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The best way to ensure you do not get bamboozled by a tenant is to screen as well as pre-screen. Screening is self-explanatory and we’ve covered this topic before. Pre-screening essentially refers to doing phone interviews of prospective tenants before showing them the inside of the rental property. Doing this before giving the prospect a tour can save you time and preserve your safety. Both screening and pre-screening are essential skills in your rental property investing toolbox.
So here’s how to do it. Obviously most prospective tenants will talk to you on the phone, either in response to a for-rent sign, classified ad, or something similar. First, ask the prospect how he heard about the availability of the rental. If he is responding to a for-rent sign, then he already knows where the property is located and has looked at it from the outside. If he can’t remember, then it’s likely that he is calling every landlord in town and hence is not a quality prospect.
Then find out the prospective tenant’s requirements of the unit. This allows you to reinforce the amount of the rent, number of bedrooms, the amount of the security deposit, etc., which in turn will allow you to weed out tenants that might not be a good fit for this particular unit. As part of this, ask if he has the funds needed to move in, when he plans to move in, for how long, and how many people will be moving in. This will allow you to judge the prospect’s qualifications and will enable you to further weed out some people.
Ultimately, if the prospect is a legitimate lead, make him take some time to think about it before scheduling a tour. This will allow you to be sure the prospect is committed to the unit and will actually show up. If after this he is still interested, then go ahead and schedule the tour. From this point forward, the regular tactics for screening and qualifying the prospective tenant will kick into gear.
So that is all there is to it. Pre-screening is basically the art of doing phone interviews to weed out unqualified prospective tenants. Doing this before scheduling a tour of the unit will save you a ton a headaches down the road, trust me!