I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it – “You cannot be too careful or too thorough in screening your prospective tenants.” This is one area where the rental real estate investor just can’t afford to cut corners. I’ve gone on more than one rant declaring as have many in the past, “An ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure.” It’s not that hard. Just a few simple steps need to be taken, and a whole world of storms can be completely avoided. Far West Realty’s Property Management division in Prescott brings you additional information to consider.
Meet them face to face. Conduct a real interview. It doesn’t have to be stuffy or intimidating. Just sit down with them and have a chat. Weave key questions about such things as pets, smoking, employment, evictions or any criminal records, into the conversation but more important is to just watch and listen. Limit your words, and just do most of the listening. Help them get comfortable. Get them talking, and you’ll be amazed what a prospective tenant will reveal about themselves, without really even intending to. I emphasize: watch AND listen. Most of us have pretty reliable built in lie detectors, but many of us don’t pay enough attention to them when they’re screaming at us.
Always perform a background check. It’s easy to do or have done in today’s age of rampant technology. You do need to know what their credit looks like, and that isn’t just about the score. It will be important to know what their debt to income ratio is, and a credit report will be a pretty reliable indicator of the regularity of their debt payments. In other words, do they take their financial obligations seriously? If they do, you can usually be assured that they will put the roof over their heads in 1st position, and pay their rent on time each month. A good background check will also reveal any criminal history, and their address history. The address history is important to you as a landlord, because it will show you if they tend to move around a lot, rather than being in pretty stable in the same locations for longer periods of time.
Speak to previous landlords whenever possible. Real landlords or property managers have a vested interested in helping other landlords or property managers avoid the bad tenants that don’t pay their rent, or end up damaging property – especially with pets. But, don’t place TOO much faith in a phone conversation with a landlord, because they may have other agendas, such as getting you to rent to the bad tenant they currently have so that tenant will get out of their property asap. I once actually had a prospective tenant’s mother pose as her previous landlord over the phone, and tell the most amazing lies about what a wonderful tenant she had been. And in fact, the applicants did appear pretty solid on paper. But, a few days later, the actual previous landlord walked into my office wanting me to manage his property for him, because he was just tired of cleaning up after, and spending money on damage done by bad tenants. In the course of our conversation, it became clear that we’d both been conned by the same bad tenants. Don’t let that happen to you. Look at the big picture provided by the entirety of a thorough and complete background check, before you decide to let an applicant into your investment rental.
Finally, no matter how good they look on paper, or in any other way, if your lie detector (gut) tells you there’s something rotten in Denmark, there probably is. Listen to your gut. And, if you’re just not sure, or just plain tired of the hassle, call Far West Realty at 928-772-9400.