My First Successful Tenant Screen!

14 Replies

Hi Everyone,

This is my first ever forum post!

My short story: I had my first ever "Vacancy" and successfully filled it in one week! I put vacancy in quotes because I don't actually own the property; I am renting.

A little about me: I am two years out of college and renting in the Boston area. I had a curiosity about real estate all throughout high school and into college, but never took the time to look into it. Now that I'm out of college, I've been reading as much as I can, learning as much as I can, and am now searching for cash flowing multifamily (2-3 unit) properties to either house hack, or invest in. So far, no luck, but I believe with enough determination I will eventually be able to find a property. Until then, I will continue to rent.

Currently, I live in a duplex with a roommate from college, and my landlords living above us. It is a well-kept, beautiful property, and my landlords are a late 70s couple with a focus on enjoying life. Last month, my current roommate told me he was moving to New York to live with his girlfriend. PSH.

He has been a great roommate, and I was really bummed. What I was also down about was the prospect of giving up this immaculate apartment and great landlords. I had a decision to make: either look for a new place to live or try to find a roommate.

Option 1: Look for a new roommate I know, and stay at my current apartment: I asked college friends, posted on facebook, asked people at my J.O.B. and unfortunately had no luck. I wanted to get moving and find a solution fast, so I moved on to option 2.

Option 2: Look for a new place to live with people I know: I asked around, had a few soft leads. Eventually I went to check out a place, and while I believe I could get along with the people there, the quality of the apartment was a definite downgrade. There were reductions in amenities, space, and overall upkeep of the property that I couldn't overlook. PLUS, moving is a huge pain in the butt.

Option 3: Finding a Stranger: With a focus on a buy and hold strategy, I have read many tenant screening postings including **The Ultimate Guide to Screening Tenants** and decided to use this challenge as an opportunity to test what I was reading. I've used Craigslist maybe twice before this. I sold a few things, and have had no weird interactions to date. That being said, I've heard stories of the craigslist killer, and other nightmares, so I definitely had my guard up.

So I began on this quest. I took pictures of the apartment with my landlords permission, focusing on the exterior of the house for the cover shot, and turning on as many lights as possible inside to keep things bright. While I do photography on the side, I decided to use my iphone for simplicity and its wide angle. I looked at competitive ads, and tried to replicate what they were doing well, and improve on their weaknesses.


Within the first hours I got about six responses. I decided to use a trello board as a mini CRM for this experiment. For those of you familiar with trello, I created a few lists;

  • "Email Lead" when an email comes in,
  • "Questionnaire sent" when I emailed them my pre-screener,
  • "Physical Visit" when they passed my prescreen and I scheduled an in person visit,
  • "Awaiting Application" I gave an application to everyone that came to a physical visit
  • "Application Received" When I received their application
  • "Background check" when they passed the application review and were sent a background check request
  • "To Landlords" when they passed the background check and now needed to be reviewed by the decision makers
  • "To Deny" for anyone that did not meet criteria

If anyone wants to see what this trello board looks like, let me know

For the background check, I used the SmartMove program recommended in the ultimate guide to tenant screening and it worked very well. It was very convenient, and allowed the applicant pay the background check fee directly through the system.

Overall this experience was great, and I believe I have found an awesome new roommate. He moves in September so I won't know for sure until then. Hopefully he doesn't murder me.

A few things this has taught me

  • Keeping a property well maintained is definitely enough to stop a tenant (me) from moving
  • Paying for those extra finishing touches seems to not only command higher rents, but also get a higher quality of applicants (and I hope tenants)
  • I very tightly scheduled individual showings. If I was looking for a pure tenant, and not a roommate, I would have definitely used a group showing approach, but because I wanted the chance to meet these people and find out if they were killers, I also needed to get to know them
  • Finding a new roommate/tenant was an enjoyable experience. Maybe I have a future in property management…

Let me know if you have any feedback, comments, or questions

@Ben Staples

Welcome to the site. Congrats on finding a roommate and learning a little bit about the biz all at once.

Hope it works out and you avoid the whole getting murdered thing that would really be a hurdle in your investment career.

Medium holton wise property group logo jpegJames Wise, The Holton Wise Property Group | [email protected] | 216‑661‑6633 | http://www.HoltonWisePropertyGroup.com | Podcast Guest on Show #127

@Ben Staples - I know this is an older post but I would like to see this trello board.  

My lease would explicitly forbid you finding a new roommate - - that's called Subletting and many leases would do likewise.

I hope you're not in violation, as both of you could be evicted for cause.

Originally posted by @Ben Staples :

Hi Everyone,

This is my first ever forum post!

My short story: I had my first ever "Vacancy" and successfully filled it in one week! I put vacancy in quotes because I don't actually own the property; I am renting.

A little about me: I am two years out of college and renting in the Boston area. I had a curiosity about real estate all throughout high school and into college, but never took the time to look into it. Now that I'm out of college, I've been reading as much as I can, learning as much as I can, and am now searching for cash flowing multifamily (2-3 unit) properties to either house hack, or invest in. So far, no luck, but I believe with enough determination I will eventually be able to find a property. Until then, I will continue to rent.

Currently, I live in a duplex with a roommate from college, and my landlords living above us. It is a well-kept, beautiful property, and my landlords are a late 70s couple with a focus on enjoying life. Last month, my current roommate told me he was moving to New York to live with his girlfriend. PSH.

He has been a great roommate, and I was really bummed. What I was also down about was the prospect of giving up this immaculate apartment and great landlords. I had a decision to make: either look for a new place to live or try to find a roommate.

Option 1: Look for a new roommate I know, and stay at my current apartment: I asked college friends, posted on facebook, asked people at my J.O.B. and unfortunately had no luck. I wanted to get moving and find a solution fast, so I moved on to option 2.

