What Not to Do When You're Trying to Rent The First Time

So…a few months back, the lawsuit for the accident finally got settled.  The payout was not huge, but it did allow us to pay off some bills, put some money away for education for the kids and retirement for us – and a little left over.  After some discussion, hubs and I decided to jump into the real estate game.  Just over a week ago, we gained possession of a small townhouse condo which we intend to put a lick of paint on and rent out.

Since we got possession, we’ve had a few nibbles, with about five different people through.  I was really pulling for the woman who’s husband just got a research position at the local university – but they only had one car and it was too far for him to commute.  These are the reasons I liked them even without seeing an application:

  1. The husband has a good job at the local university.  Even though he hasn’t been working there long, it appears he has a solid employment background and could find work if he had to leave his job.
  2. They were well dressed and arrived on time.  They respected my time.
  3. They had a small, clean, but not flashy car.  They are practical and take care of their things.  I feel like this means that they can be trusted to take care of my investment.
  4. They were married and had a small child.  This shows me that they have a commitment to each other and are relatively responsible.
  5. They also didn’t bring the small child with them – which shows me they’re smart.  They wanted to take their time to both have a good look without being distracted.  They may have been concerned that I was an axe murderer as we arranged everything over e-mail…and kept him safely away.  The could also have been concerned that he would be a holy terror while they visited and that would put me off…but that’s not likely.  Either way – a smart move.

We had a second couple through that I wasn’t overly impressed by.  I’m big on first impressions.  If you don’t make one with me, you’re unlikely to pass the “application” stage.  These were the problems I had:

  1. They arrived 10 minutes late.  This was an evening appointment – and I had other things to do (with three kids at home).  Not respecting my time makes a big impression.
  2. They clearly hadn’t considered the effect that dressing properly can have.  The young woman was wearing a pair of leggings that were a mite too small for her and I could see a visible panty line.  I can see wearing something like this out with friends – but if you’re trying to impress a prospective landlord – at least put on some properly fitting jeans.
  3. As they drove up, the music was blaring loud enough for me to hear it from inside.  If I could hear it from the inside, so could the neighbors.  Who could be their neighbors if they rented my property.  Not respecting your prospective neighbors is a big no-no.
  4. The car they were driving was small, but I could see even from inside the house that it wasn’t particularly well taken care of.  If you can’t take care of your own car, I have concerns about how they’ll treat my investment.
  5. He smelled very strongly of cigarettes – and our ad stated quite clearly that we were looking for non-smokers (our state allows us to consider this).
  6. They weren’t married.  Now this wouldn’t be a problem for me.  I’m not hung up on the piece of paper.  I’ve “lived in sin” before.  But in this case, the original conversation I had with the woman suggested that she needed to consult with her “roommate”.  When they were touring through the house, it was clear that they had not been “roommates”, and that this would be the first time they’d be living together.  I know how complicated early relationships can be.  What happens if they break up?  Am I left without a rental?  Will one of them be able to handle the rent on their own?
  7. Conversations with the woman suggested that they did not have enough to cover first and last months rent.  We had discussions about their application (which I haven’t seen yet).  They wanted to leave a deposit of last month and only pay prorated half of first month (moving in on the 15th).  I probably should have stopped the application process right there.  If you don’t have enough money to cover first and last, don’t even talk to me.  I have concerns about your ability to keep up paying the rent.
  8. They also wanted to provide a cash deposit because they don’t have any cheques.  I understand in the electronic age that some people don’t have cheques.  As a landlord – I need to know how you’re going to pay the rent.  I also don’t want cash up front – because I haven’t approved your application yet – and taking cash may indicate I have accepted you as a renter legally.
  9. They indicated they’ll submit an application at a specific time, but I went to pick it up and it wasn’t there.  I didn’t get a text until the next day suggesting that they’d submit the following day.

If the application does show up tomorrow, I will review it.  But given all the black marks already above – I wouldn’t get my hopes up if I were them.

Image Credit:  (Edited) Smiling Woman Gives Over House Key” by David Castillo Dominici / freedigitalphotos.net

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