background checks. Transunion Smartmove allows applicants to create a log in on their site, pay a $25 application fee, and authorize the sharing of their credit and criminal background history with us. This site is very user friendly and I would HIGHLY recommend it. I will explain more on how Transunion Smart Move works a little later.
After we have chosen an applicant to rent the property we contact them to schedule a time to conduct a walk through, sign a lease, collect the security deposit and first months rent, and deliver the keys.
This is not by any means a perfect end all process but it is what has worked very well for us and I hope it will be helpful to you as well!