I was charging $200 for the application deposit, a number which I *thought* I got from here, back in 2012. I would likely charge much less now, probably $25/$35... but then when the amount is that small, I have to ask how much effort is it worth to collect it??
This issue (of how to collect this fee) became especially poignant this time around; when I tried to collect on the spot, people said "we're still looking at houses" and wouldn't pay on the spot. ITM, I'm sending out applications via email, and collecting documents the same way - which was why I was leaning toward dropping this fee; collecting it was just awkward, and was not convinced that I was gaining much from it.
BTW, I *don't* have an office, or agent, or any such assistance. I'm renting out my dad's house, he's in assisted living, and I live in Fremont, up to an hour's drive away depending on traffic!
1. use an online tenant screening service. There are plenty to choose from: http://www.equifax.com/business/resident-and-tenan...
2. Ask pre-screening tenant questions before you waste your time showing the property. https://www.biggerpockets.com/renewsblog/2014/01/2...
3. Collect a security deposit and first months rent (as a minimal) before tenants move in.
4. Do a walk through, move in inspection before they move in. Have them sign off on it. Either a old paper and pencil or electronic move inspection. Take move-in before pictures.
5. Have a good lease that is specific to address the needs of that property.
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