How to find a quality tenant when renting out your home

As featured in The Washington Post

Our son had been renting our home and just moved out. Now we have to find a renter. We are 75 and 85 years old and are afraid we don’t know enough about this to do it ourselves.

What are the advantages of using a Realtor vs. a rental management company to find a good renter? My husband is a retired engineer and has a list of maintenance people for the home we live in now, and we always managed the maintenance in the rental home. We are just afraid we won’t be able to run a classified ad and pick the right family or individual.

There is a lot of help for those looking to find tenants. A Realtor, real estate agent or rental management company can all work with you to find a renter for your rental home. We’re more concerned with you finding the right person to work with you than we are about the label given to the person.

If you go with a real estate agent or a real estate agent who is a Realtor, that agent can market the home, help with the vetting process and assist in completing the lease document. The same can go for a rental management company, but with the rental management company, they may want more money from you if you have them perform more of the management tasks.

The real estate agent’s job is generally done once the unit is rented and the lease is signed. The management company might continue on to collect rents and manage the relationship with the tenant and the owner. Depending on what you want and how you want to deal with the tenant, either way might work for you. Again, the real estate agent will collect a fee on the rental of the unit, and the management company may collect that same fee plus charge you an additional amount on a monthly basis for the management service.

Once you decide which way you prefer to go, you’ll need to find the person you like the most, that has experience with rentals in your area, and that you are comfortable working with. As you interview these people, you’ll want to know what they do to find quality people. You might want to speak with some of the real estate investors who are their clients and ask about the quality of tenants they’ve brought to the table over time. If the agent or management company doesn’t want to provide recommendations, you may want to look elsewhere.

Some real estate agents will present any person who wants to rent the home. Others will do that and will also prepare a form for the tenant to fill out and obtain a credit check on that person. Finally, others may do a more extensive search of that person through some credit reporting bureaus or agencies that perform searches on people.

You can expect to pay for these services, but it will ultimately be up to you to decide on the best tenant for your home. Remember, however, that you can’t discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status or national origin.

If leasing is too complicated or difficult for you to manage, the property manager option might be best for you, but you’ll need to make sure you have an attentive manager who will care for your property, look out for your best interests and maximize the income from the property. Otherwise, you could consider selling the property and investing the funds.

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