This post is part of a five-part series about tenants leaving a condo and finding and screening the new tenants:
- How to screen tenants
- Screening Tenants – Advertising and Showings
- Screening Tenants – Filling Out Applications
- Screening Tenants – Credit Check
- Screening Tenants – Lease Agreement And Repairs
I’ve touched on this in previous posts, and on comments on other blogs, but I’m a big believer in free advertising when it comes to renting out apartments in Toronto (other markets may be different, but in Toronto, for apartments, you can get enough applicants on the free sites). I recommend posting ads on Craigslist (in “apts/housing for rent“) and Kijiji (in “apartments for rent”). Both sites have filters to prevent you from reposting the same ad in a set period of time, but they’re pretty easy to get around (just make some superficial changes to your ad). Worst case scenario, if it matches the ads together, take down the old ad and re-post a new one every few days. The reason why you want to repost (and fight the system to do so) is that people will just look back through a certain number of ads and you want your apartment to be in the part they look through (the first ones! they’re ordered reverse chronologically).
Kijiji sells “priority placement” and will also sell you the ability to move your ad back to the top. I’ve never used either of these features (if anyone has and they care to comment I’d love to hear your experience).
In terms of the ad, there aren’t any limits to space (that I know of), so there’s no reason to use the crazy newspaper short forms: e.g. “2 br, 2 ba, part furn”). Both sites allow pictures, so it’s well worth including some! I can never understand why some people leave out information (like the rental price!). I include EVERYTHING I think might be relevant: pictures, extensive description, all amenities, map of the area, rental price, nearby stores, etc, etc, etc.
Typically I also make up a website which I can direct people to from the ad (officially you aren’t supposed to do this with Kijiji, but again it’s pretty easy to get around). I’ll copy and past from the website when I’m re-posting ads to one of the sites.
You may feel more “bound” by the sites’ terms of service than I do, in which case feel free to only post once, don’t link to an external website, etc.
There are a number of other sites, some for pay and others that are free. I posted on all the free ones I could find, but I still found all my leads came from Craigslist or Kijiji. Doing a Google search on “toronto apartment rental” will probably turn up most of the other sites if you decide it’s worth advertising as broadly as (freely) possible.
When showing the unit, at first I felt a bit weird walking around, gesturing grandly and saying “now please turn your attention to the lovely Corinthian banister”. In part, because I don’t think Corinthian banisters exist, in part because even if they do exist my unit certainly doesn’t have one and in part because that it just isn’t my style. When I was first showing my unit, my friend suggested that I feel free to point out any nice features of the apartment, and limit my “selling” to that. I would have a standard walk around the building pointing out amenities, then I’d show them around the unit and do the same thing there. I learned a few set responses to common complaints / criticisms such as:
- “No, there isn’t central air conditioning, but you’re welcome to put in window air conditioning, and since you don’t pay for utilities, there won’t be any monthly fees”
- “No, there isn’t a dishwasher, but you’re welcome to hook up a portable dishwasher to the sink”
- “Yes, it is an older building. Typically you either get a new condo with small units and fancy amenities, or older building with lots of space and fewer amenities.”
- “No, there isn’t a second bathroom” (I could never think of a better response to this one”)
I foolishly would make appointments with individual applicants when I rented the first time, and it was madness (I spent a couple weeks constantly running back and forth to the condo). This time I set out a 6 hour block, and told people that’s when they could come. People who couldn’t make it, I told them I’d keep their contact info and let them know if I arranged another showing. I did it over a weekend, got a good applicant, had them fall through (more about that in a future post), then did showings over a 2nd weekend and got another good applicant that stuck.
Two Wise Acres (which sadly has become defunct) has a hilarious post “How to manage prospective tenants efficiently, effectively and without killing them“. I think I got every one of these other than the murderer (which, if you’re going to avoid one of them, that’s the one to avoid).
One thing that is AMAZING to me is how cavalierly people will not show up for appointments, and never call to say so. My only theory is that it’s a chance for people to “stick it” to a landlord with no fear of repercussion (or maybe people are just ruder than I believe).
Sometimes I’d get phone calls or e-mails from people with INCREDIBLY complex lives and problems, (e.g. I’m moving back to the country and don’t have any rental history, I’m in Edmonton and need you to hold the apartment for me for a week while I book a flight to come see it, I’m going to start school near Casa Loma – which is NOWHERE NEAR the condo you’re renting, but for some reason I’ve decided to move to your part of the city instead). On other rental issues, Alexandra and Rachelle had each summarized their feelings as “that’s not your problem” when I was asking how to deal with awkward situations with tenants and applicants. I’m not sure if these people were scam artists or genuine people in a difficult circumstance, but I only went out of my way to a certain limit to accommodate people who had a unique situation and wanted to view the unit. I think “it’s not my problem” is a reasonable mantra when people start trying to suck you into their drama.
Thanks again to Rachelle and Alexandra ! More details in future posts…