Option 2: Look for a new place to live with people I know: I asked around, had a few soft leads. Eventually I went to check out a place, and while I believe I could get along with the people there, the quality of the apartment was a definite downgrade. There were reductions in amenities, space, and overall upkeep of the property that I couldn't overlook. PLUS, moving is a huge pain in the butt.

Option 3: Finding a Stranger: With a focus on a buy and hold strategy, I have read many tenant screening postings including **The Ultimate Guide to Screening Tenants** and decided to use this challenge as an opportunity to test what I was reading. I've used Craigslist maybe twice before this. I sold a few things, and have had no weird interactions to date. That being said, I've heard stories of the craigslist killer, and other nightmares, so I definitely had my guard up.

So I began on this quest. I took pictures of the apartment with my landlords permission, focusing on the exterior of the house for the cover shot, and turning on as many lights as possible inside to keep things bright. While I do photography on the side, I decided to use my iphone for simplicity and its wide angle. I looked at competitive ads, and tried to replicate what they were doing well, and improve on their weaknesses.


Within the first hours I got about six responses. I decided to use a trello board as a mini CRM for this experiment. For those of you familiar with trello, I created a few lists;

  • "Email Lead" when an email comes in,
  • "Questionnaire sent" when I emailed them my pre-screener,
  • "Physical Visit" when they passed my prescreen and I scheduled an in person visit,
  • "Awaiting Application" I gave an application to everyone that came to a physical visit
  • "Application Received" When I received their application
  • "Background check" when they passed the application review and were sent a background check request
  • "To Landlords" when they passed the background check and now needed to be reviewed by the decision makers
  • "To Deny" for anyone that did not meet criteria

If anyone wants to see what this trello board looks like, let me know

For the background check, I used the SmartMove program recommended in the ultimate guide to tenant screening and it worked very well. It was very convenient, and allowed the applicant pay the background check fee directly through the system.

Overall this experience was great, and I believe I have found an awesome new roommate. He moves in September so I won't know for sure until then. Hopefully he doesn't murder me.

A few things this has taught me

  • Keeping a property well maintained is definitely enough to stop a tenant (me) from moving
  • Paying for those extra finishing touches seems to not only command higher rents, but also get a higher quality of applicants (and I hope tenants)
  • I very tightly scheduled individual showings. If I was looking for a pure tenant, and not a roommate, I would have definitely used a group showing approach, but because I wanted the chance to meet these people and find out if they were killers, I also needed to get to know them
  • Finding a new roommate/tenant was an enjoyable experience. Maybe I have a future in property management…

Let me know if you have any feedback, comments, or questions

 Hello Ben,

First of all I would like to say congratulations! Welcome to the world of REI. It is great, and I know you will love it. It seems you are taking your first steps in becoming very successful. I wish you the best of luck going forward!

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Medium smartland logo rgb blackTom Ott, Smartland | [email protected] | 440‑749‑4043 | http://www.Smartland.com

@Ben Staples great job! As long as your lease does not forbid subleasing you will be fine. I would suggest speaking to your landlord and gaining written consent that it was okay to find a new roommate.

@Nicholas Miller thanks for your interest.  Here is a sample board that has an identical format: https://trello.com/b/tsSiw9QN

NA Beard Your point on getting everything in writing is a good one.  I had a previous landlord tell me I could extend a month, but went back on his word after talking with his wife.  I should have learned then!

Also while I am in no way affiliated with Trello, if anyone doesn't yet have a Trello account and wants to sign up, feel free to use this link so I can get trello gold (really only good for adding your own background image to trello boards)

Thanks!

@Ben Staples the best part of real estate is that it is a learning process. Sometimes we make mistakes which could cost us tons of money but sometimes we can fix them. I would just have a conversation with the landlords most times if they are great landlords they will be understanding especially they have a great tenant like your self.

Originally posted by @Ben Staples :

@J Beard thank you so much for your concern.  Fortunately for both of us my landlord actually asked me to fill the opening and incentivized me with a slight rent reduction for doing so and keeping me as a tenant.  I apologize I left this detail out.

WHEW!  Good for you :)

Originally posted by @Ben Staples :

@Nicholas Miller thanks for your interest.  Here is a sample board that has an identical format: https://trello.com/b/tsSiw9QN

NA Beard Your point on getting everything in writing is a good one.  I had a previous landlord tell me I could extend a month, but went back on his word after talking with his wife.  I should have learned then!

Also while I am in no way affiliated with Trello, if anyone doesn't yet have a Trello account and wants to sign up, feel free to use this link so I can get trello gold (really only good for adding your own background image to trello boards)

https://trello.com/benstaples1/recommend

Thanks!

You are very much welcome! I wish you the best of luck in the REI world. Please let me know if you have any questions!

Medium smartland logo rgb blackTom Ott, Smartland | [email protected] | 440‑749‑4043 | http://www.Smartland.com

@Nicholas Miller if you send me a PM with your email address, I'd be happy to add you as a member to the board.  So strange the link didn't work!

What is a trello board?  I have to screen for my first tenants and I need to develop a process,

This post has been removed.

Hey @Florence Crosby ,

A Trello Board is an online project management tool.  Again I am not affiliated with Trello, just a really happy user.  It is totally free, but you can upgrade to trello business class to get some additional features.  Its primary use is not tenant screening, but you can use it to manage any workflow.  A workflow might be a to-do list, planning a wedding, etc.  If you want to see my trello template that I used for tenant screening, PM me.

It is probably not the most efficient way of screening tenants at scale, but for smaller investors who are not yet paying  for CRMs or property management software, it seems like a great alternative.

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